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Rambling– or Interesting Things I would blog more about if I had time

March 30, 2014

I.  A clear majority of students in my physical science course for future elementary school teachers do not actually plan to go into teaching. When I ask why, they say that it’s because teachers they have come to know and/or meet all tell them they should “run away” as fast as they can from public school teaching. 

II. Because I am teaching 2nd semester physics, I have many more students with whom I interact for an entire year. I enjoy having these year-long relationships with students, because I get to know students much better. There are also real big advantages with the amount of trust that students have with me. We can do things and persist in things that are confusing, because they have been there enough times with me to know that it will pay off, AND that even if one time it doesn’t pay off, it’s OK, next time it will.

III. In my step II class (the 2nd course in the UTeach sequence), a hot topic of discussion from students has been their own challenges and successes in “getting students to say what you want.” This phrase comes up so often in class (from students, not the instructors). It’s a real window into how they are conceptualizing inquiry teaching so far. While I understand that they are grappling with the very real difficulties of asking good questions and facilitating discussion, their language here suggests that the students and I have different views about the purpose of questioning and discussion. I don’t think they yet see that questioning and discussion serves a role in helping the teacher (and students) find out what everyone is thinking. 

IV. Several of the physics teachers in our area have really taken up some of the discourse moves we have talked about and practiced in our monthly workshops. One teacher in particular says that “re-voicing” and asking students to “re-voice” has transformed her classroom practice. While many teachers really enjoy our workshops, some really “take up” practices more readily than others, and I’m curious about when and why this does and doesn’t happen.

V. I have an amazing group of students in my physical science class. We do lots of serious intellectual science almost everyday, and do it while having a lot of fun. It is so much fun to be in that class, laughing all the time. Yesterday, I had to kick students out of class (30 minutes after it was officially over), so I could start my other class in the same room. I wish I could tell you more.

VI. Being in my third year working with the future physics teachers has its advantages. Before, almost every student I knew was “new” to me, and getting students to “come around” was hard work. Now, I’m almost never teaching a class, where there isn’t a mix of students that are new to me, some I know a bit, and some I know really well. This has huge advantages, because the newer one’s learn how to “participate” implicitly by observing how the more experienced one’s participate. Students more quickly and readily pick upon the fact that “you have to talk”, “share and listen to ideas”, “defend your ideas with reasoning /evidence”, and importantly realize that we all understand the physics less than we thought (and that it’s OK to be wrong and admit you don’t understand something). 

VII. I am almost always barely getting by in doing what I have to do. It is stressful, but for the moment, things are going really well, so it makes it feel so worth it. While I’m quite content right now, I have to admit to myself that I don’t know how to get an appropriate work-life balance. I know that my current balance can’t go on forever, and I’m struggling to see how to make it work. Ugh.

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