Mr. Falk- The Teacher, The Actor, The Rapper, and The Professional Eraser-Flipper
Mr. Jon Falk, often seen greeting students outside his door when we were in school, currently teaches 10th grade chemistry and AP chemistry. Familiar to most students, about half of anyone who has taken chemistry had Mr. Falk. My first day with Mr. Falk I noticed he always had an eraser or a marker in his hand and would flip it absentmindedly. I thought, “man, this guy really likes to flip erasers.” I realized once we started getting into the harder work, Mr. Falk really wanted the students to understand. He would walk around, eraser in hand, and show anyone who was confused what to do. Within a short time, it became evident that Mr. Falk was quite the character far beyond the stereotypical chemistry teacher.
After a short time, you can see that Mr. Falk is good at slipping in jokes that you have to pay attention to notice, but aren’t so noticeable that you would take him for the joke-making kind of person. For example, hearing “John stop talking” in the middle of a lecture, then continuing with the lecture without pause became a running joke in our class. Mr. Falk has a way of making chemistry fun, and class enjoyable. Emma Pedroza, a senior at Mayfair and a former student of Mr. Falk says that “Mr. Falk does not mind taking the time to teach his students. He can be very thorough and has high standards.”
As one can imagine, it can't be easy teaching chemistry in a virtual setting. When asked how he felt about online instruction, Mr. Falk said “It hasn't been an easy transition, but life has given us a lot of challenges this past year, and we try to make the best of it. I dislike teaching a screen full of off-camera students but I like Google Classroom and no commute to work.”
Mr. Falk says he got into teaching as a camp counselor, and it seemed a fun direction to go in. Mr. Falk’s father was a retired chemist, who became his role model. He ended up choosing to teach chemistry as it was easy in high school, so he stuck with it. A question I asked on multiple occasions was, “Mr. Falk how long have you been teaching,” and he would say, “long enough,” or something of the sort. It has been revealed that he has been teaching for 35 years, starting in 1986, 32 years of which have been in BUSD.
In Mr. Falk’s freetime, he enjoys nature walks and biking. He doesn't watch sports, but did mention that he enjoys the superbowl halftime show. Mr. Falk also enjoys travelling, which he plans to do when he retires. His favorite place he has travelled is the south of France, like Aix-en-Provence. Mr. Falk has a son who is a junior in high school. When asked what he considers his greatest achievement, Mr. Falk said “I think that making a challenging subject like chemistry somewhat understandable to students - through labs, online office hours, and occasional weird videos - has been a major life achievement for me. Also, I think getting students to understand that science is a way of looking at the evidence and making decisions is very important. There is a lot of anti-science and anti-intellectual nonsense out in the world. The more students see that they can look at the evidence for themselves, the better our society will be.”
On the topic of “weird videos,” as Mr. Falk calls them, I consider them cinematic masterpieces. Mr. Falk is known to make videos that are very entertaining. Personally, “House of Mole” is my favorite. It's on my early-morning motivation playlist. The goatee is a look that I think should return. If you were to go to 3:30 in the House of Mole video, you would notice, yes, Mr. Falk flipping a marker. As it would appear, not only is Mr. Falk timeless as he seems to not age, but the art of object flipping as well, as House of Mole was released in 1995. When asked about his skills in flipping, Mr. Falk replied “Pencil-flipping was actually my minor in college. Thanks for noticing!”
Since Mr. Falk does not age, it's going to be a long time before he retires. When he does, he would have taught thousands of students chemistry, and that's something to consider an accomplishment. Being able to teach, make it understandable, and bond with the students is a difficult trifecta to perfect, and Mr. Falk has done so.