Friday, September 14, 2007


Three weeks down. Thirty-three to go.

The first round of tests was this week; now we'll see whether or not I'm having any effect up in the front of the classroom. My Pre-AP class would learn "in spite of me", I rather expect. The other five classes have thrown down gauntlets of varying sizes and shapes to gauge my response.

Eighth period is by far the biggest challenge. It's a large class, it's at the end of the day, and it's filled with students for whom science is NOT the reason they get up in the morning. I've been trying to connect with them. Trying to find some common ground. Anything other than introductory physics and chemistry. It's been tough.

Yesterday, we had a breakthrough. Who would have believed that we'd connect over that quintessential southern beverage, "SWEET TEA"?

(For the record, I'm not particularly fond of "sweet tea", but that's entirely beside the point.)

The lesson was about "Clasification of Matter". I threw out the word "matter" first thing, and suggested that we had an unknown material referred to as "stuff". In my classroom, we have large amounts of "stuff", and yesterday, we classified it.



Or Mixture?

We were delving into the possibilities of "mixtures", and after there was a general hilarity over the fact that a teacher would actually SAY the word "homogeneous" in a classroom situation, we were getting pretty much nowhere. The difference between a homogeneous mixture and a heterogeneous mixture was totally eluding them.

The text suggested a discussion of "salt water", and despite being only 3 hours from the coast, few of my 8th period students have been to the beach. They have no reason to mix salt and water at home, and we weren't doing anything in the lab. The homogeneous mixture of salt water was a complete failure.

Then, I remembered "sweet tea". Properly made, the sugar is added while the brew is still hot. A supersaturated, supersweet concoction poured over ice in tall glasses dripping with condensation to be savored on lazy, cicada song afternoons.

"Hey, guys! Who in here likes sweet tea?"

I had them.

"Oh, YEAH, miss! I LOVE sweet tea!"
"Sure wish I had a big pitcher of sweet tea right now!"
"Hey, Miss! Think we could have some sweet tea in here in the classroom?"
"My mom makes some fine sweet tea! You should taste it!"

Amazingly, it worked. Sweet tea was the's homogeneous unless you get TOO much sugar in, then you get a layer of solid at the bottom, and you cross the void from homogeneous into heterogeneous territory. Even more encouraging: TODAY, they still had the concept. We started class this afternoon with another round of praise for our favorite homogeneous mixture.

Next week will bring new challenges, but for today, we have found one small shred of common ground.

1 comment:

Joan G said...

Hi Jean, Russ and i love to read your blogs. Also liz and Matthews. Lets us know what is going on with all of you. The teaching sounds like it is going great for you and we hope you really enjoy your job. I loved all my years of teaching in Montana, Missippi, SC, Germany and Denver. Of course I had elementary and kindergarten which I dearly loved and miss to this day. High school is a little different, and i am sure it has a lot of challenges. Your years of substituting should leave you in good standing. Joan and Russ