Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 1 - Tuesday January 18

Since we have the two prep periods to start the day, today started with just some conversation about how things were going to go today, today paired with some making of copies and segueing into conversations about personal life and teaching and anything. It doesn’t usually happen that I would take notes of any of this, so I’ll leave the prep period out of my descriptions in the future unless something particularly unusual happens. Since today was my first official day, I would get a proper introduction in front of the class. I thought, with brevity the soul of wit and all, a very short introduction of myself, my name and what school I’m working out of, followed by a short question and answer session. I thought opening up myself to any question would help me get to know each class by what they ask while they get to know a little about me.

AP Chemistry – Only got a few questions here. One was if I was going to be teaching the class. I was diplomatic in telling them that I did not know the answer to this, since AP seems to be the crown jewel of Mr. CT’s chemistry classes and his goal is to build AP Chem into the juggernaut that AP Bio is at this school. The other question I was asked was where I went to high school, and I explained I went to a high school in a town north of The City. Mr. CT asked whether the south side was the bad side, and I had to explain that the south side has its positives, especially since Furious J comes from the south side. The class itself wasn’t super exciting, going over the answers from the quest (that would be the portmanteau of quiz and test, not an epic journey) given at the end of last semester and then a lecture with accompanying Power Point on the VSEPR model of bond geometry.

Mr. CT didn’t have to do anything in advisory period this whole week, so this time was spent creating new seating charts for the other classes that suddenly had different rosters and showing me how the attendance software worked so that I could get another running start to knowing who the students are.

I ate lunch with Mr. CT in the teacher’s lounge. I don’t tend to remember general goings on if I’m not taking notes, and I’m not going to take notes about lunch time, so this section is going to be pretty bare today and probably in the future unless something extraordinary happens.

The schedule I posted earlier shows that the next three sections are all Chem 1, which will be my bread and butter as the semester goes on. The activity we were doing in all of them was a group activity worksheet about Kinetic Molecular Theory. There was no accompanying Power Point, students were just supposed to work through the questions and fill out answers using the information they brought to the class and their reasoning skills. But first, new seats had to be assigned! So for each class at the beginning, Mr. CT announced that there would be a new seating chart and so, while the class stood around, he would move to each desk, look over to me, and I would announce the name of the student sitting at that desk from reading off the seating chart previously prepared by Mr. CT. This helped me a lot with getting at least a few names in my head.

Class 1 – This class didn’t ask many questions about me, though one student ended up walloping me with, “what is your favorite childhood memory?” Other than that oddity, the introduction ended up very short. When the class was given the packets and let loose, they self-organized largely around the lab benches when told they could work together. This means they largely formed groups of 4, talking around the lab tables. This method made the room a little on the loud side, but with them up I was easily able to walk up and see what they were doing, and they frequently asked questions as me and Mr. CT came around. There was one question in particular that many groups got a little stuck on, having to do with a container that can freely expand (not a common thing to encounter, even balloons tend to be under pressure from the stretching).

Mr. CT and I had a talk after this first class to see how things went. I think we had a difference of opinion on the quality of learning from the class. I, used to teaching dance classes where noise and self-direction are the norm, thought the students were doing well based on the frequency with which they asked questions of us and the speed that the groups were finishing their packets. He was concerned with the amount of socialization that he observed and was concerned with knowing whether students were learning from each other or copying off each other. We thought we would make an impromptu experiment of it, and set the rules for doing the worksheet differently for each class and see how the process goes.

Class 2 – This class I volunteered some information for the class, but I could tell their hearts weren’t in the introduction much. This time Mr. CT specified to stay in their area and work with the people around their desks and to stay quiet. He also made a point of going over the first page of the packet thoroughly as a class after they had worked on it for a while. This class never had questions for us, which I found particularly strange given the sheer quantity of questions that the last class had for us. I even came up with a list of guesses for why that might be so:

They don’t know questions can be asked

They already know the answers

They don’t really care enough to address problems

They want to do it themselves, regardless of difficulty

They ask a neighbor first, then they figure it out.

No real evidence for any of these, just hypotheses for an unusual phenomenon.

Class 3 – This class is quite the feisty class, most of which is carried by one student, Flora (remember, not her real name). This class asked many, many questions in the Q & A session, including a grilling by Flora of what I knew about Furious J, to test me I suppose. Mr. CT actually had to cut the questions off so that we could get to the actual business of the class.

This time Mr. CT specified that they had to work by themselves. This class is much more prone to asking questions than class 2, creating a third hypothesis: Class 2 is in a food coma from lunch, class 3 finally has energy. Mr. CT again had a catch to go over the first page to make sure everyone was in agreement on the first page.

Chem 2 – Today was an orientation day for this class, since it was the first day of the semester, due to the dual-credit nature. The only thing I really remarked here was the class featured 11 people, only one of them male.

After classes ended we headed over to Ms. Bio’s room to talk about things. We divided up work for the next few weeks, and it turns out that the creation of handouts and lectures for the next few days fell to them.

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