Friday, January 20, 2006

Classes Begin

Today ended the first week of college classes that I teach this semester. I'm teaching two physics and two astronomy classes this time, so it's going to keep me pretty busy. I think I've got a good group this semester. They were all awake and involved and seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing. The problem with astronomy is that a lot of people take it thinking that it's an easy way to get the science credit they need to graduate. Astronomy is actually one of the more difficult classes you can take -- it's all applied physics, after all. This means that I tend to get a lot of students who would really rather skate than put in any effort. I'm a tough teacher, but by the end of my class most of them say they've never had a better one -- and never worked harder in a class. I count that a victory.

But today they were all laughing at my jokes, which is always a good sign. I got lots of nods of comprehension and the understanding checks that I did in class all seemed to show they were getting what I was saying. I don't need them to know anything about astronomy, or even science in general. What I do need is for them to be willing to put in the effort. Like writing, the only way to learn astronomy is to do astronomy. Learning is an active process. I hope people maybe learn something from my observations here, but you won't really learn it until you get out and try it for yourself. I know that's certainly been my experience on this journey!

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