Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Anticipation and Anxiety

Posted on: August 14, 2010

Am I the only one that really looks forward to getting back to the routine and yet has a huge pile of stress and anxiety over the workload?

I got hit with so much new stuff this year that I’m overwhelmed before even beginning.  We have a couple new science teachers, my Conceptual Physics class is being shifted to a new teacher.  I’m not sad about that, although I love teaching the “adapted” class, they are the kids that work the hardest and generally love the hands-on work I do.  I will miss that group.  I have three sections of Physics, and for the first time, juniors will be allowed to double up on science and take my class.  This means I can possibly have a second year physics course next year.  I think I’m going to ask my administrator to change the name of the course to Physics I, thus hinting at a Physics II.  Progress, definitely.

I also got asked to teach Calculus.  This will be the first time our school has the course, and I will have the best 14 math/science students in the senior class.  Like many of you, I haven’t touched the subject since college (specifically 1982 – my sophomore year).  Yes, I’m certified in math and physics, but Calculus is not Algebra.  These are great kids and I don’t want to let them down.

I also have a new elective this year; Robotics & Astronomy.  We are starting the year with the robots since I’ve also taken over the boy’s varsity soccer coaching position.  I’m hoping the workload for this class won’t be too bad, I have at least an idea of what we are doing with the robots.

I can’t even imagine what it is like coming back to no new courses or challenges?  It must be boring.


7 Responses to "Anticipation and Anxiety"

Haha wow that is an extremely impressive heaping on your plate. Teaching Calculus… that’s something I’d like to do during the summer one year.

As for the new courses thing, I’m kinda surprised you’d say that. I guess you’re right I just never noticed that teachers switched courses that often so I thought it was taken for granted that you’d just teach the same course year after year. I guess it depends on the school as well.

I think it’s safe to say that most teachers teach the same courses year after year, occasionally getting a new assignment. We work to improve the course each year, adding a lab, getting rid of parts that don’t work as well, and just generally keeping it fresh. One new course is considered a lot of work, two is considered a rough year. Two while taking on a coaching job is calling for the guys in the white coats.

Hey, I want some custom cartoons from you. High school level, so dumb it down a couple of notches. I’d love to post it here. Topics: Scientific Method, Basic Lab stupidity, teaching high school, misunderstanding basic ideas, etc.

I was terrified that I was going to be tapped to teach Calc 2 this year and find out, oh… NOW 🙂

I’m picking up an integrated math 2 course instead which will have its own challenges 🙂

1 Honors Physics (College Physics by Knight)
2 Conceptual Physics (10th Edition)
1 PSSA Math Course (rotates each 9 weeks though)
1 Integrated Math 2 (three books, not waiting)

What are you using to teach robotics with? Are you going to use the Lego Mindstorms to teach this? Any particular book?

I answered Cindy directly, but I think this deserves a short response.

I use the Engineering 1 software sold by LEGO and developed by Carnegie Mellon as a starting point. The book I use as my primary reference was recommended by Ron Kessler, “LEGO Mindstorms NXT-G Programming Guide,” by James Floyd Kelly. From there I created a series of challenges and the students compete against each other for points in those challenges. I expect to add a post soon since I’ve just finished the first quarter of the year with this new course. I’ll detail what I did and the results in a separate post soon.

I just came across your site so thank you for taking the time to do this while adding new classes. I am jealous of the teachers who expect to have all the same classes year after year because there is so much more potential to craft really really good lessons. I had five seperate subjects last year- all science but genetics is not AP Physics nor is it IB Biology. I am thankfully down to three seperate subjects but the switch from AP to honors physics means yet again a whole new set of objectives- more fun but still kind of from scratch. How do you keep the anxiety of wanting to do a good job at each class but keeping your head above water with the work load?

That is an excellent question. Although for me the stress is about the workload. My anxiety is about walking into the surprises we always get hit with as the school year begins. Now, to answer your question, please allow me to be indirect and long winded to respond completely.

I don’t care about formal observations because my attitude is that I do my very best every single day. You can come in my class unannounced. Some days I’m awesome, some days I suck, but my lesson doesn’t change because of an outside observer. My three courses are really four because robotics and astronomy are overlapping. I just can’t put in the work I know every class deserves. I don’t have enough hours or energy.

I take the attitude that my first year teaching a course is going to be rough at times. I tell the kids it’s my first time teaching it, sometime things will not go as I hoped, but I’m not afraid to take their input and change midstream. They respect my honesty and work with me. I have some great suggestions from the kids and I use them and thank them for those ideas.

The other thing I resign myself to is using the book and its resources the first time through. Right now in calculus, I’m a couple sections ahead of the kids. I just don’t know what will be important in the big picture until after we’ve finished the course. After its over I will be able to look back and see what needs to be different next year. I’ve taught the physics class enough times to know where I can gloss over things and where I need to spend more time. The books sometimes tell you that, but it really only comes from the experience of having taught the course once or twice.

So I’m constantly improving, or at least trying to improve. I spent yesterday in the Sea Perch construction training and talked to a bunch of STEM instructors. There is so much more I can do. Some of them are doing things I want to do, but then they aren’t doing things I’m already doing. The reality is that you probably need a year of not teaching to construct a single great course. That isn’t going to happen, so I do my very best every day and some days we watch Mythbusters because I need a break.

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What’s New in 2013/2014?

Every year brings a change, this one is no exception.

I will be picking up the sophomore honors Algebra II class to keep them separate from the juniors. This should help accelerate them and put them on a stronger track towards Calculus. Looks like there will be only one section each of Physics and Calculus, but still two of Robotics & Engineering.

Hot topics this year are going to be the Common-Core Standards, Standards-Based Grading (SBG), improving AP Calculus scores, and somehow adding Python, maybe as a club.

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