Posted November 25, 2013on:
Rules for National Schools
“Of all the parts of a school curriculum Religious Instruction is by far the most important, as its subject-matter, God’s honour and service, includes the proper use of all man’s faculties, and affords the most powerful inducements to their proper use. Religious Instruction is, therefore, a fundamental part of the school course, and a religious spirit should inform and vivify the whole work of the school.
The teacher should constantly inculcate the practice of charity, justice, truth, purity, patience, temperance, obedience to lawful authority, and all the other moral virtues. In this way he will fulfil the primary duty of an educator, the moulding to perfect form of his pupils’ character, habituating them to observe, in their relations with God and with their neighbour, the laws which God, both directly through the dictates of natural reason and through Revelation, and indirectly through the ordinance of lawful authority, imposes on mankind.”
See the full set of rules here.
Apparently these rules are under review.
At 40 mins long it’s not going to go viral anytime soon. It’s the middle 40 minutes of a double class but in it we managed to learn about some of the following:
The structure of the atom.
We, and everything around us, are mostly empty space.
We discovered that the appearance of ‘solidness’ is an illusion – which lead to a discussion about how light works.
We learned that there is a cultural aspect to what we see (and you definitely won’t find that in physics textbooks) and that Newton himself was subject to this and it resulted in him making a boo-boo that still goes uncorrected right up to today.
We discovered that electrons are constantly cascading down along everything we see in a seemingly never-ending avalanche, powered by energy from incoming light (so when this power source disappears, the electrons no longer have energy to jump up or fall back down, otherwise known as darkness).
We learned why things feel solid – all to do with the force of repulsion between electrons at the surface.
We developed a deeper understanding of Newton’s Third Law.
We discussed the fallacy of language – know the word for something (like gravity) and understanding what gravity actually is are two very different things, and shouldn’t be confused with each other.
We discovered that physics teachers don’t have all the answers, and should never pretend otherwise.
We were reminded that because almost none of the above is in the syllabus, the syllabus is a disgrace. It’s no wonder students don’t see the point of it.
There were 22 students in that class and the discussion could have gone on and on – I had to kick them out the door. One can only imagine the conversations they must have had over the dinner table that evening.
If only all those who make such a fuss over Science Week could put a fraction of that effort into making the school syllabus a source of wonder and curiosity instead of what it is – a series of dull as dishwater facts which are to be merely learned off by heart.
It seems to be the one week in the year where we are supposed to go out of our way to make science interesting; the corollary being that for the rest of the year we concentrate on ‘normal science’ which isn’t interesting. We go back to ‘the study’ and our drive for ‘good results’.
We educators take this incredibly exotic jungle of knowledge called Science and distil it until all the wonder has been removed and we are left with nothing but a heap of dry shavings. We then pour this drivel into our syllabus and textbooks and make our students learn it off by heart so that it can all get vomited back up come exam time.
And then we wonder why so many young people don’t like science.
We could do the same for almost any topic on either the junior cert or the leaving cert course. But then that would be a bit radical. Best to leave all the boring stuff in and leave the fun stuff for Science Week. The word ‘wonder’ has most likely never featured in any science syllabus over the past four hundred years, any where in the world, so why change now?
What also bugs me is why so few other teachers seem to care about this. I know many of them introduce the wonder associated with the concepts as they teach it, but many others unfortunately don’t. And if we look at the number of students who drop Physics and Chemistry at the first opportunity it may be that the latter category of teacher represents the majority. What’s particularly puzzling is that if you go to any teacher conference they will usually have these ‘interesting lectures’ as part and parcel of the day, and no surprise for guessing that these are the best attended. So why don’t these same teachers make more noise about including interesting material on the formal syllabus? How can a biology teacher stand over a junior cert biology syllabus that doesn’t include the word ‘evolution’?
This is just the latest of my rants about the lack of wonder in Science education – for more see There’s that word again . . . WONDER
For a gentle introduction to wave/particle duality see the following:
Given that our job is to educate their sons and daughters, it is hard to fathom that formal communication is kept to one (or at most two) parent-teacher meetings over the course of the year. This can’t be right. Early in the new year I gather the email addresses of at least one parent of each student and contact the parents with a general welcome message. Usually it is no more than an introduction and an open offer to parents to contact me by email or text if they have a question about anything to do with my class, but particularly if they have a concern about their child coping in my class.
Later I let them know what I expect from students in relation to behaviour and progress in class, homework policy etc. I also let them know where they can access class notes, what to do if they are missing class for any extended period (see previous post on using timelines), how best to revise, and occasionally give advance notice of upcoming class tests.
Getting feedback from parents who let you know that their child has a particular passion for Science coming in to the school does serve to make you conscious that you have a role to live up to here, but that can’t be any bad thing. I once had a parent ask me if I was likely to inspire her child. I was a little taken aback and the initial response was ‘how dare she?’, but on reflection I thought it was actually a wonderful question, so I answered her as honestly as I could. “I don’t know”, I said, “but I’ll certainly try my best”.
The usefulness of the emails can vary from class to class and year to year, but one thing which doesn’t change is the parents’ appreciation of personal contact. This is most notable with the parents of first-year students, for whom this may be their first experience of secondary education since leaving it themselves. It’s not unusual to get feedback from a parent who claims this is the only communication they have ever had of this kind over their child’s entire primary and secondary education. To be asked to give their own feedback is both a novelty and an affirming experience for these parents who can all often feel that they are outside the tent when it comes to their children’s education.
Now inviting feedback from parents (or from anyone else for that matter) can leave you a little exposed. I was recently taken to task by a parent for checking his daughter’s homework and, on noticing that she wasn’t able to do some questions, mentioned that I would do them on the board after I checked everybody else’s. By the time I got around to everybody else I had forgotten about this one girl’s issues and proceeded to begin the class proper. The dad informed me that both she and he had spent a large amount of time on these questions the previous night and he wasn’t too impressed that I never went back to explain them in detail. There were a number to points that I took from this.
- I probably do this more often than I realise.
- The daughter wasn’t surprised that I didn’t go back over the questions – she just assumed that if she couldn’t do the homework this was her problem. This just makes my behaviour so much more disappointing.
- While it wasn’t pleasant to hear this, it most definitely was something I needed to be pulled up on. The dad wasn’t being rude; I had told all parents that I welcomed their feedback and he was merely obliging.
- What was much more disquieting was the thought that I have probably been doing this for years and would never have changed if it wasn’t pointed out to me. I assume my homework is relatively straightforward but in hindsight this is very presumptuous of me and is something I need to be careful about in the future. While all the time keeping in mind that there is a large body of evidence out there which calls into question the effectiveness of any homework I set.
So for any teachers out there reading this who haven’t already done so, why not send out an email this week to the parents of just one of your classes, setting out to do no more than initiating contact and offering them your email address – what’s the worse that could possibly happen?
Posted October 9, 2013on:
This year for the first time I am trying to keep an online diary of what I do in every class.
It started as something I was going to do with the senior years, but has developed to the stage where I now update it for all years, from First Year to Sixth Year.
Anyone can access this; the links for the various pages can be accessed from the homepage of thephysicsteacher.ie website.
This is useful on many levels.
- Students who are absent for one day or a number of days can find out what they are missing.
- It acts as a guideline to new teachers in other schools on how much time to give a particular topic or concept.
- I have just started the timelines for junior years; first years in particular benefit in that if they forget to take down their homework they can access it online (mind you I am only too aware that homework is not nearly as beneficial as we would like to believe, but for now it’s school policy and while I try to keep it to a minimum, it does still get issued).
- It should also assist students with learning difficulties who may not have taken the homework down properly, although as I write this I realise I should really check this with those individual students before they leave the classroom.
- It acts as a reminder to myself of what homework I set (I don’t keep a written record and never have).
- It acts as a reminder to myself of where we finished last class (I don’t do class plans in advance and never have and it usually takes me close to the full year before I know my timetable off by heart).
- It acts as a reminder to myself of tests which I have to give.
- I share two of my classes with another teacher – we can both edit the document to update our progress. This also works for student teachers who come in to take one or two classes a week and need to know where the class is at on any given day.
But it goes beyond this.
I can record what worked well and what didn’t so that when I go to repeat the topic the following year I can avoid repeating the mistakes; this is more of an aspiration at the moment – I don’t necessarily do this so much anymore but I certainly did when I first started teaching and it was a very valuable activity.
Parents can use the document to review what was covered in class and to check what homework was given (I email all parents at the beginning of the school year to introduce myself and to encourage them to contact me for any reason).
I guess in one sense it’s similar to Edmodo, but I want it to be open access to students and teachers both inside and outside the school.
I plan next term to get one of the students to write this up; it will be interesting to see how their review of the class contrasts with mine.
Time to get back into the blogging game.
I made this video some time back about an interesting phenomenon called The Leidenfrost Effect:
then came across the following from http://sciencedemo.org/2013/10/leidenfrost-maze/
Now that was cool
Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and, gathering them around him, he taught them saying:
blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;
blessed are the meek;
blessed are they that mourn;
blessed are the merciful;
blessed are they that thirst for justice;
blessed are you when persecuted;
blessed are you when you suffer;
be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.
Then Simon Peter said, ‘Are we supposed to know this?’
And Andrew said, “Do we have to write this down?’
And James said, ‘Will we have a test on this?’
And Phillip said, ‘I don’t have any paper.’
And John said, ‘The other disciples didn’t have to learn this.’
And Matthew said, ‘Can I go to the toilet?’
Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’s lesson plan and inquired of Jesus, ‘Where is your statement of objectives?’
And Jesus wept.
I always wonder about the “Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth” line. Even if the meek do inherit the earth, how long do they think they’re going to be able to hang on to it for?