Once you get into your teaching routine, there is not a lot of struggle. There are changes and challenges, but rarely do you encounter a situation that completely breaks your confidence or forces you entirely out of your comfort zone. I don’t think I fully appreciated the frustration, pain and inadequacy my students sometimes feel until today.
Lauren Stewart's blog
In the past five years I have wrestled with the questions, “what is the purpose of a final exam” and “how do I incorporate a final exam into my grading system.” At this point, I have found peace in answers to both of these questions and part of that relies on my students completing an electronic portfolio.
In my class, I use the illustration of a mountain to help students push through the challenges of chemistry. Stoichiometry is the top of chemistry mountain. As we progress through the year, I say things like “the mountain is getting steep here!” or “there is not a lot of oxygen up here!” or “I will carry you up chemistry mountain if I have to!” to keep students motivated. When students finally get to the top of chemistry mountain (mid quarter 3), the air is thin, they are tired and they are ready to base jump off the mountain (see illustration from a former student below).
As teachers, we all know that our job extends far beyond the content we are required to deliver. We are educators, mentors, coaches, parents and more. It is important for us to find ways to wear all of these hats without burning out. I have learned many great strategies that certainly helped re-energize me as a teacher but there was one strategy in particular that I could not get out of my head.
Like many schools, this year my school went 1:1. Each of our students was issued an 11 inch Chromebook with a webcam. Our upperclassmen have the the older Samsung models with a front-facing webcam and our underclassmen have the new Lenovo N22/23 models with a flippable webcam. I am a “jump in head first” type of person so I decided to go completely paperless this year. Now that I am halfway through the year (and still paperless!), I wanted to share what has been working well for me and where the snags have been.
The purpose of a lab practicum is to assess a student’s understanding of the content by completing a hands-on challenge. These assessments focus more on problem-solving skills than technique.
Like most chemistry teachers, one of the first things I go over in the beginning of the year is unit conversions. Students come into my class with all sorts of prior knowledge concerning unit conversions; some good, some bad and some downright ugly.
If you look at any chemistry textbook, you will see Lewis structures introduced long before electronic and molecular geometries. This makes sense since you need Lewis structures to determine molecular geometry. Unfortunately, research has shown that students often do not recognize that the purpose of drawing Lewis structures is not to create the structure itself but to use it as tool to understand the properties of the molecule (Cooper, Grove, Underwood & Klymkowsky, 2010).