Most chemistry teachers somehow teach Lewis dot structures. These structures are the foundation for VSEPR theory, three dimensional models and ultimately how the structure allows us to predict what happens on a large scale. Here is the crazy part...there are a number of different "rules" that really do not make a whole lot of sense. Do a quick search...everyone has there own rules.
In this blog post, I’ve asked Natalie about her journey as a woman of color along the path toward a future in a STEM field. I can’t begin to understand her perspective, so I’ve asked her to lend her voice to this issue. I believe it is important that we, as educators, take some time to reflect on what she has to say. Sometimes, the things we don’t say are resonating just as loudly as the things we do.
Technology is a word that can generate a great deal of debate in a chemistry classroom. I got into an interesting conversation with a teacher who is new to my school this year as she was moving into her classroom next to mine. That room had only had one occupant since the school opened 25 years ago and I have been the only teacher in my classroom since the school opened.
Over the last few weeks, I have been working with a middle school physical science teacher, Morgan, to develop a PBL experience for her students as they learn the basics of the atom, periodic trends, and bonding types. She is a first year teacher and has been so fun to work with. It has been really eye opening to work with her - in a good way. As I work with another teacher, I have realized that I have forgotten how big of a task it is to create ALL OF THE PIECES of these experiences for students (and let’s be real, we are a bit crazy to create this during the school year). My goal is always to be real with my writing and experiences, and here is something a bit more real for you all. In this post, I am sharing what it is like to develop a project from both my perspective and, most importantly, from Morgan’s. Think of it as a view from the trenches.
We had just had some snow days and I had the feeling that I was getting behind. In one class we were approaching the topic of orbital diagrams and electron configurations. I was tempted to just say, "Here are the notes." Sometimes there is nothing wrong with that. This time, something was eating at me. Instead I picked a POGIL (link is external) from the "High School Chemistry" (link is external) book that presented the ideas through guided inquiry.
This year my students experienced something a little new to them on the Chemistry Olympiad. It was a question about the crystal structure of a mineral. I have not been teaching the “unit cell” concept in great detail and started to reevaluate my unit on liquids and solids. This question has been appearing on the semifinal exam of the Chemistry Olympiad for a few years but not the local exam until this year. I actually like it when something like this happens. It allows me to reevaluate what I am teaching in class, provides me an opportunity to learn new things, and brings new material into my curriculum.
As a new semester begins, I am excited again. Starting fresh, introducing new people to the amazing world of chemistry, and putting my newly edited labs to the test! In addition, another instructor is trying my labs.
I have always struggled teaching the concept of bonding. What is a chemical bond? Is it just covalent or ionic? What about hydrogen bonds? Are those real bonds or just attractive forces pretending to be bonds? If they are not official bonds, what do we call them? How about intermolecular forces? How are those different from salt crystals that attract to other salt crystals but are called ionic bonds? How about "electronegativity"? If there is a metal nonmetal compound but it is just shy of the "cut off" for the difference between polar covalent and ionic, what type of bond is it? Essentially, as I got confused over the years, this translated into confused students and rushing on to get to the next unit in an attempt to cut my losses.
My first big project my students engaged in during the 2013-14 school year was, at best, a mediocre experience and, at worst, a giant waste of valuable instructional time we'd never get back. I was at a new school and had a lot of goals I wanted to explore - further investing time into developing classroom culture, engaging students into taking more ownership in their learning instead of being passive recipients, pushing students deeper while meeting them where they were at - in short, developing my teaching identity in a context with a lot of autonomy. I had total teaching freedom.