Monday, November 9, 2009

An inspirational class... finally!

The class that I have been frustrated with just got better! We have moved on to our third and final professor, and I am excited and motivated once again. I felt guilty for not really caring about the last section, the professor was an incredibly impressive scientist, who had been teaching this course for decades. I wanted to be the mature grad student who grasped fully how lucky we were to learn from this legend, and take in all I could. Instead, I was frustrated that he was no longer an effective educator, and his past accomplishments didn't seem all that relevant. When a class takes up half a day (commuting to a different school) it is frustrating when it doesn't seem like you're getting much out of it.

Today, however was different, and I think it came down to the craft of the educator. I sort of thought when I left teaching that making things fun and exciting was an important skill for a middle school (and high school) teacher, but that college professors were sort of above that, especially when it came to graduate level classes. Today I changed my mind. It could be that I have the bias of someone who is new to the subject, and that while my classmates have more background this particular style really resonated with me because of the novelty. The main thing I came away with was that this specific topic (prokaryotic cellular membranes) is important, interesting, and maybe even... fun? I keep coming back to my teaching experience, because more than anything that was what I wanted my students to think at the end of my classes; that science = cool.

This professor used analogy, talking about our classroom as if it were a cell to illustrate size and scales that are difficult to conceptualize and telling us he was going to try to get us to thing like a bacteria. He ran across the room, did little dances, and at the same time kept me frantically taking notes the whole time because he was teaching fairly complicated material. I know that this was his introduction, and I am betting that things will get more "serious" next class, but I am enthralled... at least for now.

Lesson of the day: Effective teaching methods apply at all levels, "higher" ed is no exception.

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