Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting Out of a Slump

I haven't written in the blog since my return from spring break. I've had a science teacher's equivalent of a writer's block. I returned from break to two of the most difficult sections of my course to show through demonstration: stoichiometry and electron configurations.

 I would love to hear from anyone out there with some ideas for making the electron configuration unit more interesting to teach. I struggle with it every year, trying to put on a good positive attitude and drawing on my own appreciation of the structure of the atom to get me through. It's so hard to get the kids to wrap their heads around the abstract world of quantum numbers. There are always a a few kids, the puzzle solvers, who really like this stuff. The rest of the class is glassy eyed and bored. It's hard for me to keep my spirits up when my class feels like a death march with no clear destination. I always think to myself "Do I have to teach this section? Can my students walk away from this course without any knowledge of electron configurations?" My guilty conscience always wins out. This year I delayed attacking this unit until the spring term, rationalizing this decision with the following logic: spring term means everyone is happy, it will be better. Wrong. I was just as miserable as usual during this unit. My kids grades dropped during this part of the course, it was a disaster (as usuaal).

Stoichiometry isn't any better for demonstrations. I love this part of the course because it presents great lab applications, and I did just that this year: tons of labs during the stoichiometry unit. But I get discouraged when my kids say, "Another lab, noooo." How can that be the response? Labs are what make my job fun and interesting. I don't understand why the kids would prefer to sit in their seats taking notes and doing more practice problems rather then getting into the lab. So I really like the lab work involved with the stoichiometry unit, but I find that the students are not energized by the topic. Again, I would love to hear from anyone out there with ideas for making the stoichiometry unit more lively.
Titration of vinegar, part of the stoichiometry lab work.

 I made it through, and now we're moving on to chemical bonding and molecular geometry. Still very little to offer for lab work or demos, but a topic that is easily digested by sophomore minds. We do lots of white boarding during this section and the kids get a lot of satisfaction from mastering Lewis Dot diagrams. I'm heading straight into the intermolecular forces concept. This concept is the "biggie" that the biology teachers want the kids to know when they move up to their class. I like the idea of doing it last so that it's fresh in their minds in the fall (theoretically). If the kids don't know what a hydrogen bond is, then I feel that I have failed the biology guys. Four more weeks, so much chemistry left.