The first class of Intro Biology was yesterday and perhaps I was a bit too … familiar.
I’ve been teaching this class for a number of semesters now and my preparation time has gone down to a minimum – not to say that I don’t prepare, in fact, I prepare quite a lot. That said, I think more about what major concepts I want to get across during a class and don’t worry as much about the small stuff. Because the first day doesn’t have that much to it anyway, I know I could have structured my day a little better.
Instead, I may have come on fairly strong – piping at full steam under the power of a towering cup of cafe americano.
Here’s the structure of Day 1:
Sign in, pick up packets and go through the syllabus.
I also spend some time showing off the iBook I put together as a student handbook and explain how these will all be available as interactive software on the school’s iPads (oooohhh. – I think I was the only one impressed)
That is biology? – The study of life.
What is it to be alive? – Harder to put into words than you would guess.
But it can be estimated by a series of characteristics and something called Cell Theory.
And Cell Theory, by the way, is one of the central concepts of biology.
What are the others?
Germ theory – some micro-organisms cause some diseases (a direct derivative of cell theory) Can be demonstrated by following Koch’s Postulates. Discuss some examples and then shelf – Germ Theory is the focus of my entire microbiology class, we don’t discuss it much in general bio after the first couple days.
The Central Dogma – DNA –> RNA –> Protein
Information –> molecules that carry out work
Inheritance and Evolution – How is information passed from one generation to the next. How do the mechanics of this work and what does that demonstrate about the history of life.
Follow up with how science is actually nothing but a systematized way of asking questions of nature – play an excerpt from the Mischel’s Marshmallow’s episode of the RadioLab podcast (http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2009/mar/09/mischels-marshmallows/). I cut off right after Jonah Lehrer cuts in saying that the difference in SAT scores is 200 pts+ for kids who can exhibit self control at an early age. Then we talk about what the question was, what the data was, how it was interpreted and what subsequent hypotheses can be suggested.
Actually, it all sounds quite reasonable here, but I might have just presented it a bit too frenetically. I actually get so excited about teaching that I have trouble containing myself. Especially after a whole summer of having no ‘audience’ – I need my stage-time!
So that was day 1. I’m only teaching one section this semester and I’m realizing that it’s not enough! Damn. They offered me more and I refused it. Ughhh. Well, the life of an adjunct. If they’d offer me a fulltime position it would be different.
An aside: There is a part of me that agrees with my former mentor’s philosophy that if you come down on them and make the class a challenge right out of the gate, then you never have to deal with the chaff at all and you get nothing but the best students coming back.
There’s another part of me that thinks (perhaps unjustly) that, “yes -but you’re teaching ivy league students taking advanced immunology. I’m teaching a intro biology to a jr. college class.”