Today was better

Given how fabulously (sarcasm) my week had gone up until today, I went into work with quite a bit of trepidation today. Today, however, went surprisingly well.

I had sent an apology yesterday to the woman I may have insulted. She seemed to genuinely accept it today. Whew!

Although I’ve been teaching classes since January of 2004, I decided to take the new faculty workshops offered by my university. I have been teaching human genetics to a small class (< 30 students) of Honor’s students. My teaching evaluations could certainly improve. This winter I am slated to teach general genetics to more than 100 students in one of the largest classrooms on campus (multi-level seating with balconies). Thus, I felt it would be useful to take advantage of many of the resources available to help me improve my teaching skills.

The focus of the workshop today was on diversity in the class room. This is generally a topic that causes groans from all. But, the workshop was designed around scenarios that one may face in the classroom and the best ways to deal with them, several of which I had faced previously. How do you accommodate & grade someone with English as a second language? with a learning disability? What do you do if you suspect one student is harassing another? How do you address outright racism in the classroom? As a scientist, my comfort zone is in the world of facts and objective criteria. All of these softer, more subjective things, fill me with uncertainty. Fortunately, my university has many “experts” to assist faculty and students with dealing with these situations and more.

One new investment in the classrooms (every seat is already laptop ready with Internet access) is the clicker. The students can buy these flourescently colored devices that look similar to a VCR remote that will allow them to interact with a Power Point lecture in response to questions. The on-line system will track the answers, by student, so that I will be able to assess how well students are assimilating the material in real time (& perhaps assign a participation grade in a class of 100+). I am incredibly excited to try this out.

I received an unexpected package at work today. A textbook company noticed that I was scheduled to teach General Genetics and sent me their most current Genetics textbook, study guide and CD of exams and figures. I had just purchased the older first edition used in advance of teaching this class but I now obviously do not need it.

One of my laboratory technicians recently resigned to start graduate school. I knew this was coming for months but was in so much denial about her leaving that I just could not even begin the replacement process until she was gone. I have interviews with 6 potential candidates scheduled for next week. Surely one will be a winner.

I ended the work day at a reception for a Professor of Chemistry who is moving his laboratory to Montana. This is a terrific opportunity for him but he will be sorely missed. There were emotionally moving speeches from the Chancellor and the Department Chair.  Everyone from former Deans to prior students came back for this last opportunity to wish him well. It was a great way to end the work week.

Today was better. Much better.