The anticipation is always the worst...

Well! I had my first class last night, and all things considered I think it went pretty well. I went by to observe the early afternoon section, just to get a feel for how to kick things off with the right tone. It made me feel a lot better. However, as I was standing in the back of the lab, I noticed that quite a few of the students were surfing the web- bidding on ebay auctions, downloading iTunes music, and what have you. This made me wonder: How do I prevent that from happening in my own lab section?

I gave a brief introduction then let the librarian give her 30 minute lesson; after she was finished, I continued on with the lab. First order of business: Introduce myself; then, go over safety; skim through the syllabus; and finally get down to the experiment of the day. I asked them if they wanted me to go over the details of the lab or if they'd rather just get to it. I was met with thunderous silence and 16 blank stares, so I decided to let them just get to work.

Big mistake. Any experienced educators out there are probably laughing at my naivete right now.

Lesson #1: No matter how many times you tell them to do it, most of them will not read the experimental protocol in advance. To save yourself the trouble later, go over it with them now.

I often had to check my notes; it was the most basic questions that were hardest to answer. Sometimes, it was hard enough just to figure out what they were asking me. They'd point to a test tube and say "Why is this/ isn't this blue/brown/clear?" At which point I'd have to figure out what "this" was.

Lesson #2: Know the protocol, so when they ask how to do something I can give them the textbook answer. (Not that my answers were wrong- they just weren't the way it was written in the book).

To make sure they were focused, I just kept circulating around. I spent some time trying to learn their names. I earned a nickname, my one syllable last name getting shortened down to a single letter... but that's cool. Cool athlete in the front row thinks he is buttering me up, but I noticed that he skipped out without finishing the last part of the experiment, telling me "I can assume that the results will be XYZ". Next week, we'll start of the class by reviewing how often the results came out the expected way (0%) and how often it was more ambiguous (100%). It's amazing how quickly you can get a feel for the potential of each student.

Lesson #3: Eat dinner before class starts so you don't get a pounding headache halfway through.

We got through it, for the most part. They are new in lab... and I mean brand new. I had forgotten that. And I am in new at teaching. So we are all learning together.


Lisa said...

OK, I wasn't laughing but I think, like you said, all students are the I'd say give them the directions. Then reprhrase the directions, then paraphrase the directions then have someone repeat the directions...then let them start. And you'll still get lots of questions, but maybe not quite as many blank stares! You are already learning though!