Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playing catch-up

So, what's been going on in the real world?

Yeah, I've been out of touch recently. I keep thinking that, as I check something off my to-do list, a magical block of free time will appear. Not so much. Take this weekend, for instance.

We got a very localized track of lake effect snow over my house Saturday morning. The snowfall totals were about 6 inches for our area. Meanwhile, Hiram got nothing. I knew there would be no snow cancellations this weekend, so I packed up about 10:30 and started the drive out to Hiram.

Once I got out of our neck of the woods, it wasn't bad. I got there about 11:45 and headed to the Weekend College office. And I sat there for a while. I had to finalize the paperwork, get my computer account, and generally get briefed on the basics. By the time all was done, it was about 12:45. I had just enough time to run over to my lecture room (where I found out the projection screen was broken and my laptop wouldn't project) and the lab (which was locked). I then had to head back over to the Weekend College office for emergency response training.

Class was scheduled to start at 2--at 1:45, I was just leaving the training. No one was available to help with my technical difficulties, so I was trying to feverishly come up with plan B. Thankfully, my undergrad TA showed up. He was able to get the projection screen to work while I loaded my presentation on another computer. Disaster averted!!

The actual class was. . . ok. I was both more and less prepared than I needed to be. I had planned out my lecture on slides, estimating how long each topic would take. For instance, I gave them a National Geographic article to read in class. It took me seven minutes to read, so I gave them 20. It took half an hour, by which time I just told them to break into small groups and discuss. They actually really liked the article and the discussion, so I wish I had planned to make that a bigger part.

On the other hand, I apparently expected too much from their math. I had a slide on converting percent to parts per million. I figured we'd spend five minutes on it--we'd walk through a few problems and be good. Not so much. Multiplying and dividing by factors of ten was nearly impossible for them. After half an hour, I just cut it off--I said they need to understand why we use ppm for small amounts instead of saying something like 0.00005%. I had slides later in the lecture to talk about scientific notation--I cut that out entirely.

I think the class likes the chemistry concepts part, but they are petrified of the science. And with only having seven classes, I don't have the luxury of spending an entire class on balancing equations. Plus, with classes being (generally) every two weeks apart, there is too much time without a class if they don't understand a concept.

What this means is that a lot of the basic chemistry may have to be lost. We talked about elements, compounds, and mixtures--and that took a while. I introduced chemical equations, but there's no way we have time to spend on balancing anything more than the most basic ones. And forget about half reactions!

I know that the syllabus says chemistry will only be introduced as needed to explain concepts, but I feel like if this is a class taught in the chemistry department, there should be some science.

And I was nervous about getting chemistry questions that I wouldn't be able to answer. Turns out I got a lot more questions about things like, "Is there such a thing as clean coal?" That means I need to prepare differently than I had anticipated.

Overall though, the students are good, and I think lab went much better than I expected. The class really got into the experiments. That will be a plus. I've got to prep for next week, but I'm hoping things will get easier as time goes on.

Of course, my Saturday was tanked--I was gone from before 11 to after 9. Sunday I ran errands, and we visited both Tim's and my family. I also helped my sister with her intro organic chem stuff--that was more along the lines of what I thought I would be teaching!

Yesterday was insane in lab. I was doing rat surgery all day, and there was a bit of drama with ordering and assays that I had to manage between surgeries, seminars, and experiment prep. We worked it out, but it was tense for a while. Last night I was trying to catch up on bills and paperwork. And tonight, we are supposed to get another big snowstorm.

I know I say it every January, but why do I still live in Cleveland? I hate snow! And I swear, we've had above average snowfalls every year for the last ten years. Cleveland's annual snowfall is about 60 inches a year. Meanwhile, we've been over that, with three of the top five snowfalls coming since 2002. Umm, if we have winters (like 2004-2005) with almost 120 inches of snow, doesn't that mean we should get one without snow, in order to average out?

And this winter has been extremely cold in addition to being snowy. Ick. Seriously, I need a break from winter driving (or at least something that handles better than my little Civic).

Anyway, with another big snow headed our way, I'm trying to make sure I'm regularly stocked with food. I didn't make it out last night, and it sounds like tonight might be iffy, but we should be able to make it to Thursday ok.

I'm teaching this Saturday (the make-up for the snow day), and then I've got a class the Saturday after, but I actually have a free weekend on Feb. 14th. Hooray! Maybe I'll sleep in or do something relaxing...

I do still have pictures and other things to update, but it may take a day or two. I am working on it though!

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