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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Started teaching today. Here's how it went!

For now, I'm being a very active substitute teacher.  Which, well... we'll see what happens from there.  People have been telling me for many years that I would make for a great teacher.  Today was a chance to give it a shot.

So I taught three blocks of high school sophomore honors chemistry class.  The subject of today's lesson was Neils Bohr, who came up with the standard model of atomic theory.  The students thought it was pretty wild that in addition to being a nuclear genius, Bohr was also an Olympic-class soccer player.

I must confess, I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the technology in the average classroom today.  Instead of a TV and a videotape player on a cart, each classroom now has this big touch-screen high-definition set.  I had to get one of the kids to explain to me how to make it work.  The teacher had a video about the Bohr model, using various elements' atoms.

The last atom it touched upon was sodium.  I saw a ripe opportunity to broaden the kids' minds in a way they might find pretty fascinating.  After the video I told them that the one lonely electron in sodium's outer shell is determined to chemically bond with ANYTHING.  And from there I shared the story of how my own high school's chemistry teacher once set off an explosion heard for miles around by sending a brick of sodium plunging into a bucket of water.  They did indeed find that pretty awesome.  A few of the male students asked if we could do that, and I said no.

The kids proceeded to make 3D models of their assigned atoms.  Someone asked aloud about neutrons. Like, "what do they do?"

So I used that as the diving block from which to jump into teaching the kids about how neutrons and atomic weight play an important role in using gas centrifuges to enrich uranium into nuclear weapons-grade "yellowcake":

One lad asked if we had a gas centrifuge in the school's lab.  I told him "I doubt it."  But I must give him credit for his curiosity.

(In case you're wondering, I am not joking about any of this.  Who knows, I may have sown a seed or planted a sapling in these kids' minds today.)

So, I'll be doing substitute teaching for the next little while, trying out different ages and subject matters.  The ultimate role reversal is probably going to be me teaching math.  Oh bruddah... WHAT have I gotten myself into??


Brian Fesperman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Fesperman said...

The thing about math... learning it in a classroom is a far different thing than applying it.
While I did well with Algebra in those classes, I learned more during the application of it in the Calculus classes; and especially more while tutoring the occasional student in the math lab of the community college.

I believe you'll find that math will likely come easier to you once you view it from the perspective of translating it into a form that you can use to explain it to others.

Great job! Teaching is a critical and sadly underappreciated occupation. It takes a person with immense patience and compassion to be truly successful and make those connections with the students. I don't have the level of patience... and I do occasionally like to be able to afford to buy food.

Chris Knight said...

Brian, I think you would make for an awesome teacher! You certainly educate me about things every so often :-)

Walter James said...

Let's see if we have this right Chris. You are:

- freelance writer
- op-ed writer
- movie maker
- mental health professional
- teacher
- political candidate and consultant
- television master controller
- speaker on digital copyright
- writing a book

Daaaaaam dude. You got more professions than Buckaroo Banzai. Sure you're not also a brain surgeon?

Scott Bradford said...

"A few of the male students asked if we could do that, and I said no."

Opportunity missed, right there ;-)