Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz: What happens when you assume?

I live in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. where our weather is dominated by four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter and spring has properly sprung.  It is a time when thoughts naturally go to the earth and the health of our planet, and so for me it is not surprising that yesterday April 22 was Earth Day and this Friday is Arbor Day in my state, but I was surprised when I learned that it is not Arbor Day everywhere. (In case you want to know here are Arbor Day dates by country).  Now Arbor Day (or Arbour Day) is not a holiday that I normally remember, but today it reminded me that the world is bigger than me.

My world is dominated by those 4 seasons.  Winter is cold, especially this last one, summer is hot and humid, and spring and fall are the transitions between the two.  My husband who lived in San Diego for a while said that they had two seasons green and brown.  A friend of mine in Australia takes particular glee in posting pictures of going swimming in my midwinter. I know intellectually that my experience is not the experience of others even in something that I take so for granted as the seasons or Arbor Day, but it is easy for me to forget.  The fact that my experience and worldview is not the worldview for everyone is something that I need to keep in mind especially when I am designing lessons.

For example I do an activity where my students graph the motion of characters in common fairy tales on a position vs. time and velocity vs. time graph.  My classes would graph the motion of Jack and Jill, Little Miss Muffet and the tortoise and the hare among others.  It was a fun little application of a concept.  I remember the first time I did the activity.  My students knew the stories and in their groups talked about how the graphs should look.  The classes were animated and enjoyed the challenge that was until 7th period, which was my class with my English language learners.  I would like to say that I had anticipated the situation and was prepared, but I wasn’t.  The majority of the class looked at the assignment, then looked at me and then the hands shot up.  Who are Jack and Jill? What’s a muffet? Well crap.   But my teaching mantra is “modify and adjust” and like so many other times I did.

So my question to you today is this: What was a time when your lesson was derailed because you took something for granted?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).

Featured image 172/365 I Want to See the World by Martinak15

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Jennifer teaches science in a public school in Pennsylvania. She lives there with her husband and two dogs.


  1. April 23, 2014 at 4:45 pm —

    Not my own assumption, but I once helped an international student understand why his professor had used “good buns” as an example of attractiveness. He thought it had to do with baking ability.

    This semester, teaching my first real class, I had a lot of assumptions about what college-age students would know, particularly those in their final semester, such as the purpose of a citation and what information should be included, the difference between an abstract and an article, a database versus a web site, a database entry versus an online article, and how to create a very basic PowerPoint presentation. When I teach this class next year, I’m going to restructure a great deal to address these issues early in the semester.

  2. April 23, 2014 at 11:41 pm —

    Get enough people in a room and it’s guaranteed at least one won’t have the necessary background for just about everything on the agenda!

    I honestly don’t think most students really get citation until grad school, and then more because they are reading so much academic literature and seeing real-life examples of how and why things need to be cited over the course of building an argument.

    One thing that certainly struck me early on (though it doesn’t really surprise me anymore) is how weak an average undergraduate’s historical/geographical background tends to be. I often end up having to do substantial little history lessons in order to contextualize the music of a given period, both with music majors and with other students in music electives.

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