Monday 30 September 2013

Two weeks down at The Institute

Friday was a short one because I was able to pack up my kit and light out of The Institute at 10 minutes to 4.  I still had two batches of lab books to mark, but the deadline was "close of business" on the day after the lab practical and 70 minutes kicking my heels waiting for any stragglers who might turn stuff in was too much.  So I was outta there!

I've been able to hold on to my two lecture courses - Human Physiology and Environmental Chemistry - but the rest of my hours are in practical sections in courses which are totally different from what I taught last academic year.  So there is going to be more "well chaps let's learn how to do this together". That is probably a much better learning experience for the students than having the local expert in charge.  So I've been learning more stuff - or re-learning it after a 30 year gap which is effectively the same thing.  And it's a joy to be working with young people who are clearly much more competent than me in at least some aspects of science.  When I couldn't get the lid of the autoclave (fancy pressure-cooker for sterilising microbiological media) off after it cooled down to 95oC, one of my students helpfully pointed out that opening the pressure valve would relieve the airlock - and it was so. I've been terrified of pressure-cookers ever since my mother told us kids about the lid of one blowing off in a neighbour's kitchen and disappearing through the ceiling. So it was nice to know that someone in the room understood them. I'd taught half of this class last year and one of them remarked that story was like the one I'd told in March about the arm of an unbalanced ultra-centrifuge accelerating through the side of the machine at 10000 km/s² and going through a concrete-block wall, which happened in my old English workplace a year after I left. Those stories may quite possibly be the only information she can remember about the course in 20 years time.

Apart from boning up the science to be at least 12 hours ahead of the students, I've been hard at work learning the names of all the new faces.  Not all the faces are new: my Bio 2C group which I had for two different classes last year has emerged from their summer crysalis as half of Bio 3B (N=14) and half of Bio 3C (N=16); and half of my Quantitative Methods Mixed Group 3 have become my final year Environmental Chemistry class (N=10).  But I have six sections of first years, so I definitely haven't met any of them before: Biology 1A(N=13); Biology 1B (N=16), Quant Meth 1C (N=12); Quant Meth 1D (N=18); Cell Bio 1A (N=12), Cell Bio 1B (N=18).  That's close to 130 people to meet, suss out and  remember the names of.  I'm about 25% solid on the last task. I'm hoping that Institute Central will have the class photos up on-line early next week so I can nail the rest of the names. 

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