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1st day back

November 9, 2010

Yesterday was my first day back from two weeks of paternity leave. It was unbelievably hard to leave Maddie when she wasn’t even two weeks old, but at the same time, it was great to get back into the classroom and see what my students had done.

My sub had done some awesome investigations with the honors students about how we can predict the the time it takes for a chain of dominoes to fall over, which the kids seem to really engage. I left my intro students sort of mid-unit, and was hoping that the sub would be able to push them through to the end and have them compete an assessment. Instead, I think most of the students sort of approached my leave as a 2 week break, and didn’t really worry about physics until I and the sub told them they’d have an assessment on last Thursday. Needless today, the assessments were rather poor, and some had the temerity to question the fairness of an assessment when “the sub didn’t teach us this stuff. (which wasn’t true, since he and I were in regular contact, and I know I taught most of it previously).”

To me, it just showed more fixed mindset thinking, and the root emotion that learning physics isn’t really high on the priority list for most of my students in this class (but this is probably also true in most classes).

But contrast this with learning to drive. Most of my kids are getting their learner’s permits right now, and so they’re all abuzz with the havoc they’re inflicting on the Atlanta roads. I raised the idea to my intro students after overhearing them talking about getting their permits:

Imagine that you were supposed to get your permit on Oct 26, the day I left for leave, and suddenly, your driving instructor was gone for two weeks. Would you sit back and relax for two weeks, thinking, driving isn’t that important, I’ll learn it when he gets back? NO WAY! Driving is critical—your car takes you places, and you’d demand to learn right now, most importantly, you’d demand this of yourself, you’d find other people to take you driving, you’d find different ways to build your skills, but you’d never let two weeks go by without driving. So why is physics (and more broadly speaking, school learning) different? Both of them can take you much farther than a car ever could.

I heard mostly crickets after this latest exhortation, but it’s something I’m thinking about a lot.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2010 12:23 am

    Our society has lost its value of education. For many students it is just something they have to do. Show up, turn a few things in, graduate. The law says they have to be there, so they go.

    • November 11, 2010 12:33 am

      While this is definitely true, I think there’s even more to it, especially considering I teach at a private school, where kids (or there parents) are paying thousands of dollars for this opportunity.

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