The Teacher Page - An Organizational Tool

Desktop Clutter

I don't look like an organized person. At least, the appearance of my desk lies about my organizational skills (I know what's in all of the piles, I promise!) But I do insist on my curriculum write ups being organized, which is how I came up with my lab handouts. Let me introduce The Teacher Page. 

The Teacher Page includes all of the notes I need to set up, run, and clean up the particular experiment. I record from whom I obtained the lab. I list the location of chemicals in the stockroom (I follow Flinn Scientific guidelines). I've added what does and does not work, so that I don't have to remember it from year to year. I have notes of things to try in the future. The most important part, however, is the giant spreadsheet to calculate amounts of chemicals needed to make multiple volumes of solutions. This saves so much time and repeated effort!

 

Figure 1 - My Teacher Page for Determining the Formula of a Hydrate Lab

 

The Formula of a Hydrate Lab (Fig. 1) is a pretty simple Teacher Page (although the lab itself is not!) It’s nothing mind-blowing; just a list (easier than reading through the procedure and missing things) of everything to check before lab. There’s not a whole lot for me to set up before students get to lab, no solution prep, but there’s a reminder for me to tell my students at the beginning of class. You can see a slightly more complicated set-up for me, a thermochemistry lab that needs four solutions of a specific molarity in Figure 2 below.

 

Figure 2 - My Teacher Page for a Thermochemistry  Lab

 

The top part looks familiar. The middle section looks a little more confusing, so let me clarify the inserted-spreadsheet-parts: The first section is how to make the solutions from dry chemicals. The second section is for diluting the aqueous materials. The third section calculates approximate volumes needed for my classes as a whole. This is the best part of the spreadsheet! I’m the only chemistry teacher at my school, so my class sizes fluctuate a bit from year to year. I have found stacks ( stacks! ) of hastily-scribbled-on notes for dilutions of just a bit more of this or that. Now with The Teacher Page, I already have the calculated numbers and just stuff in the values for my groups. Additionally, I have relatively limited chemical storage for excess materials. While I keep several dilutions of, say, hydrochloric acid, I don’t want a bunch of bottles of random chlorides that I won’t use again until next year: I just don’t have the shelf space. Using the spreadsheet, it’s easy to make just enough of each solution.

 

Figure 3 - My Teacher Page for a Hydrolysis Lab

 

The Teacher Page for my Hydrolysis Lab (Fig. 3) is more clear: materials, mixing solutions, and materials needed per groups of students. And yes, frozen blueberries saved the day!

Now, how to organize my files so that my students don’t see my magical Teacher Page. I am comfy in a word processor. My students want to digitally access everything over any number of platforms and devices, and I create my files in a word processor. When the file is ready for students, I print a PDF of everything except the last page (the Teacher Page). Each year, I make my modifications in the word processor and re-print the student file so I don’t have multiple versions floating around. Yes, my file lists seem to have duplicates, but it’s also how I know which is the student file (.pdf) and which is the teacher file (.doc), as well as being able to match files together. Easy peasy!

I still kick myself for not having thought of The Teacher Page earlier in my teaching career. It’s a staple in my laboratory write ups. I hope it’s also helpful for other seemingly-disorganized people! 

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