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Posts Tagged ‘jeopardy’

I am attending graduate school with a teaching assistantship, which means I have to TA two classes every semester. This year, I’ve been teaching the Intro to Physical Geology Lab. So here are my three words:

I enjoy teaching.

For years I’ve been claiming that I could never enjoy teaching. It’s my primary motivation for not going after a PhD. I have an enormous appreciation for people who do teach. The world needs people like that, as many as possible. I just never considered myself one of them.

But let me be clear.

I enjoy teaching, so long as it’s geology, at the college level. I couldn’t teach children (they terrify me, and honestly I find them rather boring), or high school students (living through that experience once was enough for me). But geology is something I’m quite fond of, and rather passionate about. If I can inspire at least one student in a class to pursue geology, I consider my job well done.

I recently finished teaching our Winter Session geology 101 lab course (winter session is a 3-week intensive version of the normal semester course; the students have lab every day rather than once a week), so I thought I would write this before I change my mind about how I feel about teaching (the atmosphere of the regular semester is a bit different than winter session, and yes, I’ve started writing blog posts in advance).

This new revelation could just be a result of teaching winter session. These particular students are (in general) more motivated – they don’t HAVE to be here and take a class during the month of January. It’s completely optional – but it’s a quick way to get general undergraduate requirements out of the way.

On the other hand, now that I’ve taught these labs three times, I think it’s actually pretty fun. I feel confident imparting my geology knowledge on the next generation. Sure, the vast majority of them will never think about geology again when they leave my classroom, but it’s extremely rewarding when students do well, take notes when I’m talking, and get excited when they get a question right during a test review game of “Geopardy.” (If you’re a teacher and you want to find a Jeopardy game template, www.jeopardylabs.com is great for that).

And sometimes, I manage to recruit a new geologist. Spring semester classes started a couple days ago and I happened to run into one of my students on her way to her next geology class, and she seemed pretty excited about it. Even if she’s the only student I manage to inspire during my time here, it will be worth it.

While I find I enjoy teaching geology 101 in general, there are many reasons this will not be my career path. For every great student, there is another who is completely on the other end of the spectrum. I don’t get disappointed when students try and get something wrong. What bothers me is when they don’t try at all, or when they expect me to hold their hands and take pity on them when they haven’t put in the time or effort. That’s when things get frustrating and disappointing. It’s astonishing how many students don’t want to stop for a minute and think, exercise their brains.

So, my experience with teaching for half a year has been quite the roller coaster, and my appreciation for those who choose to teach (and aren’t forced into it like I am) has grown considerably. To all those teachers out there, know that you are appreciated, truly.

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