Posted by: unlikelygrad | November 1, 2011

teaching for Dr. Hand-Waver

Yesterday I taught Dr. Hand-Waver’s grad class. This required a whole lot of prep time because I was supposed to be doing a review session. Thus, Dr. HW expected me to be able to answer any and all questions on 3 different problem sets, one set of practice problems, and one old quiz. She gave me all of this stuff on Thursday afternoon, which meant I had three days to work all of these problems.

I did very well in her class when I took it 2 years ago, but that was…well, two years ago. It took me two or three hours of reading and doing preliminary problems before I felt comfortable enough to actually start the first problem set. All in all, it was a lot of work.

Teaching the class was quite fun, of course, because I love teaching. (I was also dressed up for Halloween, which added to the general sense of amusement.) I tried to coax them to work issues out themselves instead of doing it all for them. I tried to convey to them (and I think I succeeded) that the primary battle in solving problems in aquatic chemistry was choosing which factors you could safely neglect, because in any given system there are probably hundreds of factors at a time.

For the most part, teaching the class went well. However, I noticed that they were like my former undergrad students in one respect…Having gone through a couple of problems on the last problem set as well as the entire old quiz, I asked if there was anything else they wanted me to cover.

“No, we’re good.”

“What about the practice problem set she gave you?”

“We don’t need help with that: she gave us the answers.”

I told them that she’d given us the same practice problems, with answers, in my year; and that I’d had trouble with the problems just the same. Because she’d only given the ANSWERS, not a solution set that told you how to get them. Needless to say, I told them very firmly to go home and TRY the practice problems, and to contact me today if they had any issues.

I’ve been in my office for two hours now, and I’ve already had a quarter of the class in here trying to figure out where they went wrong…



  1. what a bunch of dummies, you were there and willing to work the problems with them. Ugh dullards.

  2. I remember doing that as an undergrad. And then I learned quickly that it was best to come with questions. Hopefully these grad students have finally learned their lesson!

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