How to Succeed in Physics

Doing Homework on time is the KEY:

The most successful students at Physics are not necessarily those with a natural ability to understand math and science.  The most successful Physics students are usually those who have developed good study habits.  If you haven't figured it out yet, let me give you the secret:  

Do your homework on the day it is assigned.  Come in for help if you don't understand.

There is a tendency among high school students to put off doing homework until the last possible minute.  For example, on our A/B block schedule if I assign homework on a B-day, say on a Tuesday in a B2 class--

Bad choice.  Something often comes up Wednesday night, so the student scrambles to get anything done before school on Thursday.  It has now been a couple of days since the learning took place, and the student didn't know or couldn't remember how to complete the problems on the assignment, but it's too late now to get any help.  The student either asks a question during class, or just copies answers during a whiteboarding session.  This gets the assignment done, but the student hasn't learned how to do it, so when the test comes, the student will earn a poor grade.

Great choice.  Not only does this make the homework easier because it is completed the same day the learning took place, but it also leaves the most options available to the student if there is something they still do not understand.  They can come in for a few minutes before or after school on the A-day, and solidify their understanding before the next Physics class.  This student takes advantage of the opportunity to make sure they understand the Physics.  When the test comes, their understanding is solid, and they will score well.

Anyone can do well in Physics.

Believe it or not, anyone can do well in Physics -- it's just a question of how much do you know now, and how hard you are willing to push to know more.  In order to succeed in this course, you need the following:

- Successful completion of Elementary Algebra (Algebra 1) before taking Physics.

- A calculator (a graphing calculator is not required for Physics, but may be used if you have one).

- Support network (other students, website, teacher, review sessions).

- Plenty of paper for solving problems and taking notes.

- Pen, pencil, and a whopping big eraser.

- Lots of time.

- The desire to achieve.

- The ability to suffer.  "People have more appreciation for those things which they must work hard for."

And that's it. Simple, really, when you look at it, and realize that everything it takes to be a phenomenal student is right there in that little list. My job, as a teacher, is to try and set up the right conditions for your success: I present material, demonstrate problem-solving strategies, and provide you with challenges that both develop your skills and assess how well you acquire those skills. All that happens in class.

But the hard part happens at home, when you're hunched over in a dark corner of your room, scribbling on a scrap of graph paper, going through an example from the assignment one more time, trying to understand how to do a certain homework problem. That's when the magic happens. That's when your hours of hard work, your desire to achieve, and your ability to suffer allow you to "break on through to the other side." That's when you really start to "get" physics.

Although it certainly has some great moments, I have to say that the study of physics is not always "fun" (at least in the traditional sense of the word!) The opportunity to study the everyday magic that comprises our natural world, however, is truly an amazing gift, a gift that I hope you find most rewarding.

If you need help:

It's not unusual for students to have difficulties learning physics. The subject can be a little strange sometimes, the concepts are often a little abstract, and there is almost always some amount of math involved in the problem-solving. Also, like most math classes, the material tends to build on itself: learning the material in Unit 5 requires mastery of the material in Unit 4, and if you didn't do so well on Unit 4, things are going to go from bad to worse fast.

Strategies for doing well in physics are pretty standard:

By following these guidelines (which will serve you well in college, too!), you give yourself every opportunity to succeed in this class. The study of physics may not always seem like much fun, but I hope that you find it rewarding!

If You Still Need Help...

It's important to realize that you are in the best position to recognize when you need help. It is literally impossible for the teacher to check your homework in enough detail to diagnose whether or not you've learned the material, so don't wait for me to notice the confused look on your face. If you can't do the homework, get help!

Clearly, it is to your advantage to get help sooner rather than later. If you're having trouble with the homework, get help before you fail the test rather than afterward. There are lots of resources available, including:

Other Students

Your fellow students may be better at explaining difficult material to you than I am. I encourage you to work with other students in the class, both in and out of school.

The Teacher

Questions on homework are welcome during class, and I usually arrive at school around 7:15 AM if you'd like to come by early.