I feel that often times adults in education, if they are paying attention, learn more than our students do. This week I learned a lot about my teaching, myself, and students in general. Here is the list of things I learned:
1. I need to remind students that learning is a personal journey and that one size doesn't always fit all. We had conferences this week and I had a lengthy conversation with a student about the flipped classroom model of instruction. She told me she was not really a fan of the method because she doesn't like to attempt to learn from videos and feels more comfortable reading and having lecture. I told her I respect her telling me this and that she doesn't have to watch the videos and if reading was her preferred way of learning, she should do that. This caused me to remind all of my students they can either watch the video or read the book, whichever helps them learn. This reminder led to renewed conversations this week in class and rejuvenated the energy level in the classroom.
WARNING: THE NEXT THING I LEARNED IS HEAVY ON SCIENCE CONTENT!!!
2. I learned that when you do three really fun and engaging lab activities in three different classes in one day, it's not as stressful as it sounds. I teach three different classes this trimester (traditional physics, college in the schools physics, and physical science) and Thursday was a lab day for all of them, which meant three different labs. On many occasions I have dreaded these days for the large amount of work that goes into them. This one was different. Why, because all of the activities led to great exploration and learning! My college physics students built egg drop landers, which they dropped Tuesday. Thursday was data analysis day. After we got through a couple of technology glitches it was really fun watching them have discussions about what the data was telling them and if it matched what they thought they saw. This was a lot of fun. I required a parachute because we were looking at terminal velocity, and they found clearly on there data when the parachutes deployed and their new terminal velocity.
In my traditional physics class we are looking at lenses. They did a lab where they were given the focal length of a lens and had to do a series of experiments to see if the experiment gave them the same focal length as was given to them. They did the first set of data collection and started doing the math and many groups determined the math was not getting them the correct answer. Many students would simply say "I don't get this, I'm giving up" not this class. When I recommended simply doing more trials and looking for patterns, they jumped in and really enjoyed doing multiple trials and finding out the human errors involved. This was a great learning process on many levels.
Finally, my ninth graders are building cars and relating them to Newton's Laws of Motion. Watching them discuss with their partners how to build the fastest car, watching them struggle with the calculations, and the teamwork they showed in the learning process, made this another fun activity to watch.
I left Thursday exhausted but excited from watching the different levels of learning that happened.
3. I learned that "average" may not be "average" anymore. I know we all tackle grades and the issues with grades. Grading has changed over the years and my opinion has changed over the years. I gave a test yesterday to my 9th grade physical science classes and the combined class average was 72%. I liked that average because it was an "average" test score based on what I know. As a teacher I hope for higher, but understanding where my students are this was a good average score. This average score would not have been acceptable for other classes, such as my advanced physics classes. These classes have class averages in the 80's. I'm not sure what to make of the different averages. Part of me thinks it's different expectations, but part of me is not really sure. Any comments on this would be greatly appreciated.
4. I learned this week that devoting my life completely to my career is not where I am anymore. My wife and I, for many reasons, have not been able to have children. We attempted to do the foster system route, but that did not work out well. This year, as I have mentioned before, we are hosting a foreign exchange student. This has caused me to change me schedule in terms of my teaching. I used to be one of those teachers that was the first one in the building and the last to leave, because I get up early and can leave and my wife worked later and I could get home later. This year, driving a teenager has really opened my eyes to the benefits of time management. I am not spending as much time at school and except for a few days when I have an hour to set up 3 labs, it has gone well. I have even gotten away from the constant social media lifestyle and have found I find better information for my teaching when I am actually purposefully looking for it, rather than just mindlessly scrolling through the screen. I know many of you have learned these lessons before, but it's new to me.
We are still trying the gofundme for a hopeful trip with our exchange student. If you are interested in helping out, here is the link again: https://www.gofundme.com/help-exchange-student-see-the-us Thanks for looking at the campaign, we appreciate it.
Looking at the length of the post, I should probably stop now. Thanks for reading and please contribute in the comments section.