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I’m John Burk, a physics and math teacher at a boarding school in Delaware, who loves my job—I get paid to learn and help students discover the joy in science and math. What could be cooler than that?

This blog tells the story of my ongoing learning as a teacher, a journey that often seems like a random walk with a slight bias toward gradual improvement through failure and reflection.

Why Quantum Progress?

In 1900 Max Planck discovered that electromagnetic radiation, light, is quantized. He realized that a hot object can only emit radiation in tiny discrete packets called quanta. This led to a revolution in physics as we realized so many phenomena we thought were continuous, like the possible energies of an atom, aren’t continuous, but quantized—composted of tiny nearly indistinguishable, but discrete bits.

In a rough way, this is how I see my progress as a teacher and learner. It isn’t a continuous journey from naive first year teacher, who thought students would simply absorb every idea I spoke, to the teacher I am today. Instead, any progress I’ve made comes from tiny discrete steps, accumulated over time into significant change, that only looks continuous in hindsight.

In addition to this blog, you can follow my progress in realtime on twitter at: occam98.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2011 2:11 pm

    My name is Michael Oakwood. I am a student at the University of South Alabama and I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. I have been assigned to comment on your blog for the next two weeks. Also, part of my assignment it to find out as much about you and your class that I possibly can. Any information that you care to share about yourself or your class will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you, Michael Oakwood

  2. James Anderson Merritt permalink
    September 27, 2011 6:42 pm

    John, Do you ever talk with your students about Polywell fusion? If so, what do you say to them?

  3. Bradley Shadrix permalink
    February 19, 2012 10:41 am


    I sat next too you at GSTA when you gave your presentation. I am so fortunate that I was there. Your blog and the blogs you recommended are exactly the types of dialogues I’ve been pining for. I read about pseudoteaching yesterday and a well of anxiety rose in my being. I am often guilty of what-it-looks-like good teaching; however, I discover my students are not interacting/ not learning/ lost. It is hard to continually create environments/contexts where students are challenged to learn.

    I am glad there is forum for physics teachers to discuss things other than “Here’s a good lesson for_________.” or “Here’s another good demonstration for________.” I’ve enjoyed reading about metacognition, pseudoteaching, modeling, constructivism, motivation, etc.

    Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

    Bradley Shadrix
    Physics Teacher at East Jackson Comprehensive High School in Commerce, Ga.

    • February 19, 2012 12:00 pm

      I’m glad you found my talk helpful, and it was great to meet you. I’ve found no professional development workshop/program to be as helpful as the ongoing learning I do through twitter, blogging and the global physics department. It’s available exactly when I need it, requires no travel, is super-tailored to my interests, and is free. One other resource you might be interested in—we have a bi-monthly meeting of metro Atlanta Physics Teachers, and a mailing list. Our next gathering will be in March, and in Henry county—not to convenient for you, unfortunately.

  4. Ryan permalink
    April 17, 2012 7:03 am

    Hi John,
    As a physics teacher, I thought you would appreciate this interactive resource:

  5. September 9, 2013 1:11 am


    I found you because of your comments on lockhartscontent.wordpress blog about the book, and also you mentioned you are a math teacher! I was very moved by a Mathematician’s Lament myself, as making mathematics fun is part of my day job. In fact, we are making a 3-D world where mathematics can be played with and where you can even create your own math tools, weapons, and enemies.

    Are you interested in 3-D math games? If so you should check us out! :^]



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