Six­teen Years’ Prom­ise


Special Focus - - Contents - Hu Xinyuan 胡欣园

It was not the first time I met him, but he still amazed me with his out­fits. His ubiq­ui­tous white shirt and black tie I re­mem­bered from class was now re­placed by a ca­sual T- shirt with a printed slo­gan: “Don’t trust an atom.” He was also wear­ing sneak­ers, and the sun­glasses un­der his black base­ball cap cast a cool look on his face.

Since he first ar­rived in China in 2002, Alan has been teach­ing stu­dents at the Wuhan Bri­tain-China School. His an­swer to the “Why China” ques­tion was quite spe­cial. Dur­ing his job hunt­ing, his mother al­ways got up at 6: 30 am to learn Chi­nese, which more or less af­fected his de­ci­sion to set­tle down along the Yangtze River.

Alan is un­doubt­edly a truly com­pe­tent teacher— and his face was lit up when our con­ver­sa­tion moved to teach­ing. Over the years, his pas­sion to­wards teach­ing has mo­ti­vated him to con­stantly im­prove his meth­ods. “Now, I am try­ing to cul­ti­vate stu­dents’ po­ten­tial and change their wrong ideas that physics is only for the smart peo­ple.” He said, “Be­cause in­ter­est, ini­tia­tive, and men­tal dili­gence are all in­dis­pens­able when it comes to study­ing.” Alan hopes sin­cerely that all of his stu­dents can do well in class be­cause he be­lieves that they are all smart.

When men­tion­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents, Alan be­lieves that stu­dents should play the de­ci­sive roles. Teach­ers, not as

dom­i­na­tors, should mon­i­tor stu­dents to de­velop their abil­i­ties. Once they be­gin to ac­quire an ef­fec­tive learn­ing method for them­selves, teach­ing is much eas­ier. He fur­ther ex­plained, “I have a stu­dent who loves physics. I don’t de­mand he at­tends my classes now that he al­ready knows a lot about it. In­stead, I lend him my Berke­ley Physics Course text­book, which will broaden his hori­zon.”

By fo­cus­ing on an equal and per­son­al­ized re­la­tion­ship be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents, Alan has adopted a rich and flex­i­ble teach­ing style in his class. Dur­ing the in­ter­view, he frankly told us that he sel­dom fol­lowed the text­book as he be­lieved that his lec­tures could be ar­ranged in a more log­i­cal and in­ter­est­ing way. In 2017, af­ter the No­bel Prize in Physics was awarded to three sci­en­tists who con­ducted the re­search on the grav­i­ta­tional wave, he im­me­di­ately sched­uled a spe­cial class to ex­plain grav­i­ta­tional waves to stu­dents; when dis­cussing en­ergy is­sues, he shares with the stu­dents the rea­sons for the de­cline in oil prices from a physics per­spec­tive. Sud­denly, he asked us, “Do you know the def­i­ni­tion of the Avo­gadro Con­stant is go­ing to be am­pli­fied?” To him, it in­di­cates that physics is al­ways chang­ing, and the changes can be re­flected in his teach­ings.

In his six­teen years of teach­ing, some of his stu­dents have been en­rolled in many pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties both at home and abroad. A stu­dent who was ad­mit­ted to Cam­bridge Univer­sity told me grate­fully that Alan was like a cap­tain, steer­ing him to sail freely in the ocean of physics.

In honor of Alan’s con­tri­bu­tion to China’s ed­u­ca­tion, the Wuhan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity awarded him the Yel­low Crane Friend­ship Award in 2016. For it, Princess Anne of Royal Bri­tain sum­moned him dur­ing her visit to Wuhan in 2017.

In spite of all these awards, Alan stays hum­ble and grate­ful. When talk­ing about his fu­ture plans, Alan has no other de­sires but to con­tinue teach­ing physics at the school. He feels a deep sense of ac­com­plish­ment from his 16 years of ed­u­ca­tion.

Dr. Alan Laine in the class­room

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