Well, I’ve been at school for a week now and as usual there is a colossal amount of stuff to do and it’s very hectic as we try to get the year off to a good start. In terms of teaching AP, I feel that a fast start along with the setting of VERY high expectations & goals is absolutely crucial. This does a couple of things; firstly it sets the tone, and secondly it helps the kids see AP Chemistry as different to the other subjects they are studying. By emphasizing the fact that quite literally from day one we are focusing on the AP exam, they get a tangible goal that is often lacking in some other classes. Don’t get me wrong, great things are happening in other classes, but sometimes academically immature sophomores don’t quite appreciate the value of those other things and their attitude is a bit more passive! Given that this is their first AP class and they have NO background in chemistry we have to instill a sense of urgency and drive. In AP chemistry I want there to be no doubt about why we are here and what the goal is.
In light of the need for a blistering start to the year, I find myself constantly frustrated by the relative triviality of my TOPIC 1 – Matter & Measurement. It seems as though sig figs, units, scientific notation and all that “math” stuff should either be taught ONCE in a science context, or perhaps not at ALL by scientists and left to the math folk. A few years ago I completely gave up teaching the stuff in TOPIC 1, and I went ahead and started assigning it as homework’s and test preparation on day one. We have a TOPIC 1 test, a few days into the year. Even by doing that, the constant (largely irrelevant) questions about the confusion over sig figs (they’ve heard it three or four times form different teachers with slightly different rules and expectations by the time they get to me) serve to distract the kids from FAR more important chemistry issues. I find the whole thing a real anchor working against me.
I think the solution is what I have said above – teach it ONCE in a ninth grade science class, or not at ALL and liaise with the math department so they can carry the burden. Even though this is review for many kids it hampers my momentum at a very important juncture.