State of the Classroom:  Honors Chemistry Q1

Honors Chemistry:

Major thanks to everyone who contributed to the course survey for Honors Chemistry.  Your thoughts and opinions are very useful to me in helping to figure out what is working and what could be changed.  Provided below are the responses that were generated.  I have grouped similar items where they occur, and responded to all of them at the same time.  I’ve tried to take care of spelling errors wherever possible, but I may have missed a few.  

        In terms of the areas of difficulty, I see a few patterns.  One is that things that some students dislike, other students very much like.  Which is not surprising, as everyone learns in different ways.  There are also some items that can be dealt with very easily by linking you to resources that already exist.  In those cases, I’ve provided the links below.  For other items, I’ve tried to provide the instructional perspective that I bring to the course.  I dearly hope that in these instances, it doesn’t read like me saying that you are wrong to feel a certain way about a particular aspect of the course, but I’m also certain you are able to understand that teaching involves making choices, and that it is not possible to always provide things that everyone will love all of the time.  Please remember that I am always available to discuss your experience of the course.

        Thanks again for taking the time to fill out the survey.  I can’t say that I’m surprised that you all did such an fantastic job.

Table of Contents:

Honors Chemistry:

Stuff People Like:

Areas of Difficulty

Class Structure:

Learning Strategies


Stuff People Like:

Areas of Difficulty:

Class Structure:

Everyday is a celebration of chemistry :)

I think we’ve clarified some of the “notes” issue this week.  Hopefully we continue to work toward finding something a bit more acceptable to everyone (though I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought there was something universally acceptable).  The notes on the slides are just the notes from the front of your packet, which are just the notes that go along with your WSQ’s, so you have them all.  Only material discussed in class is assessed on quizzes and tests.

Ouch! :)  I would encourage whomever wrote this to spend some time thinking about what they mean here, and if they are comfortable letting me know what they need that they aren’t getting, please do.  At the very least consider what you think “teaching” is, and why you might not be getting it from me.

I’ll try my best to keep quizzes to one standard going forward.

The notes that we discuss in class following a WSQ are a detailed summary of the WSQ, delivered in such a way that you don’t need to have watched the WSQ.  Though I can totally understand how you might feel somewhat lost if you aren’t doing your WSQ homework prior to coming to class.  My only suggestion here is to do the homework that is assigned.

I am sorry about this.  PM extra help is generally available on Wednesdays.  I’m around almost every morning at ~6:45.  Please feel free to come straight into the room on those days once you arrive in school if you’d like to get some quick extra help.  Also, feel free to use email/twitter for extra help as needed.

If you are doing your HW questions, and still want more, please come see me.

Here is a guide for how to make your own CastleLearning assignments.  Go crazy.

I sympathize.  We do one a week.  As you can see from some of the above comments, many folks would like more of me talking at them than is currently on offer.  So we’re pulled in two different directions.

We wouldn’t be doing it in class if it wasn’t important.  The purpose of the meta moment is to help you consider what we have just done, why it is important, and how well you understand it.  

I’m not clear on what we have done in class that hasn’t been demonstrated that could have been.  But I’m open to suggestions.

See above comments on CastleLearning, and making your own assignments for it.  Additionally we spend an entire period reviewing prior to an exam, along with my being available for additional review at extra help and via email.  I don’t know what more review we could do.

Go back to the list of stuff people like, and count the number of times WSQ’s show up on them.  I’m not telling you to do this because I think you’re wrong in feeling like they aren’t useful, but I do think you should consider why so many people like them, and think about ways that you can find similar use of them.  Apologies if you are used to learning by having teachers redundantly tell you stuff that exists in books or on videos.  That seems like a large waste of precious class time to me.  The videos are no different than if I had you read a textbook (outside of their format), and if we didn’t use them, that’s exactly what you would be expected to do prior to coming to class.  If you can learn it by watching a video or reading a textbook, that is exactly what you should be doing, leaving us class time to practice applying the knowledge you have learned, doing activities, labs, etc.  Real learning comes from application of knowledge.  

Chemistry is unapologetically mathematical (and physics will be more so).  Math is learned through practice.  

I’m not sure what I’m missing when we have content discussions in class, but please ask questions if you have them.  I like questions.

Learning Strategies:

While I am an unabashed fan of the English language (see what I did there?), I certainly don’t try to use “advanced” vocabulary in class.  If I ever use a word that you don’t understand, please let me know.  As regards the “level” of the explanation, I try to stick to Einstein’s maxim that things should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler.  We are dealing with very difficult concepts in this course.  It would be odd if they weren’t a bit on the complex side.

This is, of course, the number one criticism of the Honors Chemistry curriculum.  Don’t say you weren’t warned that this would be the case from day one of this course.  Remember, we’re doing everything that is done in Regents Chemistry PLUS an additional ~80 topics, in the same amount of class time.  



Lolz.  I’m sure I speak for all of Mr. Lipp’s future students when I say that they appreciate your lending him your learning time for the last little while.

:(  I would say that I am a maximally approachable kind of fellow.  Give it a try, and you might find out your impression is wrong.  Or at least let me know why you don’t think I’m approachable.  Now, that said, I might not be approachable in the middle of class, when we have a busy day of things to do, but that’s just because I’m focused on the larger task of teaching the whole group at that particular moment.  And it is certainly quite possible that our interaction will involve me pointing out a resource that you should be aware of, or helping you realize that you already have the understanding you need to answer a particular question, but that’s just my idea of good teaching (even if you find it somewhat more cumbersome than if I were to just give you the answer).  There is an old saying:  “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”  That’s largely my philosophy for teaching.  Which is not to say that it’s always fun learning how to fish, but in the long run, it’s definitely a better situation.

I’m not really sure how else to interact with you outside of what I’m already doing.  There are certainly moments in class where you are all working diligently on some activity, and I may be observing from my desk, or similar purchase, but that’s really more an effect of how well you are all working together than it is my lack of interaction.  Should I just interject myself to interject myself?  I’m not the kind of teacher who is going to interrupt a group of amazing students doing amazing work unless I have to.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I’m not forcing you all to listen to me for no particular reason that I’m not paying attention to what you are all doing...because I am...all the time (SPOOOOKY!)