Thursday, February 14, 2008

Biology 101: Introductions

It has begun! I have 22 students in my section of biology 101 for non-majors. Our course takes places MWF at a small liberal arts college in North Carolina. Hold onto your seats as I document the breathtaking peaks and gut-wrenching valleys of this herculean journey through biology education.

Lecture 2
On the first day of class almost all of the students were seated ten minutes early. This time they are early again. Maybe students are on time to class because the campus is small. As I stand around waiting for class to begin my most talkative student asks, "Where are you from?"

Me: Utah

Students: Whoa!! What's in Utah? Why are you in North Carolina?

Me: I don't know, mountains? They had a good program.
(Various murmurs about skiing.)

Students: Do you ski?

Me: No.

Students: What!?! You lived in Utah and you never skied? How about snowboarding?

Me: Nope.

Talkative student: So are you Mormon?
(Murmurs of "that's kind of personal" from other students.)

Me: Yes.

I can't remember where the discussion went next. I give the class their first reading quiz. The class averages 3.2 out of 5 points.

Lecture 3 (before class)

Talkative student: So, are Mormons allowed to have piercings?

(Is that a random question or what? You're supposed to ask me about not drinking or something like that.)

Me: We're encouraged not to-well, I guess girls can have their ears pierced-but no one is going to throw you out of the church if you do.

Other student: Whoa, so does that mean you went and did . . . what's it called where you go for two years?

Me: A mission. Yeah, I was a missionary for my church for two years in South Korea.

Talkative: So, would you say you are really religious?

Me: I think most people would think I was.

Talkative: Does it interfere with your life?

Me: I don't know, I mean it kind of is my life so it doesn't really interfere.

I can't remember where the discussion went next but we start class and I give them their second quiz smackdown. They do better this time scoring an average of 3.8 out of 5 points.


  1. Dude this is intense stuff. It gets me pumped to go teach my lecture class in a couple of hours.

  2. Mat, this is my first lecture course and I am getting worked. Labs were a lot easier.

    What are you teaching?

  3. I taught my first two undergraduate lectures this week. I taught a whole master's-level class last year, and the undergrads are effing tough in comparison. I'm only getting participation from the turfgrass major. Turfgrass management is apparently a major here at Texas Tech, which is awesome. But without other participation (or consciousness, in some cases) from anyone else, I feel like a bad comic telling really bad jokes for 75 minutes.

    I was pretty disturbed by the students (that's plural) who fell asleep. Should I have everyone stand up and do jumping jacks every 20 minutes? Hmm, that's not a bad idea. Maybe I could have them do a whole 10 minute calisthenic workout, while I step out for a soda. I could use it, this class practically puts me to sleep.

  4. I haven't put anyone to sleep yet--but then again I'm not teaching economics. (We have turfgrass majors here at NC State too.) My class is only 55 minutes so it's not quite as long. I set a timer that goes off 30 minutes into class so I can have everyone stand up and take a break for a minute.

    I agree on the lame jokes comment. I make little jokes/asides here and there and I have about a 25% or lower chuckle rate. I just have to get used to the idea that I'm not cool/funny to my students--because everyone else LOVES me and thinks everything I say is GOLDEN.

  5. Wow, we're ALL teaching college classes! Sweet. I, myself am teaching intro to directing here in Provo, and I swear the theater kids are just a bit scared of me.

    I get the dead-eyed looks and sleeping faces as well, and I even show film clips, what else do these kids want!

    This is my second time teaching this class, so it's reasonably smooth this time. I had six kids in spring who got shafted a bit because I was just getting my sea legs and the course was a little bumpy...

    And I don't get any Mormon questions, all though it would be fun to BLOW THEIR MINDS with something like this...

    Kids: So do you drink alcohol?

    Me: No, if fact I've never even TASTED alcohol!

    Kids: (Minds totally blown) Whoa...

  6. ok, so what IS a turfgrass major??

  7. I think their primary function in life is to keep golf courses looking green.

  8. Everything my friends from North Carolina tell me about Raleigh seems to be true.