A reader writes in response to the question of whether teaching is harder than rocket science:

I am not quite a rocket scientist, but I do have degrees in nuclear engineering. And now I am National Board Certified Teacher and have been full time in the classroom for almost 20 years. I started out exactly like this reader with volunteering in classrooms. And then I decided to take the plunge into full time teaching. Teaching has a lot in common with engineering. Both require creative solutions to problems where you begin with basic theories and then look at your constraints to design workable solutions. However, teaching is much tougher because the variables are constantly changing. We know a lot about how people learn and what we know tells us that learning is contextual. No situation is ever the same, not year to year, not day to day and some days not even class period to class period. Physics assumes that the basic causal models apply regardless of context. Neutrons do not have days where their parents let them stay up all night. They do not fight with their best friend right before my class. Neutrons do not have hopes and dreams and fears. Teaching is incredibly dynamic and complex. It is so much more intellectually and emotionally challenging than simple observation and test scores can reveal.