Monday, January 23, 2006

Teacher as performer

It comes back to the same idea of teacher as performer. Overheard someone in the coffee shop talking about a really good prof - one who had him on the edge of his seat, wanting to be the one picked to answer a question. You've gotta think - "wow, how does he do that?"

The first excuse that comes to mind is both simple, easy and lazy. "Oh, it must be because he gets to teach classes on exciting, controvertial topics", or "oh, he has an upper level class with a more engaged student body". And then you think about last semester, and you realise that no, it's your own fault. You had the chance, and although it was your first semester (for one of the classes), you just didn't get into the things that would have really engaged them. Sure, if it were my class I could make it more exciting...

Well, I pretty much "own" my sections of General Botany. How do you make cells and cell division exciting? How do you manage to engage them? Well, let's see - what is tomorrow all about? Cells and microscopy. Not very exciting, you say. And you are somewhat correct in the position. But that's really just lazy thinking. You need to ask the question "what can I do to make the material more exciting?" But there I am stumped. How do I excite people about plant cells? Simply being excited about the material isn't really good enough.

What is the consistency of a cell? Solid, liquid, gas, solution or colloid? Not very exciting - but you can make it engaging. Cytoplasmic streaming is always cool, if I can get them to see it clearly enough. And how does vinegar affect the cell? Well, it denatures the protein. So I need to introduce them to the idea of proteins, and how pH affects the structure of a protein. I suppose that might be the right place to start - after I get them looking at the Elodea leaves, hopefully.

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