Today’s guest post is from Fran Poodry, the president-elect of the American Modeling Teachers’ Association. Fran teaches high school physics in Pennsylvania. It is the fourth post in a series which shares the stories of teachers using Modeling Instruction. Fran writes:
I was a physics major in college and I knew all along that I wanted to become a teacher. I took all my undergraduate education courses at a small private liberal-arts college, where I learned many things that are now called “21st century education” which I find humorous. Since I planned to teach, a professor I knew (but not at my school) suggested I join the physics teaching mailing list, PHYS-L, and from there I learned about Physics Education Research. I also got to know (virtually) Joe Redish, Dewey Dykstra, Priscilla Laws, and others. I wound up working for Priscilla Laws for two summers, learning about Workshop Physics, Vernier probes and interfaces (remember the ULI?) and analyzing data from student surveys pre- and post-instruction.
I graduated with a BA in Physics and a Pennsylvania teaching certificate in 1992, and I have been teaching physics since January, 1993. I taught for five and a half years in Philadelphia public schools. Jane Jackson recruited me for a modeling workshop when I attended a summer AAPT meeting at University of Maryland (having known me from my online presence), and I took modeling workshops in 1997 and 1998. These workshops were at University of Wisconsin-River Falls and were led by Rex Rice and Dave Braunschweig. I still make Rex’s guacamole recipe—yum!
As with many, my life was changed by Modeling Instruction. I felt like I had discovered the way I wanted to teach, I just hadn’t figured it out before. Also, I was amazed by how much physics I learned at the workshops! Though I loved using Modeling Instruction, the situation in my school was taking its toll. The large class sizes, under-prepared students, tragic events, and the bars on the windows were all hard to deal with. I decided I had to leave Philadelphia or leave teaching. I left the School District of Philadelphia in 1998.
After leaving Philadelphia schools, I have been teaching in various suburban districts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I love my current school (where I am starting my 10th year), and I have great colleagues, but only one of my colleagues is also a Modeler (though we have four full-time physics teachers in my building). I have used Modeling Instruction with kids in conceptual classes, honors classes, and in-between, and from a variety of socio-economic levels. I have struggled to use Modeling with my AP students, since they have already (mostly) had a year of Modeling Instruction in their first-year physics class with my colleague. While I have enjoyed teaching mostly conceptual-level classes and AP classes for the past 8 years, I am looking forward to teaching honors-level and AP classes this school year, and trying out Standards-Based Grading.
I joined the AMTA board last year as Vice President, so am currently the President-Elect and I will be President next year. I feel very strongly that the work of AMTA is vital for keeping Modeling Instruction alive and growing and funded, unlike previous worthy programs that were not self-sustaining (IPS, PSSC, Project Physics, etc). One way that to help this happen is through greater publicity. Most science teachers in my district have no idea what Modeling is, and when offered a 2-hour introduction on an inservice day, only two teachers (out of over 40 high school science teachers) came to the session – the rest chose other sessions. Not only teachers need to know about Modeling Instruction, the word also needs to get out to the politicians, the parents, and the voting public.
You can follow Fran Poodry on Twitter: @MsPoodry.