Friday, September 16, 2016

A Joy of Teaching

One of the sad ironies of modern education is that the more expert you become in your field, the harder you have to work to be able to get in front of a classroom. It comes as no surprise.  Our primary role (mine is 80%) is research, leaving only 20% for teaching, and that is mostly satisfied by direct supervision of graduate students. 

I'm also a full-time administrator, so that takes the rest of my time.  I get to do a lot of guest lectures and teach about 25% of a graduate course in the area of sensory biology and biochemical signal transduction. 

This semester I had a problem.  A scientist on the faculty here was serving in Washington with NSF.  He taught undergraduate molecular biology, a key course for many students.  

There is no possible way that I should have taken on teaching an undergraduate course.
But wow, I'm so glad I did. 

While I should never have done it, I jumped at the chance to teach his course, and ended up teaching the first third of it.  

It was a pleasure to talk about the fundamentals of DNA and RNA, about basic biochemistry and the techniques and methods that shape our foundation of modern biotechnology. 

They were a quiet class.  It was at 8:30 in the morning and that might have something to do with it. 

Yesterday I gave them the exam.  It was my last time with them.

As they turned in their exams something very unusual happened. 

I'd say about half of them held out their hand for a handshake and said thank you. 

I have to always remember that day.  Opportunities to share science are frequent, and they take tremendous time, preparation and effort. 

This time I got the feeling that it was truly appreciated, and maybe those efforts made a difference.