Passion for physics leads student to help others

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Most students decide to wait until their junior year take a physics class, and because a physics class is not mandatory in order to graduate and get into college, students decide to join the class for a variety of reasons. Since physics does not offer a Pre-AP option, many students in an AP Physics class may struggle to keep the pace.

Biology is fun, but in physics, they’re testing whether you can actually apply those concepts beyond just the equations and the formulas,”

— senior Jin Lee

“For my experience with physics so far, it has been more like applied math rather than a traditional science. Last year when I took Physics 2 and Physics C, they felt more like second and third math courses than science classes, and I like that,” senior Jin Lee said. “I like math, and physics is like math for a reason. I think that students initially have a lot of trouble with physics–especially those going into AP Physics 1–because they assume that it’s gonna be a science class since it’s named as a science class, but it’s a little different. In most of those classes, you just memorize and regurgitate facts, like in biology, and that’s fine. Biology is fun, but in physics, they’re testing whether you can actually apply those concepts beyond just the equations and the formulas.”

Lee, like most other students entering their first physics course, struggled to stay on top of the coursework. But as time went on, Lee discovered a better understanding of the material, leading him to decide to help other students in their physics courses.

“So I’ve been tutoring for Rittenhouse for over two years now, and it’s usually in the afternoon with AP Physics 1,” Lee said. “I have started tutoring Physics C this year although the turnout has been minimal. I’ll just tend to help them out on a more individual basis after school.”

Being a recent veteran of the class, Lee serves as the perfect ‘man in the middle’ between the teacher and the students.

Jin has been great because he’s enthusiastic, he’s passionate about the subject, and he’s got a really good understanding for someone who’s just in high school,” physics teacher Christine Rittenhouse said. “The fact that he’s in the same peer group as my students makes them feel very comfortable coming to him for questions.”

In addition to assisting students during class, Lee has found a way to relay his knowledge further during the advisory period on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

“So I’m the president of physics club which is a new club I created this year to mainly teach students in AP Physics C to teach students about electromagnetism about a week before they actually learn them in class,” Lee said. “These meetings are essentially 20-30 minute lectures in which I cover about two or three lessons worth of material, and because I’m covering so much material in a condensed amount of time, they’re pretty introductory and basic, but that’s kind of the point. I just want to introduce them to the idea[s] so that they’re unphased when they see it in class and they have the opportunity to ask more questions than they normally would have if it was their first time. The lectures take about three to five hours at most to create, so I’m thankful to the people who come to actually learn.”

The fact that he’s in the same peer group as my students makes them feel very comfortable coming to him for questions,”

— physics teacher Christine Rittenhouse

Lee puts up to five hours into his presentations for each lecture, and the pay off is evident, as his regular attendees seem to be learning a lot from them.

“Yeah, I’d say I’m pretty good at physics,” senior Arihant Bohara said. “I know Jin struggled a lot in physics last year, so the fact that he was able to get through it means that he can show us how to get through physics as well. I can relate to him more, and because he’s literally still a student, he knows what’s going on in our minds and so he knows how to give us the information.

For students not as well-versed as Bohara in physics or any of their classes for that matter, Lee insists that all students need to start somewhere.

“Physics, at least in high school, basically asks you to problem solve, and the only way to get better at that is by solving problems,” Lee said. “There almost seems to be a stigma around doing problems out of the book because it’s too “try-hard” or whatever, but for people who are really struggling, if your grades suck, maybe a little “try-harding” is what you need.”