Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Parent Letter - First Draft

After talking with some in my admin, we decided it might be a good idea to send a letter the parents of my new students to prepare them for a guided inquiry based class.  My hope is to not make it full of teacher talk, but a quick, concise preview to prevent the complaint, "He doesn't teach anything."  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated:

Dear Parents and Guardians,
    I would like to take this opportunity to welcome your son or daughter to my physics class. Physics is a challenging subject, that unfortunately, brings negative perceptions for many people. I wish this was not the case, as physics is a fascinating class and the foundation for all of science and engineering. Over the last several years, I have continually asked myself, “How can I better teach this course?” Luckily, many other Physics teachers have asked this very same question, and they have actively researched the answer. What the research is showing is that physics teachers need to stop talking about  physics, and start helping their students do physics.
One quirky way I’ve seen this transition described is the teacher needs to change from being a “Sage on the Stage” to a “Guide on the Side.” What I mean by that, is research shows students need to be actively engaged in deductive reasoning to determine the laws of physics from experiment rather than passively listening to a teacher describe those laws. In the process of helping students do physics, those students learn better problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and communication skills. Unfortunately, most students haven’t been exposed to learning through guided inquiry, so many students feel uncomfortable early on. For most students, this discomfort eases part way through the first quarter. If your son or daughter feels lost at any point, please have them come and see me, and I will be happy to do what I can to help them.
In the end, my hope is to create an interesting and enjoyable way for your son or daughter to learn physics. I continue to try to find better ways to try to do that. Along the way, I hope your child will learn skills essential for college and their future job, even if he or she has no interest directly in the subject of physics. Who knows, maybe your son or daughter will decide that pursuing a career in physics is for them too!


  1. What are your thoughts on perhaps including a couple of links with it to some of the 'big' articles like...
    Hake, IE v. Traditional Methods
    or Hestenes, Toward a Modeling Theory of Instruction
    Then again, maybe that just invites parents to try to pick a fight? The letter looks great, stinks that you need to do something like this, but obviously you're putting a lot of thought into your instructional practice. How close are you to your first day with students?

  2. As for the links, I'm afraid that might be too much info. As to when we start, preplanning started today, students arrive 8/10.

  3. Scott,
    I like it, but I might suggest including a 1-2 sentence example explaining what it means to do deductive research. Tell them how students will use buggies to develop a model of constant velocity that will allow them to predict when to buggies will collide from opposite ends of the table, or something...