Day 5: Breaking the Rules

Wednesday, Sept 5

Advising: We have a very structured advising program here, and I have a set of five kids this year. Three boys, two girls. Two sophomores, three freshmen. One returning, local day student and four new, international boarding students. Last week we talked about the code of conduct, honor system, etc. and they all signed a copy saying they understood the concept. This week, I wanted to talk a little more abstractly about rules. I decided to combine the discussion about rules from Crawling Out of the Classroom’s post “On Compliance” for setting the culture early in the year with the Talking Points Protocol (explained here and here) to have an active listening discussion about following or not following rules. Here were my talking points:

  • Rules should always be followed.
  • It’s fine to break rules that seem unfair to you or others.
  • Rules should be followed, even if they don’t make sense.
  • Breaking a rule means you are a bad person. (Everyone disagreed with this one for similar reasons, so I flipped it to “Following rules means you are a good person.” Everyone still disagreed, but it made the discussion more interesting)
  • It’s not breaking the rules if you don’t get caught.

I want to come up with better points, because these were all combinations of “agree/uncertain” and “disagree/uncertain”. I didn’t come up with any that were grey enough for there to be some agrees and some disagrees. For the first time doing this, I thought it went quite well, although I did have to prompt them to share more of their thinking a few times with, “Ok, tell me more about that.” I did not add in my thoughts, just listened to theirs. One of them thought I was going to report what they said to someone. Nope! I was actually breaking the rules having this conversation instead of the provided Advising lesson, although I didn’t tell them that.

The last piece was asking them how this connected back to the Code of Conduct and Core Values of the school (Safety, Trust, Respect, Inclusion, Belonging) and why it was important to have a nuanced view of rules here at school and rules in the larger society. The provided lesson plan did this through watching a video and then responding to writing prompts. I wanted to try out Talking Points and this sounded like a great way to do it and still have the point of the lesson be met, so I did this. They talked out all the points I would have made among them, and then I helped them synthesize and gave some examples of non-apparent reasons behind rules here. I dug it. I’ll ask them what they thought next time I see them.

Physics: I made a structured worksheet for the Inertia Stations for the Regular Physics class and walked them through the stations much more carefully with instructions for what to pay attention to in order to notice things. They need a bit more direction and structure compared to honors, and AP will get upset if I try to coddle them too much. It’s honestly more of a mental shift from Regular to AP than it was from 9th Grade Physics to AP. Now my students are all the same age, but have self-selected into tracked levels of physics. There’s more homogeneity within each class and considerable differences between them. I also took up the worksheet so we can continue to work on it tomorrow. This way 1) they can’t lose it and 2) they won’t work on it tonight instead of doing the homework that’s due tomorrow.

Honors Physics: Today we did a Thermal Expansion/Stress/Strain practice problem, and I had them think about changes they could make to practice solving a similar problem. I tried another “go out to the quad” activity where they were water molecules slowing down as they got colder and then starting to form crystals, but I didn’t structure it well enough. They were too excited about punching each other in the back (regardless of me telling them not to) rather than paying attention to the crystal structure, so they’ll probably remember more about getting to run around the quad punching one another. “Memory is the residue of thought”. I have to remember that in all my planning and focus on directing their thinking.

Possible changes: show them the picture ahead of time so they know the goal, have a few practice rounds so I can give them feedback on their crystal-making skills, be more clear ahead of time that one pair of water molecules can’t make two different bonds (quite a few students put their arms around each other. That’s… not how water molecules work. And it led to the opposite result. All around bad), divide them into two teams so they can watch the other team and give feedback for how to improve the crystalline structure, put water molecules on paper and have them make paper water crystals, borrow the modeling kit from Chem and show the difference between a bag full of 20 water molecules and 20 molecules in a crystal.

AP Physics: Lab de-brief and vectors! They have 100% seen all this math before. I did a very quick review of notions (rectangular, polar, unit vectors), how to convert between them, and the uses of each one in physics. All my AP students have had at least a year of calculus, but my school offers four different levels of calc, so it was more of a review for some than others. Then they did a couple TIPER problems. Very straight-forward day.

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