Name: Dr Christopher Chilvers
Country of Residence: China
Country of Origin: England
Subjects I teach: Physics, Biology, History, History of Science, History of Technology, Urban History, Cultural History and Politics
Grades I teach: Year 9-13
Places I’ve lived: London, Leeds, Oxford, Manchester, United States of America and Copenhagen.
What was your reaction when you first arrived to Guangzhou?
I noticed the extreme between the technological modernity of the city and the cultural traditionalism of much of the population. Places like Tonghe seem to comprise many village like communities but with 21st century metropolis features. The transport system shows this with starkness through enviable technology and deeply chaotic behavior. There is a strong element of a population with newly acquired urbanism trying to navigate a combination of old and new ways of living. Coming from an old urban population in London, I find it fascinating and exciting.
What is the most challenging thing about being a teacher?
Looking for ways to motivate students and give them confidence. I find that whenever I teach students, independent research skills in particular, they come back with the most extraordinary information. I often learn from the students and I really enjoy that. Looking for new ways to motivate and enthuse students means that you are constantly researching, not just what you know but what you don’t know and how you can find ways to help students further. It’s very challenging and obviously takes up time but it’s very exciting.
How does BSG compare to other schools you’ve taught at?
BSG’s a fantastic school in terms of behaviour. The students are close to impeccable. I find the level of respect that students have for teachers and the level of respect teachers are encouraged to give to students quite astonishing. It encourages the best in all of us. In my previous school, there was a lot of emphasis on behaviour management but I don’t feel it is necessary here in the same way. The other thing that I really notice at BSG is the sense in which we are encouraged to feel like a large family. That works really well for me, both in terms of teaching staff and students. I feel that the atmosphere is a far happier and less stressful environment than other places I have taught, which I really enjoy.
Who was your role model growing up and why?
I have a huge passion for music and immerse myself constantly so my role models were mostly musical. Immediately, Jerry Dammers springs to mind. He put together a band called The Specials from Coventry in England. They were the first musical band that I was really interested in, combining Jamaican reggae, ska and punk-like energy. They were also fervently anti-racist, something very close to my heart because I grew up in an area of London where there was a lot of racism, which I detest. I have always strongly believed in the importance of cultural diversity as a means of education and encouraging people to act with humanity towards each other. Jerry Dammers became even more of an inspiration to me when he penned a song called “Free Nelson Mandela” which went on to achieve iconic status, becoming one of the international anthems of the struggle against South African Apartheid. It is amazing and shows the power of cultural influence in shaping the world. I believe quite passionately in attempting to change the world for the better, a reason why I teach physics, so my role models have always been people that have been socially responsible and activists in some way. I have a maxim that “its better to try and fail then never to try at all” that is the reason why I choose Jerry Dammers. He spoke up and helped change the world.
What is the one lesson that you want your students to take away with them at the end of the academic year?
Everything in my teaching philosophy is about giving students the confidence to believe that they have the ability in their minds to be ambitious and shape and reshape the world they meet. I encourage students to follow their passions and understand that there is no problem that they cannot solve. They can always, throughout their lives, use their brains to acquire knowledge that can help them in some way. It always has an application that can help themselves and others. That confidence, in the ability to change using your learning skills and thinking, is really the key element in education for teenagers.
What inspired your love of learning?
I came from a poor, very rough background and had experiences as a child that I would have preferred to avoid. A large part of my motivation to learn was to give myself options in life that many people I grew up with never had. No member of my family had ever been to university or continued beyond secondary school. Whenever I went to school, I felt safer in school than outside and quickly found I really enjoyed learning and was extremely good at understanding. I increasingly recognized I was able to change and affect my world personally through learning and it changed how people approached me. One of the many things that I enjoy is learning different languages. This is drawn from travelling a lot throughout my life; I found that I could learn from and communicate with different cultures well. It became self-defining and a constant challenge which I enjoyed. Now I view reading books, understanding issues and ideas and learning in general as my life’s breath itself. If I don’t do it, I am simply not going to function as a human being in the way I wish. A large part of me would be dead. The other part of the inspiration is my father, a very quiet man who always has a book. From my earliest childhood, I recollect his love of books and seeing him always reading. I acquired that love so this bookishness has driven my dreams ever since.