Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 4 - Friday, January 21

This day started with set up for day two of the lab that Chem 1 started on Day 3. This section needed water baths at four different temperatures: hot, lukewarm, cold and super cold. The cold and super cold needed some ice to get to the proper temperature, since we don’t have a dedicated ice machine in the science area Mr. CT decided to use fresh snow from outside. So, the day started with a nice little adventure where I stood by the door to let Mr. CT back in after his trips outside to gather snow in red buckets from Ms. Bio’s room.

Other stuff from before classes started include finally getting my ID card and parking pass (which took all of 15 seconds, by the way) and getting a 3-ring binder to organize my copies of all the materials I would be getting and working on for these classes. I also tried my hand at drawing a useful diagram on the board, and I realized that my board writing is much easier to read if I use the tactic of writing in all caps with the first letter larger than the others. I also realized that I have no sense of how large my writing must be to be read by the room, and little sense of how small things have to be to fit comfortably on the board. I expect these will improve in time.

AP – The class is still working on bond geometry, and exploring how the geometry of the whole molecule determines whether the molecule is polar or not. Today was more PowerPoint-assisted note-taking. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but it seems that whenever Mr. CT asks a question, he ends up answering it himself. This could just be my choice of observation location (right under the noisy heating system) that prevents me from hearing faint student answers, but it makes all the classes seem either lethargic or timid. This is AP, where’s the hotshot that wants to answer everything? From what I can tell from talking to Mr. CT, I think the class gets good AP scores, so I guess what he’s doing is working for him, but I guess I interpret a dead class as a bored class, and I don’t think bored is learning.

Chem 1 – I did more today, proportionally! On this day my task was to introduce the lab. I demonstrated the procedures using the actual equipment, which seemed to work well. In the first class I neglected to tell them to avoid submerging a flask completely in the water baths, which turned out to be bad for proper data collection. I also tried to tell the whole class about the use of a certain instrument, which consists of a long glass tube that has been sealed on one end and has a bead of mercury trapped in it. This turns out to be a mistake, only one person per group needed to know and we had to come around and re-educate all the groups individually. Once measurement protocols were set, the actual gathering of data went smoothly. Once kids got back to their seat and Mr. CT and I were circulating around, we noticed some odd approaches to graphing the data, and we tried to fix each individually before making a whole-class announcement about it.

Second period went much like the first, but smoother. This time I only demonstrated the use of the apparatus for Gay-Lussac’s law and had the groups choose a keeper of the Charles’s law tube to come up and receive direct instruction from me or Mr. CT. This worked much better and got the groups out there in the lab faster and doing things in a more consistent way. During the actual gathering of data, the class became deathly quiet. When the kids came back to their seats, Mr. CT made an announcement about proper graphing in a science class and gave a brief blurb about why we can measure volume of trapped air with just the length of the trapped air column. Later grading would show that this blurb would not stick with most of the students, unfortunately.

Third period had my first contest of wills with a student, so yay? Wanda wanted to sit in an absent student’s seat to be closer to Flora, and I asked her to move back. After a few seconds of protest, she obliged me, so I guess I won? It’s kind of odd to me for a student to listen to and do what I say simply because I am in the role of “Teacher.” Most of the time when I ask the students to do something, there’s a larger purpose behind it, what I’m asking them to do should(!) result in them learning something. Enforcing a seating chart is only me acting as lieutenant to Mr. CT and making my life a little easier. At the same time, what I should do if a student decided not to listen to me is the part of teaching that scares me the most, and the part I feel least prepared for. The most I can do is plan to avoid those situations as much as possible, but I’ve only ever had vague sketches on how to do that. The fact that a minor skirmish in this cropped up today and I won was exciting at the time, but I’m troubled by how arbitrary it was. The odd thing is I doubt it even made an impact in Wanda’s memories of that day.

The actual function of the class was similar to the second class. The structure of the pre-class instruction made the lab go very smoothly. This class was oddly inclined to split up the group into Charles’s law people and Gay-Lussac’s law people and move around the room independently, sharing data at the end.

This group was also more inclined to putting their hands in the hot and super cold buckets of water, so there’s that, too.

Mr. CT and I gave the same after-lab advice and answered questions like the previous sections.

Chem 2 – Today was an intro lab, having the students find their way around the laboratory. I got to be the lab TA and tell them to keep their goggles on while they were in lab. Nothing too special for the actual class.

There was something that I believe happened on this day, but I didn’t take notes on it so it could have been another day. It seems very Friday in retrospect, so here is a good place for it. Shawn, a girl who had had some sort of illness that caused her to miss much of AP chem, was now in Chem 2, since that was a one-semester course with college credit attached. I learned her name today by reminding her to put on her goggles during lab period. Later she stayed after class to talk about Kelvin, since she had learned about a Kelvin color scale in photography and wanted to know if/how they were related. I didn’t know off hand, but from talking to her it turned out to be related through the black body radiation experiments that had puzzled physicists in Lord Kelvin’s time. Her, myself and Mr. CT had a long conversation about that and the birth of quantum physics and accelerating expansion of the universe. It was the first time that kind of thing has happened to me in a high school setting, and it made me very happy.

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