Lying Down on the Job
While some students might dream of seeing their teacher lying on a bed of sharp nails, a Florida high school teacher volunteered for what might seem like that torture to demonstrate a scientific principle.
Mark Torche, 47, a physics teacher at the 1,600-student Pembroke Pines Charter High School in Broward County, Fla., for four years, wanted to explain the concept of pressure. On Aug. 17, the second day of classes for the new school year, he lay between two boards, containing a total of 2,000 sharp, steel nails, to make his point.
If force is spread evenly over a surface, Mr. Torche explained, you will not feel pressure at a specific point. The fact that the nails were very close together allowed the distribution of the pressure across the nails, so they did not harm his skin. That was true even though three students stood on the top board. “It wasn’t comfortable, but it didn’t hurt me,” he said.
Teaching physics was not the only purpose of his presentation, he noted.
“The basic principle that I am trying to teach the students is to have an open mind and to learn to question their surroundings,” he said.
The sensational presentation sets the tone for Mr. Torche’s class.
“I want to use activities that will make the students re-examine their incorrect views of physics,” he said. “We go through the world with information that we develop from growing up—ideas that are not fully understood unless they are confronted with something that contradicts it—and suddenly realize that it may be wrong.”
Last year, the teacher walked on broken glass to prove the same principle. A firm believer that all students should take physics classes, he said: “Physics are present in everything we do. If [students] don’t have a real understanding of how the world works, then we missed something in school.”
Apart from teaching for about 18 years, Mr. Torche has a practice as a patent lawyer. He initiated, with the help of the school’s previous principal, a class called “inventioneering” that teaches creativity, inventing, and sciences.
A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 2004 edition of Education Week