About physics and teaching

Job Opening at St. Andrew’s – what’s it like to work here?

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Recently, my colleague, John Burk, announced on his blog a job opening in our department. John does a fantastic job of describing the school and what working here at St. Andrew’s is like. I’d like to add a little more to what he said.

If you got here by way of John’s blog, then great; I’ll try to add to what he said. I haven’t blogged much over the past year, so I imagine most everyone reading this is only doing so because they saw John’s blog first.

So what is it like to work here at St. Andrew’s School? Well, if you like to be outside the hub-bub of city life, St. Andrew’s is a great place. Just an hour from Philadelphia and two hours from Washington, D.C., Middletown, DE is conveniently located, but with some small-town charm. There are a lot of commuters (to Wilmington) who have filled in the houses that grew in the local farm fields, but the area around St. Andrew’s has been preserved in woodlands, wetlands and farmlands (mainly due to the efforts of St. Andrew’s to acquire land in the area). I regularly see bald eagles out my window, looking out over Noxontown Pond. It’s a beautiful, and mostly quiet, place.

Our students are an eager and enthusiastic bunch. Through the ceaseless efforts of our Headmaster, Tad Roach, and the rest of the faculty, there is no serious disconnect between the adult and student cultures. I have colleagues at other boarding schools who periodically share tips on how to know when students are up to no good. I’ve never needed those tips. Of course our students make mistakes now and then (they are, as I like to call them, apprentice adults), but there is no drinking or drugging culture here. To put it simply: our students have no problem having their fun in full view of the faculty and each other. The student culture here is truly remarkable, and the older students protect that culture with fervor.

As a faculty we like to collaborate, and we like to collaborate even more than we actually do. This is always a source of friction, as the hectic day of a boarding school teacher can make collaboration particularly tough. But we gallantly take on this tough task, and the results are pretty spectacular. I talk with John Burk about teaching every single day. I am also part of an Innovative Teaching Collaborative where I share ideas and run lesson plans by a group of teachers outside my department. It’s hard for me to make that meeting, but the meeting exists, so I make sure to get there! In the physics classroom, John and I are always looking for better ways to do things, and to that end, we collaborate with teachers outside the school. For the past three years we have hosted a summer Physics Teachers Camp where ten of us from up and down the eastern seaboard spend four days immersed in physics fun (as well as create course materials and plan classes).

So this sounds perfect, right? Why doesn’t everyone want to teach at a boarding school? Well, it can also be hard. Evening study hall or dorm duty (usually once or twice a week), sports after classes, away games, advisee meetings, dinner duty (every third week) and weekend duty (every third weekend) make for a very, very busy life. Being with the students this much is actually amazing, since you get to know and understand them so much better than if you just interacted with them in the classroom. In addition, the students come to know and understand your life much better, as well. While this might sound overwhelming, it isn’t overwhelming on a continual basis, and there are the breaks! Rarely do we go more than five weeks without a long weekend or holiday. The stretch between fall long weekend and Thanksgiving this year was six and a half weeks, the longest uninterrupted stretch of school that I can ever remember. But then Thanksgiving holiday started on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and ended this Monday evening. A nine day break for Thanksgiving may seem like an unusual luxury, but such a break is necessary after six weeks of a boarding school schedule!

Hopefully this gives you a little more information about the job here at St. Andrew’s. We’d love to hear from you.


Written by Mark Hammond

2013/12/03 at 16:57

Posted in Uncategorized

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