Frustrations

Spring break was nice, but I spent a lot of it getting over a bad cold from the week before.  Mind you, I never get as much done as I plan.  I suppose this is just the problem with being an over confident optimist. So  I am still writing lectures for my chemistry courses just before giving them, which is very stressful.

Before Spring break I was worried about covering all the material by the end of the semester because I spent longer than scheduled on earlier information.  My thinking being that if my intro chemistry students cannot do basic algebra or my general chemistry students cannot do chemistry stoichiometry they are going to get totally lost when we move onwards and upwards into the wonders of chemistry.  Yesterday, I checked the timetable and, while we are behind the original timetable, it is  only by a lecture or so.   Next semester I change the timetable!

Finally, I thought I had graded everything that was submitted before  Spring break. Even the cat was being graded.  [He gets an A in attention seeking and an F in being really annoying while demanding attention. So he passes with a C.]  In the shower yesterday,  I realized that I had forgotten about my food science students’ essays.  Oops,  I must grade these by Wednesday afternoon.

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SBC09: Blogging for High School Science Classes

High School Science Blogging

I just got back from the Science Blogging Conference and here is a photograph from the best session I attended. These High School Students (and teacher) told us what they were up to in their Biology classes. In particular I found it interesting how they use the internet to communicate with each other and with the teacher.

It has given me much food for thought for my classroom, but unfortunately I think I need to teach them how to use Word and Excel before starting with a Twitter discussion group. I am hoping that e-learning (Blackboard) will help with teaching this semester.

There are more pictures from the different sessions I attended on Flickr.

Zen Quote Oct 2008

From my Zen Quote-a-Day from the month of September:

If the teaching doesn’t feel like it’s forcing something upon you, it is not good teaching.

Shunryu Suzuki

It remains me of one of my favorite quotes from JBS Haldane in the Introduction of Daedalus:

…it is the whole business of a university teacher to induce people to think.

Teaching Tuesdays: Starting Out (only a day late)

Now I’ve taught a whole week at my new County College (CC) I can make informed comparisons with my old Research University (RU).  The biggest differences is the number of contact hours and evening classes.

Previously,  I taught two courses a semester, and that was a lot for my department, with 7 – 8 credit hours depending whether the course had a laboratory or not.  Contact hours were more as I attended and taught every lab period.  Thus, one semester I had 9 contact hours (6 hours lecture and 3 hours lab) and the other semester I had fourteen contact hours (5 lecture hours and 9 lab hours) as food analysis had a double lab.  So far at CC I have three courses with release time for recruitment.  As one course does not have a lab that means I have fifteen contact hours – I should have eighteen.

I am teaching three evenings a week, whereas I never taught evenings at RU.  I actually quite like it except for the limitation on my social life.  I certainly prefer commuting at off-peak times.

As I taught an unpopular major at RU, most of my classes were small sometimes as few as 3 or 4 students, but often around 8-12.  I did teach one medium sized course which I set at 50 students after two years of trying to teach it with sixty-five students.  All my courses at CC are set at 24-26 students.  If they get more students, a new section will open.

Another major difference is that at CC I am contractually obliged to provide office hours – 5 h per week spread over three days. I’m doing slightly more than that as I am at work anyway.

Non Traditional Academic Careers

In a recent comment to one of my posts Flicka Mawa wrote:

Also, thanks for your comment on my post about less traditional science professor careers. If you have any blog posts that have already addressed your experiences around that, I’d love for you to direct me to them!

Which was in response to my comment on her post on non-traditional academic and research careers.  I haven’t written any posts about teaching at a community college because I do not start until the fall.  I have written about teaching in a research university (RU), and as some of my teaching in non-traditional, people may be interested in checking them out:

Food Chem Group Project Dilemma

Writing in the classroom

Grading

Fortunately at my RU, there were a number of faculty that were very supportive good teaching.  I excelled at this which is why I am excited to be starting at an institution where teaching is its central purpose.  I will post about my experiences as they come along.