Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can Teach, Teach

Recently, a friend trotted out the old adage, “Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, teach.”  This quote bothers me.  I understand the frustration behind it, but my experience suggests otherwise. Continue reading

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Would you please light me on fire?

In kindergarten and elementary school, birthdays are a big deal.  However, sometime between elementary school and high school, birthday celebrations become relegated to families and friends outside the classroom. Continue reading

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Taking the Power Play Out of Self-Esteem

I’ve posted about student self-esteem several times.  In two posts, Self Esteem from October 2011 and Self-Esteem Starts With Esteem from November 2013, I described students who continually put themselves down, and how I would insist that they say to me, “Mr. Bigler, I’m smarter than I give myself credit for.”  Some students appreciated this and it made a difference for them, but others steadfastly refused.  At first, I thought these students didn’t want to believe the statement and needed additional convincing, but their tone and body language suggested that there was something deeper going on.  Continue reading

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“It’s Not That Bad”

When a normally conscientious student lets the end of the quarter arrive with a failing (or barely passing) average because of missing work, it doesn’t take a lot of insight to realize that something is wrong.  I had two such students in my room today, doing after-the-last-minute make-up work. Continue reading

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Time Commitments

In 2007 when I taught in Belmont (one of the wealthier suburbs of Boston), I observed that a significant number of my students expressed stress about their time commitments. I devised a survey Continue reading

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Raison d’Être

One of my now former students graduated on Friday.  Just before graduation, she handed one of the nicest letters I’ve ever received.  I am reproducing parts of her letter here, with some identifying information removed. Continue reading

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The First AP Physics 1 Exam

This is a self-centered post, for which I ask my readers’ indulgence.

This has been my first year teaching AP Physics, and the first year of the new AP Physics 1 exam.  (For those not familiar with the change, effective last fall the old algebra-based AP Physics B course was split into two courses:  AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based and AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based.  There were no changes to the two calculus-based AP Physics C courses.)  Like many high schools, we turned the old honors Physics 1 course into the new AP Physics 1 course.

To say that my students were nervous going into the exam would be an understatement; some of them were basket cases.  However, when I met some of them on their way out of the test, they said things like, “It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” “It was much easier than the practice test,” “Most of it was stuff we saw in class,” and from one of my top students, “I think I got at least a 4.”

I am happy — happy for my students as well as for myself.

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Avoiding Failure by Never Trying

Each year, as students sink farther and farther into the abyss of test-driven curriculum and low-level thinking, I have to work harder and harder to teach them high-level thinking skills.  This year, my students and I seem to be approaching a tipping point. Continue reading

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The Aftermath of Standardized Test Prep

When potential students ask whether (high school) physics is hard, I tell them, “Imagine a year of algebra word problems, in which you have to understand a situation in order to figure out which equation to apply and how to apply it.  Where most students have trouble is with the difference between understanding the problem vs. merely identifying the numbers. Continue reading

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Making A Student Cry

I made one of my students cry this afternoon. Continue reading

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