Saturday, August 8, 2009

No, we've only just begun

Wow, it was only six weeks?

In retrospect, this was a very remarkable series of experiences over six weeks. The intensity was not anxiety-filled, rather there were just a lot of things that were back-to-back, all equally useful, pleasing and very memorable. I found my enthusiasm never relenting and my interactions with: the Sun lab group, my RET cohorts, the lead teachers and administrators never waning. I had a blast.

When I first found out I was assigned to lab group working with electricity and magnetism (E&M), I thought that this was really a good match. After all, its my favorite subject in Physics and maybe it would help me with my coverage of the material in the two AP courses that I teach. It was a good match/fit for my "teaching load". It's of note, that I also push my Science Research students to look at and investigate in areas that I call, "Biophysics". Yet, I felt a little bit disappointed because I really wanted to be where I thought my heart & soul is: molecular biology. I know now that for this Summer at least my placement in Nian Sun's lab group doing "Electrical Field Fine-Tuning of Magnetization..." was like trying on a "glass running shoe" and having it fit perfectly; that's only because I would never put on a glass slipper. I never realized how much more I could possibly learn that was new. I was wrong! I also know that many of you were also revitalized in a content area (e.g., John, Catherine, Kate). Often when this happens, it's stressful. There's the pressure to perform at a high levels. Well, I felt like I soared through these six weeks. Everything that was back-to-back pumped me up. And even when I got back to the dormitory room (which BTW, always smelled like "Toast"), I found that I was still in overdrive, working on papers, writing, uploading researched information, etc., etc.

Lunch became a special time eating in Curry Hall. There was always what I refer to as "Shop talk", after all people need to decompensate. I found myself: helping you all with this problem or that one, getting help myself with problems, unloading about Boston parking tickets, laughing at people's stories, and just being part of this whole NEU RET scene. I mentioned to Claire at Uno's, that there was a word running through my thoughts about the people part of this RET experience: Solidarity. The minute I said it, I immediately thought of Polish politician Lech Lawesa but I am not going to go off on anymore tangents. The point is that we are a highly spirited group that enjoyed these experiences and each other's company: thoughts, emotions, thinking, empathy, et al.

I take the teaching of what I teach very, very seriously. I think this comes out in the classroom continually. I tend to be accused by grateful parents all of the time of overworking their children; they say this with a smile, an outstretched hand, and even sometimes an embrace. To my surprise, I even have students transferring into my subject sections all of the time. There's frequently a comment like, "I want to learn a lot more, be more successful, motivated. I don't get that in Mr./Mrs. ______'s class." I frequently bump into former students all of the time. Unbelievably they tend to say one similar phrase, "You can't believe how much you affected my life and helped me decide what to be." Many of them have become doctors and even teachers. A big thing that I picked up on very early in preparing for my E&M research was, "I am so sorry that I have seemed insensitive to my AP Physics students. I know now why they complain about learning this material." I am very grateful also about becoming sensitive to being too hard a teacher. I feel that this was an extremely important thing for me to realize. Don't ever give up on how much you touch and impact your student's lives. It's like, we do reach out and touch someone every forty plus minutes in ways that we can't imagine.

So it's not at all what we did in six weeks. More importantly, it's what we realize about ourselves and what we start to do in terms of our: own problem-solving and critical thinking, knowledge of subject matter, pedagogical repertoires, emotional thinking and sensitivity to other's needs. We started this all on June 29th and on August 6th we didn't end it all, we're just continuing it in the next phase in a different venue!

Try and have a little rest and relaxation (even if that involves house painting) before that next phase begins.

Thank you so much.


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