In ‘Stream of consciousness’, we give the floor to someone from the UAntwerp community. Today it is Piet Bladt’s turn. He obtained his PhD in Physics at UAntwerp. Today, he works as a secondary school teacher at GO! Koninklijk Lyceum Antwerpen.
What drives you?
Getting young people excited about science on the one hand and simply doing something that gives me the most pleasure and satisfaction on the other. My rather unconventional move from working on academic PhD research to being a secondary school science teacher was the result of those drives. But I think it should not be unconventional!
How old do you feel?
A colleague, who incidentally still teaches me, could not contain her laughter when I said I could perfectly pass for a late twenty-something. Either way, I’m heading towards forty far too quickly for my liking.
What trait do you admire most in your best friends?
Being able to live in the moment. This is something I would like to be better at myself.
Which professor impressed you the most?
Can I choose two? Professor David Eelbode taught analysis and algebra in an inimitable way, both in terms of content and didactically. Every lesson taught by Professor Jacques Tempere was also a work of art. A physicist at heart and at home in impressively many fields.
Do you have any advice for prospective students?
When in doubt about different study programmes, choose the one you are really wild about. Financial considerations and family expectations are secondary. Accept the uncertainty of your trajectory too. I studied medicine for years, ended up in physics and now work as a chemistry teacher.
What is your favourite memory of your student days?
Passing the ‘metric spaces and differential calculus’ exam by Professor Bob Lowen. That exam happened on a chalkboard. Every now and then he would pass by, look at the board and say: ‘There is a mistake on the board.’ And then he left again. I was pushed to the limits of my ability there.
What would you like to study next?
Now that I teach a lot of chemistry, I would like to take some courses from that study programme. However, I was continuously enrolled at UAntwerp from 2006 until last year. That might be enough for now!
Preconceptions about a job in education are still widespread.
How did your friends and family react to your career choice?
Many in my friend group seemed to regard my move to secondary school as a kind of ultra-early retirement. Preconceptions about a job in education are still widespread.
How does your job give you satisfaction?
I mainly teach chemistry in the third stage to science and mathematics students. I have known my group of school-leavers in the next school year since their third year, when I taught them physics. To go on a multi-school-year journey with a group of young people and see them grow as scholars and as people; that is phenomenal. It is the most beautiful job in the world.
What frustrates you in your professional life?
Becoming a teacher is insufficiently attractive on too many levels. I am a lateral entrant, so I had to combine my start in teaching with a teacher training programme. That combination was incredibly difficult. I am sure that potential top teachers already drop out when Googling the requirements to become a teacher.
Ardennes or the sea?
The Ardennes. Walks in the forest. No sand!
Cycling or going for a walk?
I do everything by bike. Preferably with my two-year-old son on a seat in front of me and my five-year-old daughter on her own bike. Little moments of happiness!
Working from home or at the office?
Office, or in my case a classroom. I am much more efficient there.