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Academic Year 2021-2022: New challenges, new possibilities, and new hopes

As I am preparing for my fall semester (I am teaching my physics methods course for the 10th time), I keep thinking about how this year feels and what I expect of it. While last year, it wasn’t entirely clear to us what we could do and how the term would go, this year it seems to me, it is much clearer. We also feel more confident as we are ready to teach both face-to-face or online. Both teachers and students are much more open to hybrid forms of learning (combining face-to-face and online). We also learned about new tools and became better at managing out time, our interactions, and our commitments. I realize that for a university faculty, it is much easier than for a teacher who works with younger students, but for all of us, we had a tremendous learning experience last year and we should not put aside what we learned.

I would like to list 10 most important learning experiences for me that I hope will make me a better teacher this year. So during 2020-2021 academic year I learned:

1. To engage my students via Zoom both in my graduate and undergraduate courses. The online mode of teaching allowed me to invite amazing guest speakers to our meetings. This was very rewarding.

2. To engage middle school and secondary students via Zoom during my outreach mathematics and science activities.

3. To use a lot of new tools, especially smartphone apps relevant to science teaching, such as phyphox, etc.

4. Not to be afraid to move events online. We realized that Physics Olympics can combine both online and face-to-face components and an online part can be very engaging – see the video on the UBC Physics Olympics web site: https://physoly.phas.ubc.ca/ .

5. That our graduate students who participate in our online M.Ed. in Science Education Program had a huge advantage at their school when they needed to combine online and face-to-face learning and teaching.

6. That communication is so important in online meetings, interviews and events. Communicating face-to-face and online is not the same thing. I am glad I have been attending Toastmasters for 10 years and was ready for this communication challenge.

7. I learned that online conference can give unprecedented opportunities for engagement: Co-chairing our STEM 2021 Conference with prof. David Anderson was a very rewarding experience. We had to postpone it by a year, took a risk to move it online and did it! I also took part in a number of international STEM conference that were online. I am grateful to their organizers. We also started organizing online activities for BC Association of Physics Teachers and they were very successful.

8. I learned to ask for help both in terms of administration and in terms of pedagogy/technology. I have received a lot of support during the year and I appreciate it very much.

9. I learned to be positive and appreciate many good things that happened to me last year. For example, I had fantastic students in my classes and I value it a lot. We also met many inspirational people both face-to-face and online. This was very special.

10. I learned that working from home might be challenging, as it is hard to create work-home boundaries. So I hope I learned to be better organized.

Finally, I felt so proud of my students who completed their degrees, became teachers, earned M.Ed., M.A., or Ph.D. and continue on their academic journeys. I wish all of them all the very best.

I realize that we will have challenges ahead of us, but I also hope that we will use what we learned last year to take advantage of technology, new ways of learning and teaching and our appreciation of the opportunities we have. I also hope that we will modify our beahviours to make all of us overcome the health challenge we are still facing and keep learning. I wish everybody a great academic year.

Bella Coola Valley: We were very lucky to visit this magical place over the summer…

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