Archive for February, 2011

The Case for Adjuncting: Teacher Motivation

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I have been an Adjunct Professor (fancy, no?) for a few years, now.  Oftentimes I leave my morning job (at the high school) feeling drained and (I have to say it) unmotivated.  In order to recharge, many teachers try to relax and grade papers in a quiet setting.  Me?  I teach…again… 

Surprisingly, at the end of teaching a college class, I am fully recharged (even after the 4-hour classes!) and invigorated.  Why the difference? 

You may have read my foreshadowing post some months back about me undertaking a comparison of college vs. high school teaching.  Let me expand on that series, now:

1) In a college classroom, it is obvious to all involved that each and every minute of class holds importance.  There is no down-time.  There is no such thing as “padding” a lesson.  There is no sense of a time glut. 

2) There is a great sense that students will miss out if they are not present.  Not only do you cover more material in a shorter amount of time, but you also cover it in greater depth.  Discussions are just as likely to show up on assessments as labs or notes. 

3) Students have (LITERALLY) bought-in to the course.  In high school, there is almost no sense of ownership of your position in the class.  More prevalent projects in the high school setting would improve this, but the classroom atmosphere that in-class projects tend to produce are generally frowned upon (sadly). 

4) Each pupil is focused.  Yes, you will have your “airy” student now and then, but even these individuals realize the importance of staying on task, paying attention, and being “truly present.”  I’ve known students at the college level who (due to extenuating circumstances) have had multiple absences (which as I’ve hinted before mean more per day by far than at the high school level) who were still among my best students.  Inversely, I’ve had perfect-attendance high schoolers who have done very poorly, consistently. 

5) There are basically zero discipline problems.  When you are dealing with adults (whether young or old) who face adult responsibilities, discipline takes a back seat.  Classroom management is more about keeping students vested than keeping them “under control.” 

6) The past experiences of your students seem to double in quantity and quadruple in relevance when you teach at the college level.  This brings the class experience to a whole knew dimension:  allowing the instructor to learn just as often as the students.  This makes for a very fulfilling experience as a professor.

What results is a teacher who goes home satisfied with a job well done, new ideas in his/her mind for future lessons/discussions/activities, and a sense of fulfillment.  The students go home with the knowledge that they have gotten closer to achieving their goals, are better equipped for their careers (or problem-solving and other skills in general), and that their ideas are valued.

I highly recommend that all teachers with the skills necessary for, and ability to, “profess” at the college level should pursue this avenue.  There, fulfillment abounds, and you may just find your love of teaching being sparked anew (and hotter).

Choosing Your Battles: Do you care enough?

Monday, February 28th, 2011

A teacher can practice “avoidance” just as easily as a student.  Do you see a student who is off-task, but you choose not to confront them about it?  See a student using profane body language or using curse words…but do not call them out on it?  Students coming in late and you do not show that you are concerned about it?

If you find yourself nodding “affirmative” to the above scenarios, you might be choosing the WRONG battles in a way that we usually do not consider.  Teachers have to make the determination:  do I care enough about this student to intervene?  If the answer is “no,” then we need to take a closer look at ourselves, our career choices, and our classroom environments.

Let me add that there is no shame in moving on from teaching our particular grade, or at our particular school, or even our particular subject, if we evaluate ourselves and our attitudes toward teaching and find some change that needs to take place.  It’s worth a good, long look.

It’s apparent you’re a parent…drool

Friday, February 25th, 2011

It’s apparent that you’re a parent….if your leather motorcycle jacket has drool stains…

Teacher Disappointed in # of Labs…Students Impressed?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

I may have mentioned this one before…

I very often get the comment from students:  “We do more labs in here than we’ve done in other science classes.”  It always makes me sad.  You see, to me, I am doing far fewer labs than I wish this year.  I feel bad about it, but my schedule and class sizes have limited the # of labs that I can write, setup, and carryout.  And still they tell me that they are doing more in my class than in others they have had.

As with most of my topics, I could keep going on and on with this one…  but I won’t.  I can only hope to expose my students to more laboratory experiences…they need them before they enter the workforce and/or college.

Optimism

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

It is so important that teachers and students (and let’s not forget parents and everyone else involved, actually!) maintain their optimistic view of the future.  There are so many changes taking place in the world of education…and many more coming down the road.  It seems that some people believe one thing is going to happen and some believe yet another trend is to be revealed.

It all comes down to choice.  You may either choose to celebrate the good things students bring to the classroom, or you can choose to emphasize the typical problems that plague all of us.

I drink

Friday, February 18th, 2011

I have a confession to make.  I drink…excessively.

Each morning I reach for a cold one for the morning drive (if I’m not taking the motorcycle…and even then I toss a couple into my backpack for when I reach work and to tide me to through lunch time).  Even in the deepest winter I can’t stand to drink a bottle warm…but must have it chilled.  I admit, it’s a problem.  I really can’t help it, though–I love water.  (What, you thought I was talking about alcohol?  No….I don’t imbibe). 

Empty water bottles make their crinkly ways down to the floor of the Family Jetta (it’s too much of a girly car for me to admit that it is my primary non-bike transportation…now that we traded in my Cougar for a more baby-friendly vehicle).  I just really love water…and do NOT love taking that extra 0.01% effort to trash/recycle my empty bottles at the end of a two-job work day/evening.  So sue me  ;0)

Nothing nice to blog about?

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Sometimes the negative comments outweigh all of the positive ones which you try to remind yourself to post about throughout a day.  I was always told, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

It seems this applies to blogging, as well.  It’s not that there are not good things going on–it’s just that sometimes each good thing is attached to so many not-so-good things that you can’t bring yourself to write about them for fear of letting the not-so-good things get through.

Instead, I will simply refrain and wait for a bit of happy-go-lucky inspiration to hit at a time when I am near a computer  ;0)  [I really wish that IPad Google Chrome thingymabob (or whatever the system was for a survey sweepstakes I entered) had come through for me–I’d be able to blog at a moment’s notice].

Old Physics Books

Friday, February 11th, 2011

It is a growing hobby of mine to look back through the decades and relive the period of discovery which was the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries. Currently I am borrowing a book which was translated in 1955 (made up of post-WWII lectures) entitled Physics and Microphysics.  It was written by Prince Louis de Broglie (the Foreward, incidentally, was written by Albert Einstein). 

It is my hope (and my continuing joy!) that in reading about Physics from the minds of those who influenced its development the most, I will engender a stronger base of scientific thought in my approach to the subject.  Nothing compares to having a book in your hands which was written by some of your professional heros.  No video or posthumous biography or history book can hold a “photon-emitting combustion reaction” next to these experiences.

When I read the words, these authors give me access to their public thoughts from THEN.  Too often we get caught up in NOW.  We forget the spirit of progress and humanism that drove these adventurers. 

Energy chapter should be BEFORE all others

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

In any science book (most specifically Physics), each concept can be described in terms of Energy transfers and transformations.  The vocabulary of Energy concepts can carry a student through complex ideas with much greater ease.  Why, then do we place it (traditionally) in Ch. 5 or thereabouts?  One word:  Tradition.

Force and Motion concepts (once you get past measurements) are almost always discussed prior to giving students a deep understanding of Energy topics.  The application of Energy to all other areas of Physics (for instance), nonetheless is CRUCIAL to mastering the subject.  In the end, instructors end up RE-teaching material in light of newly learned Energy concepts.

Over the past 6 years (and previously, in student teaching and college) I have begun to develop a method of “Energy First” teaching.  I am not the originator of this idea (a number of other teachers having forged ahead with me…it seems to be a trend, albeit one that meets resistance…mainly from textbookers).  In any case, it is a much more fluid operation to teach Energy concepts FIRST and then to incorporate Force, Motion, Electricity, Optics, etc., &tc. topics into their own Energy-related compartments.  Not only does this give students a sense of wholeness, but it also works with the way their brains store and access information.

This is yet another candidate for doctoral research which I might pursue when the time comes.  I’ve been making observations on this for long enough…perhaps it is time that I began to truly experiment.

A Teacher-Student Parallel

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I have noticed that at times the students who look like they are doing a lot actually are accomplishing very little…and that sometimes those students who seem to be relatively inactive are actually getting a great deal done.

The same seems to be true of teachers, at times (which is important to consider during observations).  At times, the best teachers may be those who step back and allow students to explore instead of guiding them every step of the way.

No doubt a similar thought could be applied to parenting.