Posted by: thediygeochemist | May 7, 2012


I don’t recall having senioritis in college. High school, yes, but not college. Because I’d screwed up my first two years so badly, I was intent on raising my GPA as high as possible before I graduated, and so I WORKED. But evidently not all college seniors felt the same.

Last week I taught Dr. Hand-Waver’s senior-level class. I’d been looking forward to this; prior to this I’d only taught freshman chem (which was a piece of cake) and a grad-level class (nerve-wracking, though I survived), so a class full of seniors–in between the two extremes–seemed like it would prove to be a happy medium.

Also, this time, Dr. HW let me pick my choice of topic. (Sort of. I got to choose from one of three.) That had never happened before. And, of course, I’d just wrapped up my course on college teaching and was eager to implement some of the tricks I’d learned.

So I worked on my first lecture a lot. I did everything I could to make it interesting and conducive to good learning.

And then I went into class. I had listened to them chatter before class and the gist of their conversation was that graduation was 2 weeks away and soon they would be done with school FOREVER and it was hard to care about things any more. Which might explain why, during my interesting (I thought) and very (supposedly) interactive lecture, I got nothing from them. I asked them questions that should have made them ponder: I got blank stares from most of them. Changing tactics, I asked them easy questions that most kindergarteners would know and they wouldn’t even meet my eyes. It was very frustrating, and I knew the following class wouldn’t be any easier.

So I went home determined to make the next lecture one that would keep them on their toes. I thought hard and remembered a demonstration I’d done for outreach that involved tossing tennis balls back and forth. I figured that might get them involved–it’s hard to look down when a tennis ball is coming straight at you! So I reworked my original outline to include this demonstration (which really did tie into the theme of the lesson), and I crossed my fingers.

And guess what? It really did work. They sat passively at first, but then the tennis balls started flying back and forth. And then we had an interesting discussion and they actually got into it.

Yay me!

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