Getting back into the swing …

It’s been a week of “getting back into the swing” before the spring semester. Most of my effort is focused on mapping my Tuesday/Thursday introductory physics course into a 3-day model (Monday/Wednesday/Friday). The mapping of lecture material (reading and lecture videos) into Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) “assignments” is complete. My course completely follows the prescribed order of materials, with each week devoted to specific subjects. What has been ongoing is mapping the reading/lecture video quizzes into the new MWF schedule.

This has been useful. It’s revealed some flaws in the way material was distributed across quizzes. This has helped me to put more questions into my question banks, to generalize the pool of questions I can assign to students to test their basic reading and lecture comprehension. I got halfway through the 26 or so quizzes and realized that I had a snarl of materials in the middle that needed to be unknotted; this took up a good chunk of my afternoon.

All this prep work will pay off. With a week of work, the course will sail for 15 weeks once classes begin on January 18. I am very optimistic about this prep work paying off huge dividends for myself and the students. I am also excited, more and more, to get back into the classroom and educate, interact, engage with students, and put my life and limb at risk with some of my favorite physics demos (and a few new ones!).

Research has also been ramping up. My new proto-collaboration, ATHENA (A Totally Hermetic Electron-Nucleus Apparatus) is engaged in the process of responding to questions and comments during the review of our experimental proposal. I have a small role in this, but listening to the whole process play out among leadership in the proto-collaboration has been thrilling.

A view during a recent lunch-time walk.

I have also been careful to keep a focus on mental and physical health, which are honestly inseparable in the first place. Jodi and I have tried getting more walks into our days, and I have been very disciplined about exercising at least once per day with strong aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week. These are the best practices that have kept me sharp and emotionally strong in the past. It’s too cold for me to run outside these days, but we have an excellent home gym and it’s been nice to mix it up.

I have also had a steady stream of Department Chair work as well, with recent tasks focused on renovating a student lab space for the undergrads and helping my Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies complete paperwork for a new course and curriculum improvements in our undergraduate programs. The next big thing I need to tackle, having cleared smaller things off the table, are the teaching assistant pool for the term. That’s where I will be focusing my effort for the next week.

By steve

I am a husband, son, and a Professor of Physics at Southern Methodist University. Physics may be my favorite thing to do, but I like to do a little bit of everything: writing, running, biking, hiking, drumming, gardening, carpentry, computer programming, painting, drawing, eating and sleeping. I earned a Ph.D. in Physics in 2004 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I teach courses in physics and the scientific method at SMU, and I love to spend time with my family. All things written in here are my own, unless otherwise attributed; don't you go blaming my employer or my family for me.

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