Tuesday, December 7, 2021

As 2021 Winds Down in My Classroom

As I rev up for that final push through exam season, I am reflecting on this past semester.

This semester followed more than one year of online learning.  I felt relieved to know we were coming back.  I could not spend another semester teaching from this chair in my home.  The experience is ultimately deflating, because you know how ineffective it is for most students.  Online learning was a necessary evil that I hope to never experience again.  The one silver lining was observed very clearly yesterday morning as I cleared snow and ice off my car for the drive to the college.

This semester saw some very apprehensive students show up at the college.  The incoming cohort was generally less prepared than usual for college.  The second year science students, having spent their entire college education to that point online, were perhaps even more unprepared.  College can feel overwhelming at times, even for students who had adequate high school preparation.  This semester saw more students give up than I have ever seen in my 12 years as a teacher.

As midterm assessments were returned, some students were crushed, and stopped attending.  I felt awful for them.  I do not fault them for it.  I look at it another way: realizing the adversity that all students have faced over the past couple of years leaves me feeling extra proud of the ones who have stuck around.  They are the ones who will be sweating it out in three-hour exams next week.  I hope they take pride in showing all they have learned.

As for me, I remain committed to what seems like my mission in life: to help people 'get physics'.  I look forward to the years ahead spent in the classroom.  Career-wise, I am also excited about two things happening outside the classroom.

Over the past week, SERG (the Space Elevator Research Group) has reformed.  It includes three Vanier College students.  Over the coming months, we will be undertaking a new space elevator dynamical study.  It will involve the addition of a station at the geosynchronous altitude.  I am excited for that to get underway.  More updates to come on this project in 2022.

And then, there is my book, Getting Physics.  The publication process has been, well, lengthy, thus far.  I was hoping it would be published by end of 2021.  At this point, I will settle for sometime in 2022.  I appreciate all of the words of encouragement I have received via email and LinkedIn.  I am so excited to get this book into the hands of readers in the near future.

After years of teaching, it has become evident to me that you do not need to be a physicist to get physics.  Physicists will dive deeper than the rest of us, but there is much depth to physics even at the surface.  The fundamentals of physics are accessible to nearly anyone who wants to know them.  Ask my students this semester, who can describe all kinds of phenomena, from a car crash to a vibrating guitar string.  They are only beginning their journey into the sciences.  They are not experts yet, but the seeds have been planted.

I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday season and much happiness in 2022.