What a long, tumultuous semester it’s been…
I was looking forward to this past semester. Really. I swear.
There were lots of fun things on tap… Astronomy… Electrodynamics—that’s electricity and magnetism… Numerical methods for physics… Classroom Interactions… In the end, two out of four ain’t bad… it just isn’t much of anything.
Astronomy really let me down. Perhaps it’s a great testament to usual university policy of not letting an instructor teach the same course more than three consecutive semesters. I suspect a level of boredom settles in, and/or they completely lose touch with the purpose of the class. Whereas I’d expected some interesting exploration of new concepts or technologies, it was a rehash of what I’ve watched on the Discovery Channel over the last decade or so. To make matters worse, a lot of make-work equations were tossed in just to make sure people can process numbers that are essentially meaningless without useful discussion of their scale and relationship.
Electrodynamics was a beat-down. I wound up with a good score for the semester, but I don’t feel like I wound up knowing more than I started with. It was interesting to see how some great thinkers solved theoretical problems in the past and somewhat intriguing to think of applying some far-out technique to solve new ones, but I would have had greater appreciation for a course that delved more into practical application and numerical solution. Maybe I should have stuck with engineering… Too late now!
Numerical Methods for Physics was a treat right up until it wasn’t. Still, it’s probably one of the most enjoyable classes I’ve taken. It expanded my vocabulary on data analysis, and gave me some great tools to use in physical modeling. I wish there had been more time, as it seemed like the content was rushed, particularly toward the end of the semester as we seemingly crammed a semester or two of statistical analysis into four class sessions plus a final project.
Classroom Interactions has left me one more step better prepared for teaching high schoolers. This was my first exposure to real-live high school kids as I worked with juniors and seniors in a Physics I classroom. My partner and I each taught two-part lessons over the course of two days. We taught in a feeder school for that high school the prior semester, and it was interesting to see how algebra deficiencies in eighth graders had manifested in the juniors and seniors. Fortunately, their skills had improved, but they still seemed a bit behind the curve.
So now it’s time for winter break! I’m hoping to actually slip some “break” in their somewhere amidst a trip to North Carolina to visit Amanda’s mom, a trip to Bristol, Indiana, to pick up my trailer, and meetings with Peter, who will be my best friend for a couple months next year as we complete some much needed renovation of our house. It’s time for it’s 30 year refresh, and it seems to know it.
Then, it’s back to the salt mine, with what looks to be a fun semester with my last two education courses and last two physics courses (both lab courses!!!!) before student teaching—apprentice teaching in UTeach parlance—in the fall of 2014. Here’s to a smooth ride!