Tuesday, August 31, 2004

First teaching day is done, along with some IMing

I gave my first lecture of the semester this afternoon, and after that had a great lab, even though setup for it finished barely before the lab started. Both class periods went exceptionally well, complete with lots of student participation, so it was an invigorating start to the semester. One big change from last semester was that I didn't have many petitioners, most likely because this is the first time my course has ever been offered. The old equivalent course (Zoology, which will be phased out) is still being offered, so I suspect most students just registered for that one even though we're now advertising my course as the one biology majors should take after cell biology.

I'm in the same lecture hall I was in last semester, but have 100 fewer students, so the atmosphere was friendly and unimposing, which was nice. I'm looking forward to having a smaller class again (though I never thought I'd describe a class of 60 as small).

As I've mentioned in the past, I use instant messengers to communicate with my students while I'm in the office; last semester I had more than 150 individual conversations over IM with students. However, I'm now discovering an unanticipated benefit: some students are keeping in touch long-term via IM. I've already had four instant messaging discussions with students so far this semester, and all of them have been with students from prior years.

This evening a student from nearly 3 years ago IM'd me just to chat. Back then I was teaching non-majors biology at another college in another state, so without IM's it's quite unlikely I would have ever heard from her again. This student was a returning student who was just beginning an elementary education program, and she's now about to start her teaching internship, so we chatted about the stresses of teaching preparation. Her daughter-in-law is now taking the same class I had this student in, and she wished I was still teaching there so her daughter-in-law could have me as an instructor. It was a great way to end a very good day.

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