February 01, 2005

On Teaching

My new course starts next week and I was just thinking about an episode of the Simpsons. Homer looses his job at the power plant and they need some money, and Marge comes up with the idea of giving piano lessons. Lisa says, 'But Mom, you can't play the piano!' and Marge replies, 'All I have to do is stay one lesson ahead of the students.'


At February 01, 2005 5:50 PM , Blogger fresca said...

What will you be teaching?

At February 02, 2005 4:04 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Hey F., our university has just changed from a semester system to a system with four quarters per academic year. I'm a member of the curriculum committee and we spent many many days arguing about what the new courses should be. The chairman of the committee wanted to make drastic cuts in the amount of math and physics that chemistry students would have in their first year of study. I didn't and don't see how it is possible to be a chemist without understanding the fundamentals of physics and math. We had many arguments (in Danish!) and the chairman of the committee called me all kinds of names, including thick skulled, over-intellectual and elitist. (Its true I know, I am these things and more, but did he need to say it in public? And against an opponent who could not return his barbs in the same tongue?) Our compromise was to create a new course to teach the fundamentals of physics (mechanics, electrostatics, quantum mechanics) using chemical examples. The chemists had complained a lot about the earlier physics courses. They didn't have the best teachers, and the students felt what they were learning was not relevant-- things like the trajectories of cannon balls and elevators and springs...I thought, why not teach these things in a way that is directly relevant to chemistry. Me and my big mouth. So now my new class in the physics of molecules starts in a week (required for all first year chemists) and I feel a huge responsibility to make sure it is a success. So far it looks like it will turn out really well, but we'll just have to see.

At February 02, 2005 8:39 PM , Blogger fresca said...

DId these arguments happen over shnapps?
(Sounds like you need to practice your Danish insults.)

I really do wish I could do math--I loved my college Physics for Poets class, but the teacher said she couldn't take us any further without calculus. My brain just doesn't grab onto numbers--I SEE that they are real, but they slip away if I try and work with too many of them in complex patterns.

Physics of molecules...I think of things bouncing around, like Mr. Bubble bubble bath, which used to come in a pink plastic bottle. Am I close?

At February 02, 2005 9:05 PM , Blogger Tim said...

Hey, if it helps:

D? dit fede pikfj?s
– Die you fat cockhead


At February 06, 2005 9:39 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

F-- Yes, chemistry is like a bubblebath except sometimes things blow up and it doesn't smell as good.
Tim, I also was taught some good Danish insults at your wedding (was that guys name Paul?).
During these arguments I'm afraid I chose the boring strategy of sticking to the merits of the case.


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