Monday, October 25, 2004

The semester so far

This semester has been the busiest I've ever had. I've been working insane hours (just ask my SO), seem to always be running behind schedule, and haven't been eating well (I have about 10 minutes for lunch most days, and sometimes skip it entirely). But, even though there have been a number of problems, this has been the most enjoyable semester of teaching I've ever had.

This is the first semester where I've known, to the day, exactly how far we are through the course (week 9, day 1, out of 16 weeks total). I only have three lab sections and one lecture section, but the problem is that each lab section meets twice a week for three hours each meeting, so I have two new lab preps each week. Considering that I'm writing more than half of the labs completely from scratch, and at least another quarter of the labs are brand new to me, just getting the labs ready for the students entails a lot of work. Combine this with all-new lectures, many of them covering material I've never lectured on before, and some of them covering material I've never even learned before, and we have a recipe for stress (hey, maybe that could be the next end-of-the-week recipe blogging post ...).

The course has been going very well overall; I have almost no drops (<10% so far), attendance has been spectacular, and the students appear to be truly enjoying the labs we're doing. It's invigorating to walk into a classroom full of people who actually want to do the labs, and who want to hear what I'm talking about in lecture. We recently started a long-term plant-rearing experiment, and a number of groups went out on their own time and spent their own money to buy additional supplies to improve their experiments.

Teaching this course has also been fun because, for the first time in my teaching career, I have complete control over how both the lecture and lab are taught (I wrote the official course outline, and am currently the only instructor for the course). I'm finally able to teach what I've always wanted to teach, in the style that I want to teach it in. This is rarer at a community college than you might think, primarily because all of our biology courses have to articulate with equivalent courses at the universities our students are transferring to, which limits our course design possibilities.

I feel guilty saying this, but I can't wait for this semester to end. I love the group of students that I have right now, and I love the course, but I can't keep up this pace much longer. These past three weeks have been especially crazy because I'm teaching content that I'm learning on the fly with my students, and thus my lecture prep time has skyrocketed. Most of my past lectures have been completed less than an hour before I gave them, with very little time to go over the slides looking for errors or focusing on flow. To make matters worse, in the next few weeks my tenure evaluation committee will be visiting my lectures.

So, in summary, I'm having the time of my life, but it's a relief to know that we're finally in week nine, and that I have more behind me than ahead of me. I think I might just be able to do this after all ...

No comments: