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Preparing for Life

{Note: the Schroeder talk was provocative. I was able to record it digitally and I will try to edit it and upload it here in a few days.}

I am teaching a pre-freshman chemistry course to some international students as part of a ‘foundation year’ program to help prepare them to learn technical information in the style and language of an American university where they will be entering as freshmen in the fall. It is actually an 18 month program with a lot of ESL, study skills, calculus, physics, and chemistry. They have had these courses back home, but in their native tongue and pedagogical styles. It is a big adjustment for them. I get them for the last six months of the program, and find that they are used to being together and learning as a group. They function almost as a single organism at times, and it hampers their ability to learn on their own for a number of reasons.

Therefore, I see part of my mission as treating them with some of the variety of environments they will encounter. Sometimes I use the book, sometimes I just lecture, sometimes I use the board, sometimes they need to listen to verbal cues, and so on. I also tell them what to expect , etc. etc., etc., you get the picture—changing their mindset from high school student to college student, from spoon fed to more independence and ownership of their education.

It struck me that my primary teaching job, that of teaching upper level physical chemistry labs, is very similar. These students have been in a four-year foundation year program for their career, and I’m getting them near the end, and find myself trying to change their mindset from college student to professional, with similar kinds of struggles. Though the details are a little different, it is surprising how many of the struggles are different in degree, not type.

It is interesting how there is a meta-narrative here, and now that I realize it, I can proactively use it to further it along in both situations. Therein lies the power of meditation and reflection—seeing bigger patterns and using those patterns to leverage our effectiveness.

What are the meta-narratives in your life and career? Where do big-picture similarities create an overlap between your teaching and research? Family and collegial happenings? Vocation and avocation? How can you use these patterns to reinforce your efforts and create inspiration in overcoming your obstacles? Are these meta-narratives moving you forward or holding you back, and what can you do about it?


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