It has been almost 4 weeks since we returned from the US and finally things are starting to feel less hectic. The semester is in full swing, and Adam and I are starting to figure out our new schedule. It feels awesome to be back in the classroom, and my love for making curriculum materials is still as strong as ever. The only difference this year is that I can’t let preparations for class take over my life because of Adina. She needs attention, and I want to give her attention.
It hasn’t been easy getting everything done. This year I am teaching Chemistry and AP Physics, both classes which require me to make brand new materials. I continue to be impressed with my ability to make meaningful activities with limited equipment. I have already designed two new lab manuals for Physics that utilize online simulations, mainly from the University of Colorado. Known as PHET, these simulations allow students to collect and analyze data to figure out relationships between physical quantities before I have actually taught about them. When I left Southington, my biggest fear was that I would have to give up the teaching style I had developed, mainly for Physics, since chances are I would end up in a school that didn’t have all the equipment that I had there. Although it is obviously better to use real equipment, the simulations are working wonderfully. My student is actively participating in her learning, and it is more fun for everyone when they get to do science rather than hear about it.
Chemistry is an adventure. I have figured out how to use simulations and craft supplies to create meaningful activities. A few of my students require that they actually do “wet” labs rather than use simulations so with the help of my boss, Jonathan, I have set things up so that I can use the campus lab 4-5 times throughout the semester. Our first lab was this week. I was really nervous about it since it is hard to run an experiment in a lab that isn’t yours. Everything went smoothly though, thanks to the lab tech Ella. When I arrived on Sunday prior to my class, she had everything set up for the students. It was beautiful! Everything was so organized, there was a set-up for me to explain how things are done, and she even stayed during the experiment in case we needed something! She is amazing!
Guess who else is amazing? My students! They have settled in to their new schedule which is pretty packed and to being away from home. They are learning so much about Israel, they are connecting with the land through their trips, and they are figuring out how to balance their social lives with their studies. I am always amazed at how well the students settle in. I find it difficult being so far from home, but at least I have Adam to support me. These students came by themselves to have an awesome experience. That is because they are awesome!
The benefit of being the chemistry teacher for a program that is predominantly 10th graders is that I teach about half the program. There are 51 students in total on the program this semester, and my chemistry classes combined are 25 students. I only have one AP Physics student, but that means I have 26 out of 51 students. Not bad! The down side to this is that I have a lot more grading than last year, but the fact that I really get to know a good portion of the students far outweighs the yuckiness of grading. At least that is how I feel at the moment since I don’t have too much grading to do right now 🙂
Teaching is more than a full time job as you all hopefully know at this point. Since I only teach part-time here, I am only in the classroom for a few hours at a time, but when I’m not in the classroom (even on the days that I don’t teach) I am working on presentations, creating new activities, and grading. It is a much slower process than it used to be since Adina needs my attention as well. There have been days when I have felt awful not getting any work done because I had to focus on her, and there have been days that I have felt guilty that I didn’t give her enough attention because I had to get my work done. Three weeks into the semester and I feel like I’m finally figuring out how to balance things. I have also learned that grading doesn’t have to be returned the next class period, although I still prefer to do so. I have also learned that Adina can and should play on her own, which she does a lot. During her independent play time and naps, I get a lot done. During the rest of the day, she gets my attention. I am still trying to make myself available to students as much as I can. Sometimes Adina comes with me for extra help. She seems to really like chemistry so she enjoys these meetings just as much as playing at home. She is a real trooper!
While things feel pretty balanced right now, I know that things can and will change. Already my efficiency during her independent play time has diminished since she has started to creep around the floor. While we have removed troublesome items, I still need to watch her more carefully to make sure that she doesn’t find anything that we missed. Everyday and every week there is something new. In science, when a system is in equilibrium and a change is made, the system will often adjust to reestablish equilibrium. That is how we operate at this point. Everyday we fine tune things to maintain our happy equilibrium. So far so good!
Last week I heard from a few people that my students think I’m a good teacher, although I just gave a test so I’m not sure if that is still true. I have never been good at believing what people tell me since I know I can always do better, but it is still nice to get some positive feedback. I promise it won’t go to my head!
Until next time…
If you want to see how awesome TRY (Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim) is, visit the webpage or visit the Facebook page! On the FB page you can see me at the lab with the students. I look pretty stylish with goggles so its worth checking out! There are some pictures below as well!