September 28, 2009
Chemistry Teaching Musings (V)
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
I am posting these rather frequently–I hope this doesn’t soon immediately fizzle out. I guess I have been doing TONS of chemistry lately, so these posts keep getting written. God knows what I will do if I make it into Physical Chemistry…. I do have some Islamic posts in the making, but I always leave them half finished. I’ll try to a spiderman post request by the end of next week. (Which one, you’ll have to tune in and find out!) 😄
To Spiderman and Sarah: I TOTALLY DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE TYPING THIS! LOL.
So today in class my professor said he grades the lab reports himself to have an idea what the class understands and struggles with–and that is when I started thinking of this post:
How do I customize my chemistry class to meet the needs of every class I get each year?
Every year, a teacher gets a new class with a new group of kids. This new group of kids might be overall really smart or really dumb. You get new nerds, idiots, class clowns, rebels, burnouts, etc. etc. The class may quickly *get* balancing equations, but might be stark dumb in kinetics (hey–I am stark dumb in kinetics). How would I ‘plan’ myself as a teacher to be accommodating to where there needs to be more emphasis in the subject matter? And how do I ‘learn’ to ‘connect’ to the new group of students? What teaching techniques must I use for each class each year? Some classes like worksheets, others like doing problems on the board, some might be nuts enough to love labs. How do I assess this and what are some *universal* trends (no pun intended) in chemistry classrooms that I can fallback on?
—Are students more likely to better at stoichiometry than thermochemistry (my high school graduating class was the opposite, but the class after me seemed better at stoichiometry…. I still remember how *badly* my class bombed the stoichiometry test and how my high school chemistry teacher called me out. I was a dead girl walking that day. XD)
—Do students prefer labs more than analyzing real life articles/movie clips/images?
—Do students prefer doing problems at their desks or on the board? Individually or collectively? (I almost always prefer individually.)
—Do students prefer labs that you have a complicated procedure and you know the most likely outcome, or to make their own procedure and ‘find out’ what the results are?
—Do students struggle more with the math or with the concepts. I could argue that the reason NO ONE ELSE in my AP Chem class got a 4 or 5 was because they didn’t understand ‘Chemistry Logic.’
—On that note, how can I teach both math and concepts and at the same time, implant a ‘Chemistry Sense’ (my chemistry senses are tingling….) or ‘Chemistry Logic.’
—How do I bounce between different teaching techniques WITHOUT sacrificing learning the content/cutting back on the syllabus?
—How can I make the class meaningful outside of theoretical and hypothetical situations? How can I make chemistry relevant to *EVERY DAY* life? (Throwing stats or facts won’t work–Like, how can chemistry affect a way looks at life or thinks logically?)
—What are project (not necessarily a poster, model or presentation) ideas that I can assign that students can use to explore different branches or elements (no pun again) of Chemistry without losing substance of what is being taught/being biased when I grade them?
—Why am I thinking over 5 years ahead of myself and procrastinating my history homework… AGAIN.
—What is some advice that YOU (reader of this post) can give ME on what you want in your ideal chemistry teacher? Would you want a teacher who can give a lot of real life experiments or more practice problems to get concepts down? Would you want someone who was easy on homework grading but was extremely critical on lab/practical work? Or would you want a teacher who was critical on the homework and classwork, but gave a little more leniency on tests? (Although I have separate thoughts on the grading process, but I digress–) What do you think would make a good teacher?
I don’t know how many chemistry teachers (to be) that would ask you this, but here I am on the internet asking genuinely because I am so sick of people hating school, hating learning, and getting a bad education. School is such a psychologically, spiritually and emotionally gratifying place. Or at least-it ought to be. I want to do my part, but I am kind of slow so I need a little help on what to do. So emails, comments, or phone calls would be really appreciated.
Speaking of help, I need to harass my chemistry professor about this week’s lab. Why acetic acid? How do you have a precipitate that is soluble? Isn’t that what defines what a precipitate is–that it is INSOLUBLE? And why Carbon-12? Why are Hydrogen and Magnesium discriminated? Why have I been taught a lie (amus) for the past five years? What is the meaning of life in terms of atomic particles? 😄