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Teaching A Level Physics and not happy...

Discussion in 'New teachers' started by electro-web, Sep 13, 2011.

  1. electro-web

    electro-web New commenter


    I have an AS level Physics group and I'm not happy about it. I thought I'd be ok, but because there's not much in the way of resources I'm struggling a bit.

    I'm in my 30s and haven't done Physics since my own 6th form days (with some on my degree, but very specialist)

    The rest of the school is really well organised - there's schemes in place right up to GCSE (which I'm involved in writing), with Science Works for KS3, so it means individual lessons are planned/resourced and I just have to produce stuff I want to and tweak what's there for my classes.

    But there's nothing for A level other than the text book. If I was teaching a scheme with some suggested activities and practicals, then I could stay a step ahead, remind myself of what I need to then teach it. But to learn the material myself whilst at the same time as thinking of ways to teach, practicals to put into lessons and activities for the students to do, is impossible.

    What on earth can I do?!
  2. To start with are you the only physics teacher in your school or has someone else taught this before that you could talk to?
    The thing you urgently need to do is sit down with some past exam papers and assess your own subject knowledge. No notes, no text book just you and the exam papers (it takes a good deal of self motivation and control to do this). Mark them honestly against the mark scheme and write down your areas for development. Break these down into manageable chunks in the order you may be teaching and start by making your own notes and working through examples.
    You might be better off getting a general physics textbook rather than the one specific to your exam board, I'm not sure there's a new edition of 'World of Physics' but I'm sure you'll find something similar on Amazon etc.
    Look at your subject association website so the IoP, you need the TAP (Teaching advanced physics) section.
    You shoudl also get your school to subscribe to Physics Review for your students which will help you to set real world examples.
    Classroom physics is also useful
    Network around your LA, there will be another physics A-level teacher in your local area who can help you, even if it's only to use some of your NQT time to go and observe them.
    Try and get yourself on the appropriate course for your exam board for the coursework/controlled assessment component (eg, ISA) as this can be a bit troublesome in terms of preparing and assessing students.
    Where in the UK are you? If you're in the NW I will immediately be able to put you in touch with someone who can help you.
    There is also the Physics Factory in Birmingham
    Keep records of everything you do for your NQT file and also discuss this situation with your mentor. It is a shame you've been put in this situation, I meet so many NQTs who express the desire to teach A-level and become incredibly frustrated when they're not given the chance. The truth is teaching A-level is an entirely different kettle of fish to main school. Most A-level science courses are chronically under resourced and it's just not as easy as it is lower down the school where you just pick up the SOW and run with it.
    Hope some of this helps!
  3. electro-web

    electro-web New commenter

    If I picked up an exam paper, I would not pass. Simple as that.

    But no, there are a few very good physics teachers. It's just getting the time with them and admitting how **** I am to the department!

    Thanks for all the links, though. I'll definitely find what I can this weekend.
  4. That doesn't matter, it's the process you go through that matters. To be honest I bet there are a few experienced teachers currently teaching all sorts of subjects to A-level who wouldn't get an A if you put a paper in front of them. This may sound a little bit tough love but there is only you that can do something about this and your subject knowledge needs some urgent attention by the sounds of it. Your stress levels will decrease substantially if you feel confident with what you are teaching so make this your priority (I speak from experience having taught higher tier physics last year as a non-specialist).
    Try your science advisor at the LA, they may be able to put you in touch with someone in another school who could help you.
    It's not a case of being '****', you're an NQT and you are just learning. You need to be less harsh on yourself in this respect. Speak to your mentor initially then they can have a chat with the other physics teachers in the dept before you go and speak to them.
    Which specification are you teaching by the way?
  5. LearningToTeachPhysics

    LearningToTeachPhysics New commenter

    Thanks kritur for highlighting some of the Institute of Physics support available - www.tap.iop.org is a great resource for teaching physics at A/AS level, with lesson plans and ideas for all topics, keeping in mind that many teachers are not physics specialists.

    electro-web, I strongly recommend you get in touch with your local Physics Teacher Network Co-ordinator by looking at http://www.iop.org/education/teacher/support/network/index.html. They might be able to offer you some after-hours training and help connect you with other local physics teachers.

    You should also check out our physics teacher discussion forum www.talkphysics.org. It is designed for anyone teaching physics, specialist or not and is a great way for new teachers to ask advice from more experienced teachers or share their sorrows amongst peers. You will find plenty of tried and tested resources there and hopefully find the support you are looking for.

    Finally, we do have a mailing list for NQTs which keeps you in touch with relevant events and resources. Email me at caroline.davis@iop.org if you would like to be included.
  6. chriswesley

    chriswesley New commenter

    I am a private tutor and I hear about this kind of thing from my students all the time. Clearly, electro-web, you've been dumped in a dreadful position which is not your fault, and you're being honest and looking for help - all admirable. But how did the school get itself into this situation? Do schools in general still think clinging to QTS status is the right approach? Clearly being able to teach is essential, but being QTS, from my experience has little to do with that.
  7. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    This thread started in 2011, the OP's students are probably through university by now.....;)
  8. Crowbob

    Crowbob Senior commenter

    Probably not studying physics.
    sabrinakat likes this.

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