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Teacher Interview - Chemistry teacher Alexander

When Alexander Raphael Hol Bjørndal was 17 years of age he began teaching individuals how to play the guitar alongside his studies this eventually lead to the creation of a guitar teaching sole proprietorship company which unknowingly became the very start of his future as a teacher.

Now, Alexander is teaching at Nesbru Upper Secondary School which he just started this year. He now teaches IB Chemistry as well as first and third-year science for Media and Communication and 1st-year math. It seems as though Alexander has always had a passion for teaching as he states, “In 2011 when I was doing my bachelor’s degree I started teaching in something called ‘Privatundervisningen AS’ which is private tutoring firm lecturing math, chemistry, and general science. “I think that was why I wanted to go into teaching because it’s just what I have been doing for so many years and what I eventually end up doing in whatever situation throughout my life”.

Alexander graduated from the University of Oslo with a master’s degree in Chemistry, which has given him the opportunity to teach IB Chemistry. Alexander explains that teaching IB chemistry has become an obvious choice for him as “chemistry has been my best subject, so for me to have the ability to teach IB chemistry would just be more of a challenge which would then become more rewarding both for me as a teacher and the students”. Alexander would consider himself somewhat addicted to knowledge, to him it is fascinating to spend time breaking down the foundations of what we consider knowledge and spread what we have discovered with anyone who wants to know.

“When I have students like in the IB, who are really interested in learning new material it becomes really fun for me to just dive into all the different subjects the students want to know about.”

It is very important to Alexander that students become more self-driven. He thinks that in a sense the normal school system doesn't have a dedicated subject to teach students how to learn. His teaching philosophy is based on an effort to make his students more self-driven, as he tells “one of the great advantages of the IB is that it teaches students to become self-driven. Based on that I purposely don’t give my students an awful lot of homework because I expect them to practice independently in the areas of knowledge they are struggling with, thus making them more self-motivated. I want the students to learn ‘How to Learn’ instead of just being fed information by the teacher.” It seems as though it is very important to Alexander that as students they become not just aware of the sciences, maths, and languages, but deeper into that, in the progress, we learn how to learn. That we practice not our mathematical skills but our skills at adapting to new knowledge.

As Alexander is a science teacher he finds it particularly important for students to learn sciences because science is the answer to how the specific ‘acts of magic’ in our daily lives happen. Alexander disclosed that it is important that people have the general education of how the world is and how it functions. Alexander jokingly explained that “If you once pick up a newspaper and see loads of statements stating for example that 9/10 apples contain chemicals, you can laugh and think hopefully 10/10 apples contain some sort of chemicals as water is also a chemical. Learning science is not just a subject that teaches you how the world is built up at a microscopic level, it teaches you how to be curious. “Science is driven by curiosity, and in a science class I want to teach my students not just about sciences, but also how to be curious and question what we already know”.