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This I Believe: Chemistry Lessons

Ethan Whelpley - Glenwood High School
Beatrice Bonner
NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS
Ethan Whelpley - Glenwood High School

I’ve never been fond of science, and I don’t think I ever will be. On my first day of sophomore year of high school, I was dreading chemistry. On day one, our teacher greeted us at the classroom door. He wore a periodic table t-shirt and a leg brace that didn’t slow him down a bit as he hopped around the classroom learning our names, showing us lab equipment, and promising us that we would have a great year. I remained skeptical, to say the least.

I started the year with a decent grade; however, my grade gradually declined over the course of the year. Knowing that not everybody “gets” his passion, my teacher offered extra credit, opportunities that combined the arts with science. Now that was right up my alley! I created a video about bromine, another about the rules of Charles’ Law, and a song about how to name chemical compounds. I learned that I can create art about anything. And it made chemistry just a little bit fun.

2020 This I Believe Illinois author Ethan Whelpley of Glenwood High School discusses how tapping into passion and enthusiasm can help someone learn new concepts.

Despite the extra credit, by the fourth quarter, I was on the brink of failure. I couldn’t even conceptualize retaking a class as atrocious as chemistry. I talked to my teacher about how I could pull through, and he offered to meet with me for extra help after school every other day. During our sessions, I grew a broader understanding of chemistry. My grade still wasn’t the best, but passing the class became more of a reality each day. At the end of the year, I barely passed chemistry, but I passed.

I believe an infectious passion is the pathway to learning. To use a word my chemistry teacher would approve of, passion is the catalyst that speeds up the process of comprehension of lessons  that are intended and also those that are a fortunate byproduct of being taught by excellent example.

At the beginning of the year, I thought my teacher was, frankly, a little bit odd to be so enthusiastic about chemistry. But over the school year, I came to understand that his passion was the key to helping kids like me understand the basics of the subject. I’ll never be a lab rat, but my teacher’s interest, passion, and willingness inspired me. 

I walked into his class hoping to learn something about chemistry and walked out of his class learning some valuable life lessons. I believe that everyone has a passion, and that the subject of a person’s enthusiasm shouldn’t be judged. I believe that tapping into passion and enthusiasm can help a person learn things that he or she might not otherwise care about. I believe that life can be more worthwhile when people find something that combines their interests with their passion. 

Copyright 2021 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

Ethan Whelpley