So last Sunday night whilst the rest of my flat were having predrinks before heading out, I sat in amongst the the merry party goers planning my lesson for the next day. The next morning I was again extremely nervous. I was drying my hair and pouring over my notes, convinced that I knew absolutely nothing. Why on earth had I volunteered to teach, I don’t know things! Not entirely unsure if I was reacting or not, I headed into school. First positive event in the experience, I managed to find the classroom okay! But the next thing I know I’m in the classroom and the teacher is saying she’ll just sit in the corner and do some marking, and she’s really excited to learn from somebody who is learning from experts in the field, and I’m standing in front of a group of expectant advanced highers with a whiteboard pen in my hand and my head has gone completely blank.
But it was fine, I took a deep breath, read over my notes and started talking. And it actually went quite well. I knew more than I thought I did. It sounds silly to say but it really showed me the depth and extent of the knowledge I’ve gained since starting university.
The tutorial was on biochemistry so we started of by going over polysaccharides, condensation reactions and glycosidic links. It turns out the class wasn’t aware that they had to memorise the chemical structures of glucose and demonstrate what happens in a condensation reaction. What I thought would take about 20mins ended up taking the whole lesson. At the end of it though everyone knew how to answer the question, and understood the concept behind the question. I felt a bit more confident in my teaching skills at this point.
Occasionally I struggled to read the students, they would nod when I asked them if they understood but I wasn’t always entirely convinced. The teacher soon cottened on to this and suggested they each write out the concepts I was trying to get them to understand. When this happened I think the students themselves realised the gaps in their own knowledge, wherein the teacher and I could go round the room and help fill them in.
After a short break I came back for a second class, this time I went over lipids, tryglycerols, phoshpolipids and steroids. This was much less complicated than the polysaccharides as the students themselves did not have to memorise the chemical structures.
The teacher came up to me at the end of the lesson and mentioned how exhausting it could be standing in front of a class, something I hadn’t noticed until the moment she said it!
We agreed that I would briefly go over the contents of the cellular biology NAB that the students have to do the following week on the Friday. So my preparation was to go over the NAB myself and plan a brief revision session around the content of it!
I left on Monday much more confident with my own ability to explain things, and with an insight of how to improve the lesson. I think I took some basic things for granted, for example that the students would understand WHY chemical reactions happen, i.e movement of electrons, but of course not all the students had taken chemistry! Here I think it really illustrated how not having the background information, even if not necessary to understand the concept, can cause a mental block in remembering and understanding ideas. Next time I need to try and read each student individually and gauge whether or not they fully understand why things are happening.
My ability to be articulate also dwindled after two hours, so maybe write out some extra notes on my plan to jog my memory towards the end of the lesson for next time!
I got a chance to talk with the students about their interest in science at the end of the lesson and almost all of them, bar one, are interested in a career in science! Just what we like to hear! Medicine, Vet medicine, physiotherapy, forensic science, biomedical studies. I’ve noticed a trend these days that schools (and parents) push students into degrees that more obviously point towards a specific job, i.e doctors, nurses, vets, physiotherapists, forensic scientists. Not once in my own experience was scientific research suggested as a legitimate career path. I think this is something I will try to look into, get some opinions on – why not? What are the students attitudes towards a career in research?
The students I talked to definitely seemed to have a passion about the subjects they wanted to pursue further studies in so that may not be the case here. Something else I would like to ask them about is their experience with science outside of school – do they read journals? Keep up with scientific news? Do they have favourite popular scientists? Read popular science books? I know that an interest outside of school developed later for me, so this is a personal point of interest.
Until next time!