Day 89: Tears and Fears

Thursday, Feb 8

Physics: We had our last presentations on color today, and the last section of the chapter was about atomic emission, so I handed out the diffraction glasses and shocked myself repeatedly using a Tesla coil to light up emission tubes. It always makes me so excited to see atomic finger prints and have students be able to identify a “mystery tube” based on comparing it to what they’ve seen before.

Honors Physics: I finished grading their exams. Unsurprisingly considering they wrote the exam, everyone did quite well. There were a few lower scores, but they learned the information I wanted them to learn and demonstrated that understanding, so yay!

In electricity, we’re done with forces. On to the field! This is more challenging because we didn’t talk about gravitational fields before the end of first term and didn’t swing back around to it when studying cosmology (we focused on light and optics), but they’re getting the basic ideas. I’m using Knight’s workbook as a good outline. It’s pretty good.

I also got my first tears of the year today. One of my honors students was upset that she scored a 90 on a paper and an 88 on an exam, giving her an overall score for the term of 92 with one week and a final exam left to go. Her arguments for why I should give her more points included:

  1. But I worked really hard on this
  2. But the other physics teacher told me this
  3. [Classmate] wrote the same thing and THEY got full credit!
  4. I’m not that interested in this content

I can appreciate how all of those are frustrating from her point of view (although I have a feeling my colleague did not actually say physics word salad at her and large doubts regarding the other claims), but even if they were all true, none of them are very convincing for reasons why I should award her extra points for A-/B+ level work. These poor kids get so worked up over things that they build up to be huge in the moment but will matter none in the long term. I even offered to let her do revisions on the paper and corrections on the exam, but she was so upset with her original scores that she was weeping during our entire discussion about them.

Going to have to think hard about how to set expectations more carefully and give better feedback on more intermediate assignments.

AP Physics: I found an AP practice test with both MC and FR, so I gave that to the students to work on so we could find the holes in their learning and in my teaching. For instance, we had talked about how length/area affect resistance of a thing conceptually, but I had not specifically gone over the equation with them nor mentioned resistivity. Good hole to plug! There’s also a lot of challenges in terms of how capacitors behave when connected to a battery vs not connected, but they’re beginning to get those straight and understand what is actually happening when a capacitor is charged and what the different things mean.

They got stuck on the very first problem about charging and disconnecting a capacitor, because it didn’t feel right to them that the electric field remained constant when the energy stored increased. We had to go through the math multiple times, then review work and energy and forces as well as electrostatics. Whew. It’s so much stuff to connect together, but they’re doing really well overall!

At one point some students working together got into an off topic conversation. I let it go for a short bit to see if they would bring it back, but they did not, so I asked them if the conversation was about the physics practice. The student tried to tell me that physics is everywhere and everything, so TECHNICALLY…

No. Don’t even try to play me at my own game.

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