Week 5: In the summertime, when the weather is high . . .

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Sunday, June 29, 2014


Caleb L. Heath

So is the mercury. And the humidity. And yes, the sky is far too close for my liking. But hey, it's been not bad for rain this year. I have yet to be utterly destroyed by freak rain showers. My hair's gone out of control, but it does that anyway. You're really disappointing me DC!

It's been a busy week up at AAPT. It's only going to become moreso as we get closer to the Summer Meeting. Yours truly gets to attend both that and the PTRA Summer Institute. That's going to be eight solid days of Minneapolitan goodness. I hear it's a very beautiful city, and I hope I'll have a bit of time to take it in between conference proceedings.

Until then, I have three weeks to wrap up my project. It has turned out to be an ambitious vision. That's okay. Shoot for the moon and you will at least end up somewhere else. I guarantee it. You can try it if you don't believe me.

Anyway, three weeks here and a week in Minnesota will basically wrap up the internship for me. Time has passed much faster this time around. Next week is the 4th of July too. That'll make for a short week. Busy, busy.

Let me tell you about what's been occupying AAPT this week: the new faculty workshops. I am sure that any of the physics majors out there will agree with me that many professors have a greater liking for the lab bench than the classroom. Even those who do like teaching classes are often not particularly innovative in their instructional methods.

Read the book. Come to the lectures. Take the tests. Rinse and repeat.

That's how they learned after all.

The recurring message from the workshops, and I did hear this multiple times, is, "You guys are weird."

Anyone with a Ph. D. want to dispute this? The ability and motivation to learn high level physics, sometimes in spite of instruction, and the grit required to grind out that dissertation are abnormal. Undergrad physics majors are strange enough already. Add six years in the pressure cooker and years of research experience and it's no wonder that there is a sort of disconnect between professors-as-teachers and their future students.

The faculty that have been downstairs this week are committed to being better teachers. Just the fact that they want to improve their teaching is wonderful, but they've had a few days to stew in some of the best research and practices in physics education, so they're already ahead of the pack.

I sometimes feel bad for students who have had really excellent, innovative K-12 experiences, because I imagine they would find the lack of polish at many levels of the university disappointing.

A personal first this week: I attended my first baseball game. Specifically the Annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. Yes, the senators and representatives actually play. Arkansas did not represent unfortunately.

I had a hot dog and a nine dollar beer and sang, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." I feel considerably more American.

Also, apparently the State of Qatar helped sponsor (See photo).

Caleb L. Heath