Monday, January 6, 2014

New Classes Soon - Looking Forward and Reflecting

This week is my last full week with my first semester classes. Next week we have finals and then the following week semester two classes start up. With these new classes so close I have spent quite a bit of time the last week or so thinking about what is coming up - yet I am still feeling very unprepared at this point. I want to share what I have coming up, what some of my plans are, and what my concerns are. Please feel free to share ideas with me!

Students in Research: BRAND NEW CLASS for has been taught at my school in the past by other teachers but has not been taught in a number of years. I am still working on rewording the class description and syllabus for this one. Basically the plan is that during the first few weeks of the class I will lead the students through activities that will introduce them to basic experiment planning techniques. After my introductory activities students are going to be designing and carrying out their own individual or small group experiments - much like an independent study. Their midterm and final will each be formal lab reports. I am most nervous for this because it is brand new and I am not sure how motivated the group of students I have coming in are going to be.

Biology: This is my comfort zone! I taught two sections of biology this semester and will have one section of bio during the second semester. The group coming in is "College Prep" level and hopefully are ready for a challenge. While I will probably modify a few activities I did during this semester there wont be any major changes to the class.

Physics: I have a very small group of students coming into physics (which is normal). Past years I have had anywhere from 1-10 students in physics but the normal is 3 or 4....crazy right! The students coming in are all very bright and are concurrently taking a college level calculus class so I am confident in their math skills. The challenge for me is that I have yet to really have a curriculum for physics that I am happy with. Each year it ends up changing in some way. Last year ran much like an independent study with just two students in the class. This year I am anticipating a similar format but I want to make it more interactive and hold the students more accountable for the information. I need to add lab activities that are meaningful and more real life applications. I also want to use interactive science notebooks with the group which I have not done in physics in the past but after my modest success with this in biology and chemistry I want to continue and see how it goes with physics.

When I began teaching I honestly thought that by year 5 things would be SO much easier. In some way things are - I have a bag of tricks that I can reach into and grab a lesson out of if I need to change something on the fly. I know the students and am much more comfortable managing my classroom. Yet I am still constantly reworking and changing my classes - I am never quite satisfied. Sometimes this leads me to success (like with the ISN this year) and sometimes it leads me to failure (two chemistry labs this year did not work out at all the way I had hoped and I wont be doing them next year!) I also find that sometimes I take off more than I can chew and after a few weeks call off some new effort (my element of the week bulletin board - carbon has been the element of the week for about 2 months) when I realize that I don't have time to do everything that I would like to. Maybe by year 10 things will finally be SO much easier!

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