Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gravity Essays, Part 2

We spent today working on the essays in the two basic classes. Aside from the couple of students who really didn't want to do the work, it wasn't too bad. One of my classified students has an amazingly low degree of self-confidence. She can read a paragraph, insist she didn't understand a word of it, and then come up with a clear, succinct summary of what she read. It's as if she doesn't believe that the meaning could possibly be clear to her, so there must be something to it that she doesn't understand. That's definitely a downside to teaching physics: the students all too often talk themselves out of understanding the material. "It's physics. It must be hard." I wrote a note to this student's counselor about this incident. Hopefully she'll hear positive messages from more people and begin to believe them. I'd like to see her move up to a college prep science clas next year.

I did not spare any time for in-class editing in the cp or honors classes. I'm sure the cp class would benefit from supported editing efforts, but I sincerly doubt that they would use the time for such efforts if I gave it to them. So instead we did numerical problems. Because I'm a mean teacher, I started them out with a problem that could be done either by using the full equation for Newtonian Gravitation, or by realizing that the only change was a doubling of the distance. Very few of them took the easy route. Of course, while I was going over the technique for solving such problems without dealing with numbers in the millions or fractions of billionths, they were chatting up a storm, so when e bel rang before they had finished the last problem, I told them that they couldn't leave for the day until they could tell me the answer. I was promptly accused of sadism. I've found it best in such cases not to deny the charge. Given how rarely they listen to me, it's clear I don't teach that class for the joy of guiding young, inquiring minds, right?

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