Sunday, March 26, 2006


This is for Graycie and Old Math.

Old Math says he is giving up the blog for a while, basically because it's a bit depressing and old. I can relate to that. I try not to blog too negatively, and the result is that I don't write often. This blog was never meant to be a teacher's lounge bitching session, and I guess that wasn't the intention for other teacher blogs - even those who have degenerated into exactly that.

Graycie wrote last week that she was going to try to avoid the downward spiral by focusing on the positive things. This reminds me of how BizzyBlog inserts articles titled "Positivity" betwixt his writings on the economy and Ohio elections. It's refreshing, because most blogs who provide meaty content don't manage a lot of non-partisan, clean, wholesome positivity. I guess it just doesn't seem important.

Well, take some time to stop and smell the roses. And when the roses aren't in bloom, listen to this story on NPR about a "positive psychology" class at Harvard. On one hand, that sounds like a load of crap. But I am not just a physicist. I am also an amateur philosopher and economist, and we have to recognize that there is a demand for a course that tells college students that we aren't made to be in the rat race. Therefore, somebody must supply that course.

It is not mandatory, so nobody is having their time wasted against their will. And Tal Ben-Shahar sounds naive. But I have long recognized that my secret to personal happiness is to be childlike, without being childish. I know that the reason my students enjoy my class is largely because I enjoy my class. And a student who enjoys their physics class will learn a lot more than one who does not. How could this not be true in other subjects? I leave that for you to ponder. But keep in mind that not all of your students even know how to enjoy the subject you teach. Most of them have no idea why you would go study it in college or make it a career. And that means that they aren't getting as much out of the subject as you can give. Renew your excitement in your subject(s), and don't let the negativity stop you from being that (insert subject here) nerd.

I am proudly a physics nerd. I relish it. I revel in it. I have my Einstein necktie and my caffeine molecule coffee mug, and the last question on my every test is:
Physics is fun
a) true

(get it? There is no choice b!)

I know most of these kids won't go on to study physics, or even remember a lot of the principles and concepts. But they will remember the demonstrations, the bad jokes, and the positivity. And when they have negative attitudes, I will keep in mind that I am sending them out into a world where "positive psychology" is offered at Harvard University, so maybe they'll be okay if they don't understand Bernoulli's Principle all that well.

In the meantime, I am going to go smell something better than roses - my two preschoolers, who got out of the tub about three hours ago and fell asleep shortly after. And I will try to post more frequently, with more science articles and science labs, and with entries whose titles start with "Positivity". Good night.


  • I like the "Positivity" idea. It keeps a person focused on the 'up.'

    I love your last test question! I'm going to usse it about whatever English-thing I'm teaching. "Grammar is fun." "Shakespeare is fun."

    Oh yeah!

    By Blogger graycie, at 4:31 PM  

  • I too try to avoid negativity-- but boy, are there some negative bloggers out there, and so it's getting hard for me to read some now.

    By Blogger "Ms. Cornelius", at 10:54 PM  

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