Day 1: Rumors and Prof. Dancealot

Thursday, Aug 30

Today was the usual first-day assembly, which lasted 25 minutes, which is AWESOME. I’ve had those that were over two hours long and brutally boring, so short and sweet is fantastic. I met all my advisees for the first time, too. I had one returning from last year and four new kids. They seem pretty great, and I look forward to getting to know them more as the year goes on.

I’m teaching the same three preps as last year: Physics, Physics Honors, and two sections of AP Physics C: Mech & E&M. This year each class is 40 minutes long. Today’s “first-day” classes are 35 minutes.

All classes were basically the same format today:

  • Writing Prompt about “What are your questions?” “What are your areas of high and low confidence?”
  • “Rumors” Activity: Students fill up whiteboards with things they’ve heard or think about a physics class in general and this class in particular.
  • “Prof. Dancealot” Video: Short video of a dude teaching a dance class via lecture and then assessing them on their dancing at the end. I followed this up with a discussion of whether we want to have that kind of physics class and what kind of class we DO want to have.

This community building is one thing I skipped last year, and I felt a major difference. It was a combination of a LOT of things, but this piece in particular was missed mightily. It feels really great to start the year this way.

Physics:  These students had a little harder time articulating what they did and did not want, but I got the general gist of it. I’ll do my best to take this fire hose of a class and make it as awesome as I can. New attitude this year! Yussss! This class even got a chance to get started on the Game of Science, which I’ll describe tomorrow, since all classes will be working on it then. I gave them the significantly easier version. The interesting thing was that since each person had their own copy of the game board, they all worked silently and independently, which was not at all what I expected. But I let it happen. Tomorrow they’ll compare and contrast what they were thinking today in groups and see how that goes.

Physics Honors: This class is HUGE. By my standards. Probably not by yours. My classroom has four tables of four seats plus two extra seats for people who need to be closer to the board. I finally had to ask the registrar to cap the class when it got to 20. I 100% understand this is hilariously small for most public schools. In my classroom it is going to be cramped as all get out and make labs even more challenging because everything is planned for four lab groups of four, so labs will either not have enough equipment or have too many people in the groups. I’m still mulling over how to approach this. But, like I told the registrar, I will make it work. I always do.

This class is also almost 50% ladies. BOOM! Super happy about that. The racial make-up of the class is also quite diverse across all genders, so I am super excited about this class. Their responses to the writing prompts were illuminating. They’re largely confident in math and completely inexperienced in physics, which is a home run on both accounts. I’m SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS CLASS.

The “Rumors” activity pulled out a lot of things from last year that I was able to address and set expectations for how the class would be this year. Since this was a double period, we had time to have a much deeper discussion than in the other classes and whiteboard their expectations for the class and our expectations of each other.

I think these are all very reasonable, and it will help us all hold each other accountable. I know it’s hard for students to cross the power boundary and hold teachers accountable, but I really, desperately want that this year. I hope I communicated that well enough.

At the end, we got started on Science Games, as well, and they dug in so hard I had trouble getting some of them to stop long enough to clean up the whiteboards. I gave them the harder version. Excited for tomorrow!

AP Physics: The written responses really held no surprises, but it was good to confirm they’re starting in similar places of feeling comfortable with mechanics and nervous about E&M. The real trouble is getting them nervous about mechanics and comfortable with E&M over the course of the year.

Then we did the “Rumors” activity. I had a mix of students who had me last year, had the other physics teacher last year, or have not had physics before ever but passed a placement test, and I wanted to draw out their preconceptions about me and the course. Again, a lot of it was expected, and I was able to talk about how this course would be different than any class they had last year, especially Honors. The Dancealot video produced a nice conversation that took us through the end of both periods and felt like it set up everyone well for the upcoming year. Like in Honors, my major focus this year is on holding myself accountable and being accountable to the students.

Tomorrow will still be reasonably similar in terms of a bit more community building and the Game of Science. Monday is when the three classes diverge suddenly and extensively.

Tonight is my first official duty night, which will give me the chance to have a chat with every student in the dorm and start getting to know them. This whole year feels completely different in so many ways, all of them fantastic. I’m already exhausted, but that is becoming such a Base Condition in my life that it’s barely worth commenting on anymore. It will be far more noteworthy when I’m not exhausted.

Here is a link to the website where I got these ideas and resources.

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