Day 14: Student Resistance Begins

Physics: Quiz and projectile motion. The Hewitt treatment of “falling from an imaginary straight line” confused the hell out of them, so I moved on as quickly as I could to using dot diagrams, and that made way very much more sense to them. I have a copy of the test for Wednesday, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to re-write it a bit.

Honors Physics: Today was springs. Lots of good questions and problem solving. Students were also not super happy that I did full analysis for questions where you could short-cut to the end and “still get the right answer”. Assigning questions out of the book is easy, but they’re not very interesting and lead to too much answer seeking. I think I’m going to switch things up after we take the first exam and stop using the textbook. I hate textbooks anyway.

AP Physics: After class a student asked if he could speak with me. Of course! He then gave me extended feedback about how he would prefer it if I would work out every problem for them so they had the exact right answer and were more prepared for the quizzes. He said the white-boarding thing was taking too long and not teaching him the problems, and I should stop doing things that are engaging because the students are already interested. He would rather be given problems to practice, and then me work them out on the board, and then try more practice problems. I talked with the another science teacher and emailed the admin about that, because it was this sort of situation that got me booted out of my previous position, and I don’t want that to happen again. The talk with the science teacher was super helpful in alleviating some of my anxiety, because he said exactly what I was trying to articulate, namely that it’s not my job to always give you the right answers. It’s my job to curate a series of activities that require you to think deeply about the material and take on the cognitive load required to understand it.

If I just did practice problems while they watched, at no point is the brain required to be engaged in understanding rather than transcribing, and even with that students always transcribe the wrong stuff. They only write down what I write on the board. They never write down my narrative or the questions I ask myself or the explanation I give while I’m working, so they miss the very essence of the problem solving process. I’ve been meaning for a while to make a flow chart of questions to ask yourself when problem solving so that the internal monologue is more explicit, but I’ve been too busy/lazy to sit down and do it. That whole energy/time uncertainty thing.

What we learned about today was looking at system constraints for acceleration and forces (specifically tension forces) and being able to develop clear constraints, system schema, and free body diagrams. Tomorrow we’ll start at the top and work our way through some goal-less problems and see how that goes.

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