It was my first week at the new school and although this is my seventh year as a teacher, week one's are always a bit off putting. Perhaps its the awkwardness of facing a class of fresh faces (and not knowing what to expect)coupled with the unfamiliarity of a school culture that differs remarkably from what I have experienced in the last two years. Nevertheless I believe that I made a strong start and achieved my week`s goals. It hasn't been easy as I have had to complement my teaching with the added responsibility of being Curriculum Leader (Head of the Department). This is demanding but challenging and it is this challenge that I relish (whether I will feel like this at the end of the school year is still up in the aether of uncertainty but for the present time all is well on the admin front...for now).
I have three classes this semester - A grade 10 Academic Science Class and two Grade 11 Physics Sections.
In Science I `threw`the students very early into the Curriculum. We are working on the newly formulated Optics Section and my lesson plans this week dealt with the human eye and its comparison to the camera, the electromagnetic spectrum and methodologies for the production of light. I am more aware than ever of the need to diversify my lessons and Fridays co-operative assignment on making posters to describe various types of light production (with the followup of a crossword) seemed to work well. The demo of producing light through the electric discharge of a gas source (with a Tesla coi)l was well appreciated by the students as was the use of Slinky's to illustrate the wave nature of light. My challenge with the Grade 10s is to incorporate more computer simulations in my pedagogy, a phenomenon that has been made more difficult by the lack of Internet access in the class. However I have initiated an action,as Curriculum Leader, with the board`s computer help desk to rectify the situation ASAP.
In Physics I have been stressing critical thinking. I opened up with a Fermi problem where I asked the students to estimate the number of marbles that could be packed into the room. This caused some initial confusion as many were not used to making assumptions (viz. diameter of the marble, voidage space, dimensions of the room etc) but after the dust it settled the solutions began to flow. Most attempts were valid but several students erred in making the correct conversion from cubic meters to cubic centimeters. Fermi problems are incredible devices for stressing the importance not only of reasonable assumptions but of order of magnitude approximation. This is a foreign concept for many students schooled in the hard philosophy of the exact answer.
Once the logistics of unit conversion and significant numbers were addressed (its amazing how many students have no idea why significant digits are so important), we spent time, via the mechanism of the faithful Socratic in discussing the importance of the three critical entities: mass, length and time. I then did a review of some key concepts from Grade 10 Kinematics (position, distance, velocity types - instantaneous, average, uniform, displacement and acceleration). Early diagnostics indicate that the students have strong mathematical skills and we really enjoyed breaking down the dynamics of the Usain Bolt Olympic run and the Donovan Bailey-Michael Johnson fastest man scenario.
My conclusion is that this will be a fun year. I can push these students to excel and we can really entertain the curriculum at its fullest.