Monday, December 10, 2012

Changes on the Way to My "Flipped" Classroom

If you are an educator you are probably already familiar with the concept of a flipped classroom. For the benefit of anyone who doesn't know you can check out this blog, it explains it quite well.

After reading this article (and then watching the 60 minutes clip with the Khan Academy founder) I promised that I would blog about the attempts that I have been making to change the way that I teach.

When I started teaching Grade 9 Science the course was already designed with a lot of student-centred ideas. I still teach lessons from time to time, but for the most part they explore, investigate and complete practice work that gets taken up and assessed. I manage to do most of this in class time (there are phases where they have homework, mostly related to major assignments) and the course is designed with a large emphasis on the lab process, lab writing, and the research process (we also use mind maps to support curriculum content). I also started using an online course module as part of my classroom this year which has allowed me to post online homework quizzes so students can monitor some of their progress.

What I would change going forward: the homework that is assigned that is content related in the future would be to learn the content. This would allow me to continue to spend as much time focusing on what we have agreed is important at my school and would hopefully allow me to even out the time spent on each unit (as it stands Space and Biology are on the neglected side). In the long run I think this would support the projects done in each unit.

My grade 11 class is the one that I made a conscious effort to make some changes to my teaching method. My first year I taught math and got into the "teach for the majority of class and give a few minutes of homework time" rut. When I got the chance a year later to teach 3U Physics I decided that I wanted to try to set my class up a little differently. I had two goals - provide students the opportunity to make use of lessons as it suits their learning styles; give as much in-class work time as possible.

These goals led me to:
- Assign readings the day before a lesson (this one is hard to motivate them to do)
- Try to shorten my "lessons"/notes as much as possible and make them example focused instead of content focused
- Post outlines of my lessons the night before (students can choose to print and follow along if desired)
- Post complete versions of each days lessons afterwards (students can listen to the lesson and print it out later)
- (Some choose note to print note and hand write the days lesson themselves)
- Provide as much class time for concept and practice exercises as possible
- Arrange the classroom to allow students to sit in groups

I find that this forces my students to think about what type of learner they are and choose which note method works best for them. As the semester progresses I also find that students use their class time more and more wisely (as they have now discovered that the course is not easy and that they are in Grade 11 and HW is actually a good idea). Having the students in groups (that they usually choose) promotes group work and encourages them to ask each other questions before they ask the teacher. Usually when I am asked questions now it is to clarify their understanding or find a math mistake in one of their solutions.

(I also use class TweetUps for this course, which I blogged about here if you are interested - this is used to encourage concept based discussion since class time is primarily used for problem solving.)

If I get the chance to teach the course again I will probably use videos (and reading so they can have a choice) as assigned homework to encourage them to do this part - which means I have have even short "lessons" (aka try an example or 2 as a class). I already post a link to videos done by the physics department at Earl Haig Secondary in Toronto (I did my placements with them) on my course website as a resource for extra help and I would like to explore the physics videos offered by Khan Academy.

Let the changes continue.

Hopefully I do end up back teaching some math in the near future of my career. And hopefully I can continue to make my classroom as student-centred as our current system allows.

And in case I don't post again in the next couple of weeks,
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Trouble with Technology (and Teaching)

I just finished reading a blog entry by Denise Krebs called "What Does Technology Have to Do With It?" and it made me want to write an entry of my own. (At the start of each school year I always vow to do this more and never succeed in doing takes inspiration, and I guess I don't see the inspiration to share in my every day "teaching".)

Here is what I see as a problem with the every day technology in our classroom:
We have yet to change the way we teach. Period.

Too many of us are looking to use technology to change the way we teach instead of changing the way we teach and then adding technology. Yes, it is cool when your colleague who is a few years from retirement wants to add a doc cam to his classroom and then uses it and tries to explore it. But really it's no different than when an overhead projector was used.

Unfortunately I am just as guilty of this phenomenon. And I am in my fourth year of teaching.

I grew up with teachers who taught us concepts and then asked us to practice them. It is easy for me to now do the same. Don't get me wrong. I am making efforts to change and am trying new things, but it is extremely overwhelming. There is so much out there and there are so many great educators that I am now connected to (through blogging, voiced, smarter science, and the verity of educators and education technology folk on my twitter account).

I give smarter science (and my colleague that first went to the work shop with me and got equally excited about it) the credit for the start of my changes. I am a math teacher at heart and have been teaching science exclusively since my second year on the job - so it has been great to be motivated about the subject and the job despite it really being a "second" love. It has shown me that we can use ways to motivate our kids to learn and it has given me the first few opportunities to stop "teaching" and start "coaching" (this is what I see as ultimately the change that most of our classrooms need - and I think would be a huge challenge when I get back into math).

So here I am. Excited. Motivated. Hopeful. But I still find myself teaching. And using the doc cam as a fancy overhead projector. And being scared to even begin to find something tech related to start with. because here's the truth - I may be seen as a "tech" teacher at school (people like to come to me to "fix" things when they are not working) but the REAL tech (the new apps, ideas, etc) has a learning curve that frightens me.

Hopefully we are able to end up with class sets of tablets at our school in the near future. Hopefully this encourages me to tackle something new. Because I still want to try.

I just worry that the technology will never be the motivator [of students] we are wishing for.

((I am realizing this entry is a little all over the map. For that I apologize.))

Or maybe I am doing this all better than I think. We are our best critics after all. And every time I go to any PD hoping to come out with a new tech idea, I feel less behind the curve.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Teaching 1P ESL Science

This semester I am teaching a Grade 9 Applied Science class that is designated for ESL students. This means that I have students in ESL levels A to E in the class that also have a varying Science level. It poses some interesting challenges.

Before the semester began I sought advice from colleagues who had taught an ESL subject class (and regular ESL classes) in the past. Here are some of the things I was told that seemed helpful:
- routine
- start with lots of evaluation of speaking, writing, reading and listening (without the science)
- speak slowly
- use graphic organizers
- use glossaries/word walls

I have used most of it but it has not been an easy adjustment. I have, luckily, taught 1P Science before so the curriculum is not something I have to grapple with. The adjustment for me has been more about determining what parts of the curriculum can be (for lack of a better word) ignored and how to adjust things well for students with limited English.

I have our 1P textbooks in a cupboard in my classroom so that the students who finish work more quickly than others can do added reading/questions to advance their English vocabulary and science understanding. This has helped me manage the classroom a little better as students are less likely to get up to socialize while I am still trying to help the weaker students.

My seating plan has the newest English speakers sitting with someone else who speaks the same first language to allow them to help with translation when necessary. It also sits a group of 4 students together with varying first languages where possible to encourage English speaking in class. These 4 students also have varying science understanding to encourage them to help/seek help from others.

We are having quizzes often to encourage students to review their glossary and science concepts on a regular basis. Generally speaking each segment that I am teaching them involves
1) Adding words to their glossary and coming up with examples
2) Teaching the concept
3) Practicing
4) Sometimes a video
5) Handing in some practice that is marked and returned
6) Quizzing - usually involves some fill in the blanks with a word bank

The part of the routine that I haven't used yet is having an agenda on the board for that days work. But I have never been good at that, in any of my classes. In fact I am not even good at updating the date on the board!

In any event it has been and will continue to be a learning experience.
On that note, I am going to adjust my seating plans and have a relaxing evening.

Any advice, comments, questions, concerns are appreciated!

P.S. Teaching the lab process to them with the correct vocabulary is a challenge and a half!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Let the Technology Shine!

Here we are one week into the new school year and semester. I have the opportunity to teach more or less the same semester as last (with the exception of an applied section becoming an applied ESL) so I am trying to try some new things. Here are some of the ones I am excited about:

1. A new blended e-learning website for two of my classes
- Now I have a password protected site
- I can have my students complete online quizzes
- I can create discussion boards
- Contains a messaging feature (student to student and teacher to student)
- Is board approved, etc
- I can choose to monitor their use/access to things on the site

2. My department's new technology
- We were previously the most behind department in technology at the school
- We were able make use of our renovated rooms that include ceiling mounts for projectors, I no longer have to bring a cart into my science classroom to use a projector - great time/effort saver
- We have 4 document cameras to share within the department
- I have used the projector with my laptop at least once every day so far

3. Using Tweetups with my 3U Physics class from the start of the semester
- Last year I began this part way through the semester
- I will be able to start with more organization
- Students will be introduced to the webapp a colleague pointed me to that refreshes quickly and inserts the hashtag into it automatically
- Students will continue to have a say in the dates and times of the Tweetups

I am sure there are others. I am excited to see where these things take me and to reflect on their use and helpful nature (I hope).

Any comments, questions, concerns/feedback about any of the above from the ed world would be greatly appreciated.

Happy teaching!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Future of Financial Intelligence

Over the last couple of years I have been thinking about two things
1. That I would love to help students start up a club or group of some kind
2. That I fear for the financial intelligence of many of the young people out there

I know some people who have gone through high school and University successfully and are only now really learning about some of the key financial tidbits they wish someone had told them sooner. I also know that the Ontario Curriculum allows our students to get through the required courses without ever learning about these things (OK, so there is a chapter on interest and mortgages in Grade 11...but most classes don't put this information into a context that makes it matter).

The above has led me to think that I should consider running "stuff you should know" type sessions for students who are looking to enter the "real world" (which may involve post secondary education, the work force, travel, etc). Here are some of the things I have thought about addressing:

- Keeping in touch with family
- Keeping in touch with friends
- Maintaining a work-life balance (job, school, social)
- Making friends in your "new" life
- Credit cards - what are they and should I get one
- Tips on saving (how and where)
- Perspective on the financial costs of education
- Student loans, Line of credit
- Bursaries, awards and scholarships
- Do I need a laptop? How to survive note-taking
- Services at post-secondary schools
- Etiquette at the theatre
- Basics cleaning for student housing
- Dealing with landlords
- Basic car knowledge
- Paying and organizing bills, etc
- Do people really change after high school? Life and other things

Now I definitely see some overlap here with things that the guidance department at my school already addresses, but I think there could be a benefit to a separate small group setting that would be set up for discussions and questions more than generic info. I am not sure how well attended this kind of thing would be though, and that is the reason that I would much prefer to set up a club that students already express interest in. If it comes from them it is more likely to draw the interest of other students and keep the word spreading without a huge advertising effort.

Those are my musings on the topic for now. I don't have a concrete idea on how to go about getting this started, but at least the thoughts are there, and now there is record of it. Who knows what next year will bring.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Tweetups Reflection

I reflected on the first TweetUp that I did with my SPH 3U0 class a few months ago (you can read it here) and have neglected to come back to talking about it since, mostly out of not finding the time and inspiration to write. The end of the school year often does that. I decided I should come back to it and help myself reflect on where the decision to use TweetUps led me.

After the initial chat and then feedback from my students I decided that I was not going to allow the negative feedback to deter the idea. I wanted to give it a chance starting in a new unit and including multiple TweetUps to allow us to spread out the topics and have more focused conversations. So at the start of the unit we decided on three chats (they had to participate in at least one contributing at least 3 questions and/or answers to collect communication marks that would be integrated into their test, an alternate assignment was offered to the few who could not (or would not) participate) which also allowed us to lay out the unit and decide (roughly) on quiz and test dates.

This time around the "I wish" feedback I received from the class was more to the effect of wanting more questions answered, more people to participate, etc instead of finding it disorganized or confusing. They liked that it was more frequent and was review before quizzes but some did not like that they last one was the night before the test.

Overall it felt beneficial. It gave a chance for the more introverted student to ask thoughtful questions (and one in particular asked some great ones) and provided an outlet for a large senior class (29 students) to ask individual questions and find the misconceptions in their learning.

There were a number of students that participated above and beyond the requirement for their communication marks, which indicates that they found it helpful and enjoyed participating. There were also some that lacked the responsibility to remember when the chats were and claimed they really wanted to be there.

I continued to use the chats with the class in the energy unit, but it was more difficult to fit three in based on the structure of the unit (mini seminars involving research). The last chat was supposed to be a debate about energy sources (based on some of the seminar topics) but most of the class forgot about it - which was unfortunate considering they sparked the start of an interesting conversation in class right before the bell.

I did not use them in the waves/electromagnetics units, mostly out of getting busy and feeling that the waves unit would not lend itself as well to a TweetUp as Motion, Forces or Energy did. Perhaps I was wrong, but with our stellar week of raising money for Camp Oochigeas as a school in there and all of their classes being busy I felt it was for the best.

I would definitely try this again for this class. Next semester it appears that I have a much smaller class so I am not sure of the use I will make of it. I will have to see how the semester starts. I may use the hashtag within class for students to pose questions or comments during lessons that can be addressed within the class instead (or try an app I heard about that allows for this anonymously instead). The decision is still to be made. Any thoughts, ideas or opinions on this would be more than welcome!

Happy summer everyone!
And Happy Canada Day!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Data Driven Triangulation

Like many educators I often find myself frustrated with the education world lingo. Every once in awhile some new initiative comes down the the Ministry of Ed that forces some modifications that, in essence, just takes us back to something that used to be with a new name. Not entirely what I am about to talk about, but it is definitely related.

Current big ideas/words/phrases
- triangulating assessment
- observations and conversations

We are continually told that there are things we can do and tools we can use that can decrease the marking work load and lead to more reliable and accurate grades for our students. The current thing being "triangulation of assessment" - where we consider student products (the part we all know and love), observations, and conversations. And this is all well and good - we effectively use these all of the time. For instance, maybe in conversation with a student they showed understanding of an idea but on a test they struggled to use the correct terminology, etc in a question. I may give them the benefit of the doubt based on the conversation. Really what we are now being asked to do is have written "evidence" of these conversations and observations and include them as part of the grade calculation. Less work? I think not.

Now there are some really neat ideas, don't get me wrong. And I am more than aware that there are students who gain understanding and then struggle to read and/or write about those ideas. So the question is, how do we determine the value of all of this and what can actually predict the success of these students in the future? The last thing I want to do is lead a student to believe they will be academically (or otherwise) successful when they, in fact, may get to the next stage of their lives and discover they are missing a valuable skill. Or maybe I am just over-thinking all of it.

The one thing I like and can take away from this right away is feeling like I have permission to translate the inquiry based lessons and process that I use (especially in my Applied classes) into grades. One of those lessons from this semester was manipulatives I created to get my grade 9s to show me Bohr-Rutherford diagrams. I used a word processor to create a document with a large nucleus, small electrons, and various numbered charges (protons/neutrons). I printed them on coloured paper and cut-out 5 copies so that I could put students in groups of 4. It seemed helpful for many of the students, especially those who had missed one of the lessons needed to successfully draw a BR diagram. So here is my problem - now I have to either find a way to record each student using them (i.e. recording each other on flip cameras for me to view later and assign a mark) or spend more hours creating enough manipulatives for each student to have a set (the 5 copies took me more than an hour). Either way, time required...and how many really benefit from this compared to drawing a BR diagram on paper?

Of course I should collect data. Try it both ways. Reverse the order with another class and try it again. Analyze. But I am frankly sick of the data driven obsession that has been created recently. Everything is about credit accumulation and wanting to increase these numbers and increase graduation rates. The way I see it, what we end up accomplishing are skewed grades and students ending up in streams, grades and levels that they are not yet ready for. I would way rather help a student succeed at their pace than use some way of assessing that increases my credit numbers and pushes students into things they are not prepared for. It does them no favours.

Please bare in mind in this entry that I am barely grazing the ideas and issues at hand. I am aware that there is more to it and that there are many like-minded people that will seek to answer these questions and help students to the best of my ability. I just needed to rant so that I can go to sleep and wake up refreshed tomorrow to seek for more answers.

Despite our system's difficulties, I love my job. Let's keep the conversation going.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Things I Can't Teach

There are so many school related things that I could blog about right now, but for some reason I feel the need to talk about something that I feel I could never show, teach, etc to students. Something that life has to teach you. Something that most kids/teenagers are not exposed to. Some are, and I feel that at that age many persons still don't learn it.

Life needs to be lived like there is a tomorrow and like there is no tomorrow all at the same time. We need to strive forward with a positive outlook on what is to come - strive forward as if the negative things that come our way (or in the way of our loved ones) will be over come. To look forward into our life that although it might end tomorrow, that maybe it won't end for many years to come. To not worry about the little things but to make a difference in someones life. To be convinced that there is a purpose to your life.

I don't think I can teach this. I think we all learn it in our own time. Sometimes we learn it many times.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blast Off!

This year my colleague and I made an effort to use more Smarter Science inspired lessons/labs in our department. We taught SNC 1D0 together last semester and used the Blast Off lab that used to appear in the applied 10 textbook as the formative lab for chemistry. We wanted it to be about the fun AND the scientific process more than it was about the content of Grade 9 Chemistry (we do start reactions in grade 10 and talk about chemical change, so that part is relevant regardless). This semester I am teaching SNC 1D0 and 1P0 so used this lab in both classes.

I am finding the 1P class challenging this semester. I have 21 students including 11 with official IEPs, 1 with an unofficial IEP, and 3 low level ESL students. The range of the class is astonishing and it is impossible to engage all of them for an entire period. I try to get the fast workers to be helpful and work with other students, but it does not always work out that way. I won't delve into the depths of my class though.

The point is that I used this lab and combined the use of the first two Smarter Science posters (with both classes actually) to help get them started (a process they had seen in full already) and combined it with the format that they would see for the summative and final performance tasks (we have taken the stance in the department that having them complete formal, typed labs during the semester and then use a hand-written format for culminating was counter-productive). They seemed to really engaged in the lab itself and really liked that they got to pick their own indepedent and dependent variables and were trusted to create their own procedure (with support and guidance of course). In the end the class averaged a 70% on the lab write up (which is awesome for the first one, even though it was heavily supported). I am pleased with the results (and also hope to continue getting the support of the school's student support teacher - there is a mini task force being set up to come up with an action plan for this group (in multiple classes)).

Challenge accepted!

Now imagine a class of film canister lids flying off - amazingly simple :)

Tweet Chat 1

I followed through with the steps from my previous post and the SPH 3U0 class had a Tweet Chat on Motion two days before their unit test. We had picked a date and time as a class. The day before I showed them some basics on twitter (how to write a tweet, what a hastag was, searching, following, dealing with spam and other safety concerns) and we talked about the importance of using the hashtag and internet safety. I also posted an online resource on Netiquette onto our class website. I ended up with approximately half the class logging in and indicating that they were at least watching the chat.

Here are some of the things we did and that I noticed during the chat:

- Some people made themselves known but many were hesitant to participate in the chat
- I started them off with 4 or 5 starter questions. They used a couple of them and added a couple of their own (or modified ones I had used)
- A few of them were very comfortable with twitter already
- They were respecful when answering a question or correcting someone's thought/idea/answer
- They got confused if I did not acknowledge a correct answer

Here is some of the feedback I got from the students the following day (in an "I learned, I liked, I wish" format):

- some had trouble following the conversation and got confused
- some liked the conversation as a whole and found it helpful
- some would rather just do it in class
- some liked the clarification especially related to the idea of "negative acceleration"

Here is some of the things I have interpreted and want to use going forward:
- more instruction is needed on using the reply function on twitter and only trying to follow one or two questions/lines of conversation via the hashtag - especially the idea that it is OK to get into a side conversation and not read the rest!
- I recently downloaded TweetDeck and LOVE it: I can follow both of my accounts at the same time (my professional handle is @TchngPassion); you can customize the columns it shows, the order they are in, and how many you use; AND it updates live (which is more than I can say for browser and smartphone apps I've used so far)
- I am going to show my class TweetDeck and recommend it's use - I think it will help them follow the tweets better since they live updates instead of appearing in chunks
- future tweet chats will be for part of the communication section of the corresponding unit test - there will be multiple chats per unit (which should make them less dense/confusing) and they have to post at least one question or answer in a set number of the chats to get full marks for it

I think there is going to be some resistance to the continued use of tweet chats for the time being (even though there was a chunk of positive feedback given to me by some of them) but I am hoping that with time passing and the modifications that I am going to make that it will go in a positive direction.

I have my VP on board with the process. I update her on what is going on (i.e. sent her the archives of the chat so should could see the conversation, participation and how the class handled some inappropriate comments) and hopefully we will get this to a place where she will be comfortable allowing me to share the endeavor with my colleagues. It is such a positive use of social media and has been a way for me to model its use to teenagers who know so much more about it than their parents do. If we, as educators, don't start to do this we are going to end up with a generation of our population that never grows to use the internet in a positive light and the cycle will have started with the next generation.

It is up to us. And we have to act now.

--- An aside
There was a phenomenon the week before March break on Social Media with a video link to "Stop Kony 2012" that went viral (the narrator even stated in the video that it was a social experiment). These are the types of things that are teachable moments in our classrooms. I had some great discussions with my students about responsible use of the internet and the idea of not taking everything you read/here/see to be truth without doing your own research. We discussed at length the idea that you have to know what you are sharing/tweeting/etc before you do it and about the media reports that "only 31% of the funds raised were actually going to the cause" (so we also talked about statistics and how they can be manipulated especially if we don't know what to compare them to)!

Here are the links I used as part of the discussion if you are interested
- Twitter hashtag search
- Invisible Children's website
- George Stroumboulopoulos' Blog (which had been updated to March 8th at the time)
- and the music video for Black Eyed Peas "Where is the Love" (as a wrap up we discussed social justice and how there are many causes, we have to decide what is important to us and fight for it)

Happy teaching!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

10 Things To Do

According to Patch Adams, M.D.
(I found this list in the Bonus Features of the movie "Patch Adams" - based on a true story, for those who have not seen it)

1. Pick up all the trash in an area in your hometown; be its guardian. Tell others about it.

2. Be friendly to everyone at all times; experiment outrageously.

3. Offer a shoulder or foot rub in any environment.

4. Always speak up for justice, no matter how much it costs.

5. Go once a week to nursing homes to cheer people up as a friend.

6. Turn off your TV and become interesting. Perform yourself.

7. Consider being silly in public. Sing out loud. Wear funny stuff.

8. Find ways to need a whole lot less money; share beyond belief.

9. Have potlucks frequently, with neighbours, co-workers, strangers. Work toward living in extended families.

10. Take your vacations in your own hometown and spend the money working on projects there that help build community.

Thought it was worth a share.

If you have never seen Patch Adams - go find a way to see it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Inspiration has Returned!

I promised myself that I would head to bed at 10pm last night (I stayed up to watch the Oscars with my mother last night and still had to drive home and organize myself afterward) and then the inspiration bug hit.

I actually came home from work, completed some of the work that had to be done, had dinner, and found myself listening to a colleague's take on her tweetchats with her Grade 11 Biology class on an ed pod cast. I have been following her on twitter since meeting her at a Smarter Science conference last June and had taken an interest in the idea - so I was excited to find out she had done this podcast. I think it was the perfect time to get myself reconnected with the online ed world and engage in something new. I had been feeling particularly disengaged from the passionate teaching world recently and somehow tonight made a turn for the better.

In past posts I have vented about technology in schools and how discouraged I felt about being technical and using it to connect with my students. So often we are discouraged by our union and school board about taking these paths, but the fact of the matter is - it is here to stay, and there are ways to do it safely! @EurekaTeacher is active proof - and I want to be a part of it.

Step one - tomorrow I will speak with my admin and make sure they are behind my initiative - to get my 3U Physics class on twitter and discussing concepts, without the numbers, from home (or anywhere on their smart phones!).

Step two - find out if there is a way I can access twitter from school so that we can discuss the idea of internet safety, twitter itself, protected tweets, spam, etc

Step three - host the first class tweetchat on motion!

Wish me luck! And please let me know if you have ideas, comments, questions, or concerns. It will be a learning experience and I will appreciate what others have to say on the topic.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Revamping My Perspective on 3U

I am teaching SPH 3U0 for the third straight semester. The kids know when they walk into my room that I put down a hard academic fist. I have high expectations for them and push them to produce their own work. I want them to spend a semester with me and leave my class knowing they have changed something about the way they learn, study, and/or think. Physics requires a high level of problem solving with a secure understanding of the core concepts. This is not an easy thing to get "A" students to understand, at least not in my experience.

This past semester I took to using out school's WOW (workstation on wheels) cart, which houses a laptop, speakers, LCD projector, and document camera. Before each class I would post the outline for the days notes so that student could print them out if they wanted to. The idea was that they could have my class work toward whatever type of learner they were. if they were audio learners, they could listen and then find the completed notes online that night; if they were visual they could watch and "fill in the blanks"; if they were kinesthetic they could copy everything on their own....or a combination of the options. In the end, I heard more complaint than "thanks"...although I suppose the complaints are always louder. They saw it as me "not doing anything for them"...and some believed that when I used "open" problems and made them figure out what they needed to know in order to answer the question that I was simply "not showing them what to do". In the end, I found the Grade 11 university bound students to be closed-minded and unable to see the benefits of "different" ways of teaching.

So this semester I have come up with a new plan. Part of it is circumstance (I currently have 31 students and therefore have 16 2-man desks in my room so it is very difficult to bring technology into the room - I can't wait until we finally have projectors installed in our new ceiling plates) and part of it is me wanting to find a better way to serve my students (both through teaching then and helping them create better study habits and take ownership for their own learning NOW - let's face it, the downfall of most first year university dropouts is that they don't know how to do this). So here is what I am currently trying:

- Assign reading (and note taking) for homework for the next days class (the idea being that they come into class with an idea of what they are about to learn and will already have things they can ask questions about)
- Work through a brief lesson that leaves the kids with a short note and some examples of how they can use the concepts
- Assign practice problems and give at least 40 minutes of class time to work on them (so that they can have easy access to asking each other questions - let's be honest, if 31 of them have questions I am of no use)
- Continue to work in labs, demos, POEs and gizmos where possible

I guess the goal I have set for myself here is to create as much of a student-centred classroom as possible. I want them to work together toward their goals (goals that they set for themselves and shared with me on day one of the class) and strive to learn as much as they can about themselves (as learners) and about the subject (physics). I want to give students the chance to OWN their own successes. To feel like the results they earn are a result of their hard-work and dedication (instead of thinking of a mark as something a teacher gave them).

But here's the thing. There are always students who will be led to water and will not drink (that will be given time to work and will chatter instead). There will always be students who don't find passion in school or the subject (who settle for the 70 when they could get the 80).

I suppose there is the other side - the one I will have to wait to see. The side where a student comes back after a year in University and has realized the work, effort and care I put into their class. Who finally understands that what I did helped them be prepared for something ahead of them. That understands that I was hoping to make them better students, better people. That understands that it was all because I cared. I know I had teachers who did this for me, for my friends. And I know that I have gone back to make sure that they now knew it. It is funny, when I mention this kind of thing to friends, they realize that they never thanked the person that did something for them - they realize that their teachers are people too.

In any event, what I hope to accomplish this semester is a growth in myself as a teacher. I hope that I continue to learn new things about my course, my students, myself. I hope that I find new ways to reach the university bound student. I hope that I find ways to look outside of who I was as a student. I hope I find ways to look at who I was as a student and search for ways to help my students find those things. Everyone is capable of being intrinsically motivated by learning - it is just that not everyone knows it yet.