So, in the end, what have I learned? Some well-duh sort of platitudes have been made apparent to me.
- “You never really learn something until you have to teach it.” And as I discovered, especially if you’ve never had a class on the subject to be exposed to it in the first place. Some of my lectures were just brutal to prep.
- “Teaching will take all the time you have to give it.” And then some, at least the first time through. (And I thought research was bad). (10:28 second student finishes)
- “Teaching is rewarding in its own way.” At first it just felt like a hell of a lot of work, but as I got to know the students and they opened up to me, it has become rewarding. A couple of them have told me that I did a good job teaching (no sweeter words) and that I brought a lot of enthusiasm for the material. One asked me whether I was teaching the next course in the sequence this fall (but then again, maybe she just wanted to avoid me).
- “Students will hate you for the math.” This class asks for some simple algebra, unit conversions, and to help with the unit conversions, scientific notation. Now my math education was a bit unconventional, but I recall those topics being middle school or early high school level. And this is a college science course. (MY 14 YEAR OLD STUDENT HAS HIS BINDER OPEN IN PLAIN VIEW ON HIS DESK. He doesn’t have it open to any notes though, he’s failing the class anyways (he insists he is just auditing it, but I don’t see it that way when I look at the official class list), and I really don’t feel like confronting him about it.)
- “Students will push you, so you better draw a line in the sand in the beginning.” My syllabus says that papers will not be accepted late without prior approval and even with prior approval they will be docked 20% per day. In practice this has become, papers are docked 20% per day late. And yet, I still had a student argue with me that my watch must be fast because he knows he had the paper in my mailbox at 12:59 and the papers weren’t due until 1 pm. I didn’t budge an inch. In fact my watch is slow and I picked up the papers at 1:05 pm. And it didn’t help the student’s case that he is perennially late for everything (30 minutes late for the final for instance) and always has a new elaborate excuse for each instance of tardiness. I feel I have been more than fair and flexible for him, but his inability to get things in on time has single handedly lowered his grade from an A to a B (so far). (10:47 am – 5 students left out of 12 – I’d say they’ll probably be here until the end. – and much to my gratitude the student who arrived 30 minutes late is still intently hunched over his paper.)