I’m not sure exactly how many worlds there are at AAPT conferences (or even if the world metaphor is right), but at the impromptu twitter meet-up, a few individuals were discussing that there might be four basic worlds:
- Physics Education Research World
- University Physics Educator World
- High School Physics Teacher World
- PIRA / Demo / Apparatus World
I’m not committed to this being the right carving, but there definitely seem to be different worlds one can navigate. The assumption in my mind (which can’t be exactly correct) is that the worlds do not overlap much, but that there a small number of border crossers / world straddlers. Or it could be that some worlds overlap more than others, because they actually have borders. And some worlds overlap very little, because they do not share borders. And there are probably some people who are not native to any one world, and wander all the worlds.
Anyway, I’m curious where people see themselves. Like I feel like I was born in PER world, but since beginning border-crossing to high school physics teacher world, PER world doesn’t feel so much like home anymore.
- Do some feel like they have a home, but have friends in another world they can visit?
- Do others feel more like dual citizens?
- Does anyone feel homeless (in a good or bad way?) Does anyone feel stuck in one world?
- Do some people feel squarely in one world?
- Is someone deeply offended or shocked by the idea that there are different worlds?
- Do certain worlds feel more isolated than others?
- Do you have a different way you would want to carve up the worlds?
I’m not even sure if this way of thinking about people and community is helpful or harmful, but it’s been on my mind, so I’m writing about it.
Final thoughts: Making up such carvings can be damaging. And so I think it deserves critical introspection to open this conversation. For example, many times, I have heard it suggested that there are producers and consumers of PER. When a few people offered this to me as a way of understanding my transition, it felt alienating. It felt like a very “PER”-centric world view, where the only thing of true value was PER, and there are those who create and those who use. I don’t think of myself as either of those things, and so that way of carving the world felt wrong. I’m not deeply offended, I’m just saying that in that moment, I felt so misunderstood. Other people talked about being “nourished” in different ways by different parts of community at different times, and that better resonated by me. Like, for a while, PER was the intellectually, rich place about teaching and learning that nourished me; and now I found other intellectually, rich places to be nourishing me.
Final Final Thoughts: I’ve been thinking about the structure of High School Physics Teacher Camp (very unconference style) vs the AAPT meeting structure. A lot of AAPT meeting structure feels like it is designed for benefit of some worlds more so than others. This isn’t a criticism (I think), so much as a description. When teachers run workshops by themselves for themselves (supported by AAPT but organized outside the official AAPT structure), they organize in very different ways.
My experience at HS teacher camp felt like both “the rate of knowledge exchange” was crazy high, and support for fermentation / synthesis of ideas was high as well. It was also just better designed for joy. This seemed embodied in many ways — how sessions are formed, the different types of sessions that exist (breakouts, invited talk, share-a-thon, working time), and even in how collaborative notes are constructed in real time during the conference. I’m not saying that this format is generically “better”, but that it has advantages that seems to be really good for that world (high school teachers). My experience at AAPT standard sessions, this year was not as enjoyable. Once again, I’m not saying that the structure is generically awful, but it didn’t feel like it worked very well for me. 8+2 min contributed talk sessions seemed like the worst. Even when interesting people were doing and sharing interesting work, it mostly felt miserable to be there.
OK, this has turned into a diary entry / rant. Sorry.