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Don’t Fall Off the Physics Bus!

Group 1 020My kids attended Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama, where their wonderful physics teacher started off every school year with his infamous warning: Don’t fall off the physics bus!

He was playfully reminding students that physics is a cumulative subject, in which you’ve got to make sure and master the material all along the way.

If you don’t thoroughly understand and gain fluency in each chapter, especially the early ones, you won’t have built up the foundation of knowledge and skills needed to handle the later material. Month after month, chapter after chapter, that physics bus will keep on rolling down the physics road, and if you fall off you’ll have a heck of a time catching up with it.

As the school year wore on, you could hear the cries on campus: I’ve fallen off the physics bus!… Ooohhh, I’ve been run over by the physics bus…

At this point in the school year it’s not too late to hurry up and get back on board that physics bus (or the algebra bus, the Spanish bus, the calculus bus, the chemistry bus…)

Here’s what to do:

  • Pay attention in class and take notes. Don’t give up just because you feel lost; absorb everything you can while in class and trust that it will fall into place soon.
  • Read your textbook, even if the teacher doesn’t assign it, even if it’s boring, even if it’s confusing.
  • Do all your homework, every night, to the best of your ability, and pay careful attention and take notes when your teacher reviews it in class.
  • Go back to the beginning. You will need to carve out extra time to go back to Chapter One and read each section and do or re-do the homework. Usually this isn’t as bad as it sounds because you will have learned something by now and the early chapters may feel surprisingly, reassuringly, easy.
  • Get help. Meet with your teacher, get a tutor, go on Khan Academy, search YouTube for videos (there are tons out there!), study with a (reliable, studious, serious-minded) friend.
  • Get some support. Parents can help by creating regular study times and sitting down next to students to offer encouragement, read chapters together, help figure out examples step-by-step, etc. There is much a parent can do to help, even if he or she doesn’t know the subject material.
Don’t Fall Off the Physics Bus!

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS is an educator, counselor, writer and speaker. She's been a tutor, test prep coach and home school teacher for over thirty years. Click HERE to visit Leigh's website and to subscribe to her newsletter, "Learning Something New."

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APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2014). Don’t Fall Off the Physics Bus!. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Nov 2014
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