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  • Writer's pictureNadia Lym

Teaching is challenging, yet rewarding

March 30, 2019

It’s been a while here. I am very busy this semester. Who would think that I am taking a Spanish 101 class right now as a Ph.D. student? Being in a language class reminds me of when I first learned English. It’s challenging, yet rewarding.

Taking a Spanish class is not the only reason why I do not have time at all this semester: I am teaching a lab section for an intro to geology class. This class covers all basic topics about geology, including earthquakes, glaciers, rocks, and more. I am most interested in climate topics, so teaching this class is not an easy task for me. I need to relearn what I already forgot.

We normally meet once a week for 2 hours. Since this is the first time our main professor teaches the class, I have to help him design lab activities as well as homework for the class. My lab section has 27 people and most of them are people who study in non-science majors. This adds up the challenges.

I want to be a good teacher. My goal for teaching this semester is not just to teach them. I want them to become interested in the topics and see the connection between geology and real-life. Although these goals sound simplistic, to make it happen is another story.

Two big lessons I have learned while I am teaching the class. First, you cannot satisfy everyone and you cannot force them to do so, especially in a big group like this. For example, some groups said I taught them too slowly. Another group said I taught them too quickly. Since this is a basic geology class, people who have some background in geology will think this class is easy, and vice versa. However, I also learned that communication is key. As long as I explain why I have to teach them this way, they will appreciate it in the end. Second, remembering students’ names is crucial for me to connect them on a deeper level. I found that calling students by names makes them feel more comfortable in the class and have more courage to ask me questions both in the class and emails. I was once an undergraduate student and I know how special I would feel if a TA or a professor in my class remembered my name. You will become more approachable if you do so…..and it has been proven: once I remembered their names, they became more relaxed and engaging in the classroom.

Teaching is tiring. However, your students can see the effort that you put in and they will appreciate that.

To me, it is rewarding when you started to see them participate more in the class. I love that I could help them learn the topics that they might not be familiar with before. It gives me courage and energy back to what I am believing in and what I am doing now.

After the end of this semester, I will be in Peru for a month, Thailand for two weeks, and Colorado for ~three weeks. I would miss teaching them geology topics, but I am glad that I once taught them geology.

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