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Updated Advice from Former Physics Students

One of my favorite pages that comes included in the new (delicious) binders I hand to students on the first day of school is the Advice from Past Students handout. Everything included on the page is actual advice from actual former students (contributed through course evaluations).

For the 2013 crew, I’ve changed the layout to make it more appealing for the new students to read, and I updated it so that almost all the advice is from this past school year. I loved this past year’s advice so much—they really got the goals and idea of the class, and they hit a lot of different areas (working with others during class, not giving up, the importance of practice, patience with mastering objectives, avoiding procrastination, getting help from the teacher).

The two paragraph-length responses on the second page are also hilarious and touching. They were both included in the same course evaluation, but written by two different students (the one at the bottom was written while being spoken out loud by a student who had hijacked his classmate’s computer for a few minutes; the one at the top of the second page was the actual response of the student writing the rest of the evaluation).

Click the pages to see larger, even more legible versions of the pages.

I posted about this topic last year, but just included the text instead of the document. Here’s last year’s version. A few classics stay on the page every year (find one of us for help, your teacher wants you to succeed, and a couple of others), but I also try to update it to keep it representing the current class as much as possible.

Do others solicit and pass on this type of advice in their classes? Are there other things you do to connect classes between the years? Other cool or different handouts you like to include near the start of the year for the new folks? Please leave a comment and share if you have any neat ideas or questions.

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About Kelly O'Shea

I teach high school kids physics at an independent day school in NYC. Less homework, more thinking. Follow @kellyoshea

Discussion

11 thoughts on “Updated Advice from Former Physics Students

  1. Hi,
    You might be interested in knowing that during the last 12 or 15 years of my career I told the students “You NEVER have homework. I did not like doing homework, and very few people do. BUT, if you want to be good at something, you have to PRACTICE! If you want to be a good swimmer, you have to practice; if you want to play soccer well, you have to practice…” I never called it homework, and I did assign PRACTICE on a regular basis. I did have fun looking puzzled when a student a student would say that they “have a question about the homework.” After a short pause I’d say “OH you mean the PRACTICE!”

    Posted by Frank Lock | June 18, 2012, 10:57 AM
  2. Loved it! I’ll definitely steal your idea for next year. :)
    As a biology teacher… I was wondering… do you know what Mr. O’Connell does to make his Bio class so special? Is he on twitter? Does he have a blog?
    Modeling does such a great job for Physics teaching. Do you know any Bio teachers that use modeling?
    Thank you Kelly!

    Posted by Fernanda Desani | June 18, 2012, 12:11 PM
    • Thanks! :)

      I definitely want to sit in on Dan [O’Connell]’s class. I wanted to do that this past year, but my schedule didn’t permit it. I’m hoping it will work out this fall. It’s been a really interesting thing to observe from the outside (hearing about it from him and from the freshmen on dorm). I think it kick’s their butts for at least the first half of the year (and some of them all of the year), until they start to understand what he’s trying to get them to do (really reason and understand things). It’s fun to see the part of the year when the freshmen start to really click with his class and love it. Tons of students refer back to his class from freshman year, even as they are graduating, as the class that taught them how to think. I think he sees the class as more about reasoning and an intro to science than about biology specifically.

      He doesn’t use Modeling (though he’s asked a little bit about it before). I know there are some people developing the biology Modeling curriculum, but it’s definitely not as well-set as the physics or chemistry materials.

      I’ll try to entice him to do some blogging this year. I’m not sure he’ll be into that, but I can try. I’ll let him know that his public is asking for him ;)

      Posted by Kelly O'Shea | June 19, 2012, 9:07 AM
      • Thank you!!!! I’d love to see my kids saying the same about my class. I guess I need some help dealing with the changes I make in class and, at the same time, getting the students ready for the IB exam which relies very much on memorization and a specific writing style.

        Posted by Fernanda Desani | July 5, 2012, 11:45 AM
  3. Like!

    Posted by jacibulka | June 19, 2012, 7:13 AM
  4. Agree with all of these, but perhaps the most important one is to “have fun” ;]

    Posted by neutrino14 | June 27, 2012, 8:43 AM
    • Maybe the toughest advice for new students to take, though, too!

      I always get lots of them telling me the next year how much they loved the class, but I know it can be difficult for them to really enjoy it while it is happening because it is difficult and they are nervous about doing well.

      Posted by Kelly O'Shea | June 28, 2012, 9:01 AM
  5. May I share this? I teach undergrad physics and we’re just starting a new term now.. :)

    Posted by Teci | January 15, 2014, 11:44 AM

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