Breakthroughs

I haven’t posted in a while primarily due to how outrageously busy I have been, and partly because I was going through a low spot as an educator where I felt like I was ineffective. I have been going through the uniformly accelerated particle model now for about two weeks now and have just been hitting a wall with a lot of the students. They have been having such a hard time reading position vs time graphs and translating them to velocity vs time and acceleration vs time graphs. Something about graphing the slope just doesn’t click with a lot of these students. This frustrated them and me to no end.

This frustration led to a few of my students complaining to a colleague and that my class was too hard and to subsequent meetings with faculty, but I refuse to lower my, very reasonable, expectations. The few that did complain have developed what is popularly referred to as learned helplessness. They find it more beneficial to give up and ask for answers than to persevere and actually learn something. This was readily apparent after I issued a homework assignment of 5 problems and a student asked me to work one on the board so she would know how to do them, even after I worked countless examples which she decided not to write down or even pay much attention to.

I liken it to the students in my linear algebra class in college. The professor was notorious for giving review sessions the day before the test that were the test verbatim. Students never came to class until review day so they could jot down some notes to study memorize.

I am struggling so much to eliminate this idea in students as well as the “this isn’t graded so why should I care” mentality. Both are so counterintuitive to what education has become that it seems impossible. Especially when the majority of educators across America aren’t in board.

But, I do not place the blame solely on my students, I have lost many hours of sleep the last few weeks reading countless articles, lesson plans, and researching curriculum in hopes to be a more effective educator. This is my first year in the classroom, and I now I will make mistakes but I never want to look back and have to apologize for being a crappy teacher.

~ On to the classroom activities.

In geometry today we continued our discussion of transformations by moving on to reflections. I felt really good about the lesson I gave today, I had students use a GeoMirror to trace the reflections of their shape around a piece if paper and then had them make a ton of measurements to try to determine the properties of this transformation. After they finished that we had a short discussion about their findings and I set them to work on a practice sheet, which they did great on.

I have recently started a new system for my exit slips that I really like. I have students write down our objectives for the day and then rate their ability on that skill. This gives me great feedback on where students are and in their needs. And they don’t mind it all, since it only takes them a few minutes.

In physics I met with my most challenging class. It’s filled with cheerleaders, best buddies, and students who currently just don’t give a crap. With this group I have been spent a week and a half just on a sheet with 20 kinematic curves. But we finally had a breakthrough today. However, I do feel kind of bad about it, I allowed a student to share a cheap mnemonic that he used to translate between x vs t, v vs t, and a vs t with the class? It went like this…

Curved lines -> slanted lines -> horizontal lines -> zero lines -> zero lines.

It works forwards and backwards.

I doubt this actually helped them realize that a changing slope on a position vs time graph leads to a linear velocity vs time graph and then to a constant acceleration vs time graph, but I succumbed to pressure to try to stay up with the curriculum. I’d love for people to chime in on how big, or not big, of a mistake this was. I’m hoping that we can at least make it through the quiz next week and the test the following week, but I have big plans for the mini unit on free fall. Hopefully these plans don’t lead to a quote that involves “mice and men”.
##uapm ##setbacks

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2 responses to “Breakthroughs

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist

    I invited my brother (an engineer) to come talk to my “what is engineering” class the other day. They asked him how he deals with failure. He said you have to reflect on it and want to try to do better. In his mind, that’s a strong engineer. I share that to say that you blogging about your successes and your failures is what, in my mind, makes you a great teacher. Keep it up!

  2. I don’t feel that it was a mistake to let the student share the mnemonic because you had already spent time going through the relationships in a more meaningful way. If the sharing by the student was seen by other students as a way to help them, then it could be worth a poorer understanding on their part in exchange for keeping the class engaged in what you’re trying to do with them. What I would do is keep challenging their understanding and see if there are ways to test the mnemonic in order to see if they have deep understanding.

    If I had been half as reflective in my first year of teaching as you are I would be much better off now. Thanks for sharing!!

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