Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Confessions from a Freshman Chemistry adjunct

I was hired on a Thursday to start teaching the following Monday on a subject I hadn't seen in nearly twenty years. Not only did I not have the book that I was to lecture from, I didn't even know it's title. I searched youtube for "how to teach college chemistry" for some ideas. I asked my PI if he had any random notes or an old syllabus left over from when he taught at MIT. He laughed at me a little..and then probably a lot when he walked out of the lab.
Two nights before I was to greet the class, I received one of my most favorite emails. It was a complete set of lecture notes, quizzes and exams from the professor (who was on sabbatical) that I was replacing. AHA! Start with the atom! Makes sense right?
I had no idea what I was getting into.
At first, I was spending about 4 hours of prep time for every lecture. I would read the sections carefully, then type lengthy notes, then read my notes and make handwritten notes in the margins. I would re-read them before the class and then breath a sigh of relief at the end of each lecture.
As time went on, I was able to spend less time on the prep. My notes deteriorated into bullet points which quickly fell by the wayside. Ultimately, I ended up zeroxing the book and jotting a couple notes in the margins. No one could ever accuse me of throwing material at them that they couldn't find!
Even with my reduced prep time, it was still quite a bit of work, but it was full of rich rewards. In fact, I'm reaping them now as I dole out the grades that the students earned on their final for the second semester. I feel a little like Santa as I hand each one out..only I'm a skinny little beardless girl and the kids worked extremely hard for these presents!
I'm already nostalgic for my days as Professor Painter and I haven't even turned in my key. If I could have multiple careers I would choose this one in a heartbeat. I loved the students, I loved watching them love science. I loved office hours, their minds opened up right in front me. I was hired on a Thursday to start learning the following Monday. I think I learned more than they did.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story to remind yourself of when you someday feel you have grown weary of stale with your teaching or have taken those fresh young minds for granted. Great job Professor!