What Does A Physics Student Teacher Do To Get Ready

On Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 2:41 PM, Luke

Mr. Peterson,

I just came to the realization that the school year is almost here.  I remember from somewhere that you guys start on the 29th-ish, but I'm guessing you might want me to start coming in before that.  So I've got just a couple questions about that.

1.  When should I start coming in?
2.  What should I be doing (e.g. professional development) during the week before school starts?
3.  What should I be doing now to prep for the semester?

Thanks, and enjoy the rest of you summer!

Awesome letter to get from your fall student teacher. After some of the details here is what I wrote. What would you add?

As far as professional development goes take no more than 20 minutes a day (35 minutes if it is after lunch, more minutes either time if you are enjoying it) and read all posts (except 
ones about teaching calculus) from this blog. Make sure before you read any posts you watch his TED talk. That does not count towards your minutes. He is the most on fire physics teaching blog at the moment. There are other blogs to consider as well. Teacher blogs will do for you every day what these books did for me. If you really want to go overboard get a twitter account and follow this list.

Compelling Technology: Cell Phone Camera

I was in school for a few hours Monday and stopped by an art class that is going on in the morning for four weeks in the summer. We are a one to one MacBook district but in the summer we take the laptops in for re-imaging. So when I walked into the art room and saw a cell phone picture turning into art I smiled and took this picture. You cannot hold back compelling technology.

Experiential Exam Question

Today a question on the exam in my class was experiential. The best part of this question was when a student called me over after the lab and asked if when he was done with the exam he could try a few more scenarios to make his results better. I have to give an exam. I love that for at least one student the exam itself inspired new questions about this amazing world.

Using Google Docs in 3rd Grade: A Road Map To Curriculum Mapping

I love this post and it reminded me to put in print some thoughts that have been floating around in my head. To me this post is what curriculum reporting and mapping must look like in 2011. It is an example on two levels. First, Jeff's post is reporting. He has gathered curricular data, commented on it and published it for any interested party to see. Second, and perhaps most important, the teacher by having class has produced both a map of her curriculum and a transparent ability to see what is happening. All this and the map and transparency were done by the students.

I have done a lot of work over the years in the name of curriculum. Some of it has remained unused by anyone. For years my map was a list of topics with chapters and investigations hand written on one sheet of paper. I feel like in 2011 our curriculum maps need to be open, transparent, available, flexible, and living. Most importantly they need to seem useful to all participants: students, teachers, administrators, parents, politicians and the public.

Physics Teaching Lessons From The Band Director

Part of my tech role is to be a coach for the other teachers in the building. Today I had a meeting with the band director. I learn a lot about good teaching when I talk with people from the arts. I asked him what kinds of questions a students would use to reflect on a piece of recorded music that the students might put into their digital portfolio. Here was the list:

  1. What do I think I am adding to this piece of music?
  2. What is my unique contribution to this piece of music?
  3. Who informed my contribution and how do I compare to that?
  4. What are my artistic influences?
  5. How does this recording make me a more confident artist?

I would like the product of everything I teach in physics to have the same questions at the end. What is my contribution? Who informed my contribution? How was I influenced in the making of this contribution? How am I different today than before this project? I need to think when I design a physics lesson or unit, will the students be able to answer these kinds of questions when they are done with the unit.


All year I have struggled with presentations not being up to the quality I would like them. They hit all the requirements, but zip and originality were uncommon. They have been slowly improving. Today in a meeting another teacher described taking a day with her students and instead of telling them what their presentations should look like asking them what they wanted to see. Genius. Why didn't anyone tell me before now?