Sunday, September 20, 2009

Generalized goings-on, and such.

People — friends, enemies, sycophants and other hangers-on — have been asking me how the school year has been going lately.

Every year (so far) has been pretty much the same in its rhythm...
  • classes start out really, really quiet
  • like, uncomfortably quiet
  • then they all get to know each other
  • then you get to know them
  • eventually, it all sorta flows
There are factors that affect how soon "flow" is achieved. Larger classes tend to get it first, but that's just because the interpersonal chemistry part is a little easier, owing to the fact that more people probably know more other people in the room. You have to be careful with big classes, though: you have to make sure to corral that energy and direct it towards the material, rather than let it spiral outwards into pure socialization.

I'm teaching college-prep physics for the first time in a couple of years; lately it seems like all I've been doing is the university-prep courses, in terms of senior physics. When I first taught the course, I made the huge mistake of treating the kids in the college stream like those in the university stream; after all, forces and energy were the same in both courses, right? Wrong. You have to be a bit of a gear-head in the college course... these kids aren't going to be engineers — they're going to be HVAC repair-people, car mechanics, and the like. In short, these kids don't give a shit how an equation is derived, even though I (and the kids in the university stream) might.

One of the courses I'm teaching this year is this wacky Earth and Space Science course. Obviously, I enjoy the material... but (a.) there's no textbook for the course, (b.) half of it is more like physical geography, and (c.) there are nine kids in the class. That means I have to do most of the talking — classroom discussion is pretty sparse, save for a couple of students — which means that, by the end of it, my voice is completely shot. In the end, I'm working my ass off (probably 60% of the prep work I've done so far is for this one course), and there are nine kids in the room... which makes me feel like all this effort is being chucked down a well, sometimes.

On the bright side, a few of us teachers are trying to start up a weekly tradition of having a drink at the local pub every Friday. I've suggested that, Queen's-like, we call this thing "Ritual." We'll see how that goes.


Eve said...

Are you coming down for Homecoming? I may (*may*) be going to the real ritual this Friday. Let me know if you'd like to join me.

JTL said...

I might... but, obviously, I can't make it for Ritual.