December 2009


I’ve decided over my school break that I’m going to make a website. All I have to do is figure out a URL.

Why am I going to create a website? Because I want to. Nothing special. I used to make websites back when people first could (I taught myself how to type by making websites). This was during the days of Geocities with the neighborhoods and many people used MIDI files and animated GIFs. I quit sometime in 1999/2000. I think I could do a decent job with designing and coding my website. I figure that it’ll be a good skill to have under my belt and maybe it’ll even further kick my butt into doing more performances, collaborating, etc. Goals I always have but time or money (or both) have gotten in the way.

What will be on this future website? I’m still working that out. On Bhuz, there is ample advice on websites and business marketing. I don’t want multiple websites, but some people think it’s a good idea to separate your more “personal” stuff from your dance stuff if you’re marketing your dancing. I’m not 100% convinced, but still, decisions are being made.

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I’m midway on my way to Chicago; I have a layover in DC. Google is being generous this Christmas and supplying the airports with free wifi. Woohoo!

I won’t be able to make any of them, but Arabesque is hosting some workshops post-Christmas.

Have a happy holiday if I don’t post anything tomorrow and safe travels to those of you who are like me and traveling this holiday season.

Carrara Nour decided yesterday that we (or at least she)  begins her 90-day practice challenge. She started it off with a doozy- 4 hour practice. Not to be expected to be completed at once. I decided to see if I could fit in two 2-hour practices today.

First practice, consisting of drills and zills, is finished. Tiring but finished (and left me with a huge appetite). Probably the hardest thing was to think of how to fill 2 hours of practice.

Tonight’s should be easier: Combination Nation. I’ve watched it once while I was sick but now I’ll attempt it.

Anyone else partaking in this challenge?

If you talk to me outside of this blog, I don’t think I’ve made it much of a secret that I’m not really interested in doing physics research anymore. There is a host of reasons why (I don’t want to be locked into one specific research area for the rest of my life, I don’t know if I want to go back to physics grad school, etc.), but I’ve decided that although I think I am pretty good at doing experiments in physics, I don’t think it’s the right path for me.

So why physics education research? I realized that since I began grad school, I have spent my spare time pondering about physics education. I didn’t literally think about the broad topic, but I spent some time thinking about how best to teach labs and to address student complaints. Now that I’m teaching, I’m trying to improve things from my end. Simple things, from deciding to call all forces F with a subscript (for instance, the force due to weight became F_w, rather than the popular W for weight). During grad school and now, I’ve also began thinking about why our education system is the way it is; a number of physics grad students I know are quite unhappy there and are contemplating other career paths. I think that’s very interesting and sad. They obviously were very interested in the topic but something about how education is done made them want to quit. I don’t know how true it is that we are not producing enough scientists in this country, but if it is true, rather than merely look at captivating new interest, why not also examine why people drop out?

I’ve talked to quite a few people who have done physics education research; while part of me will be an experimental scientist, wanting to mess with equipment, I think this is a great fit for me. I do care education, I like the flexibility of the field, and it still keeps me in tune with physics.

I know prop work isn’t that end all, be all of Middle Eastern dance. However, tonight after watching several clips of veil, zills, etc., I realized I should be able to do some kind of choreography with veil, zills, or cane. I’ve studied each one pretty rigorous for at least a year. I know how to manipulate all of them fairly well (zills are my weakest, though). I think I can definitely do something good with veil.

Anyone else already plotting what do study for next year?

Everything was completed yesterday, just in the nick of time to go to dance class. It was also done in the nick of time for me to get sick today. I suspect it has something to do with my heat being broken. While I was planning a more productive day than lying around in bed, watching crime shows (I’m a fan of Law and Order: SVU and Castle), there are worse things to had. As long as I don’t leave my bed, I’m quite warm.

Actually, the semester cannot quite sleep soundly, I’m afraid. I had one student already try to argue his grade up because he wasn’t happy with it. Well, that’s not a good reason for getting a better grade; even though the holiday break has begun, he thought we should meet to discuss his grade. Final grades were due, and I don’t believe in grades being argued. This isn’t the movie Clueless, after all. I work out a rubric before I even begin grading. It’s simpler in the long run, and I think it’s more impartial; items are given various weights because I think they’re more important, not because a student I like did poorly on something and I think it shouldn’t be weighed as heavily as a result. I take my time grading and try to do things in their favor.

One of the biggest issues of contention for my exams was that I give them physics words or terms to give definitions to; unfortunately, the student who is upset about his grade is one of the ones who despises the whole vocab thing. I genuinely believe it’s important for people to articulate what they mean in science; otherwise, we’re just doing math. I think, if you have some genuine understanding of what’s going on, you should be able to write something. For this past exam, I wanted them to write things in their own words. I usually give definitions to them as an examples. The exam prior to the final- all the students memorized exactly what I gave them. I was surprised and not pleased; while I’m glad they took the initiative to study that part, memorizing definitions shows no understanding whatsoever. I can memorize Spanish or Arabic or a myriad of other languages, but I don’t know what they mean. They were not thrilled about this, but I genuinely believe that part of a class is communication and understanding what’s being communicated; you have to learn the lingo. Heck, I would be happy if they would write their own definitions prior to the exam, make sure they’re good, and then memorize the heck out of them.

I heard that it’s standard for some students to think that they can argue their grades and with time, they cool down and decide to concentrate their energies elsewhere.

Right now, my students are taking their finals. It’s my final day for finals. Tomorrow I get to grade their exams. I’ve simply been too busy to grade them now.

I am working here next semester, thank goodness. I get to teach Algebra 1 and conceptual physics. It should be interesting. I’m not 100% sure what these classes entail, but it’ll be a nice change of pace.

As glad as I am to have a job doing something related to my degree, I am glad the semester is over. I look forward to starting the first day of spring semester more prepared. My break will involve some relaxation, but some work. Preparing for my classes, still editing my thesis, etc.

Probably the most groundbreaking news in this post is that I’m looking at studying physics education research. I’ve realized this autumn I’m highly interested in undersanding and improving physics education. Not because I’m teaching now but in general. When I was a teaching assistant, I noticed common themes with the students. While some of them were simply students being students (whiny complaints), some were genuinely valid. After going to grad school and now teaching, I realized that there are some things I would like to better understand and/or change. I’ll write about this more later; it’s simply too early (9 AM) to go into the full rationale of why I think this is a great move for me.

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