"It's a Wonderful Chemistry Life"

teachers make difference

You are making a difference in the lives of your students. Take some time to think about your students who are working hard, putting in the time, working and balancing study schedules and doing it successfully. Would they be successful without you? In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life", George Bailey gets to see what his world would be if he didn't exist. I would like to say to all of you who are struggling to finish the semester that your students need you. You are important to them.

I had the pleasure of talking with a colleague on the phone today for a long time. We usually have the opportunity to meet in person at a conference or two in non-COVID times. This colleague is an amazing chemistry teacher who is doing all she can to provide the necessary tools for all of her students to be successful. Yet some students are not doing well and they are sharing their frustrations. As the semester draws to an end, she is discouraged and tired. Exhausted actually.

As I probed to determine the cause of her discouragement and the reason for student frustration, (so I could offer some more of my "wonderful ideas" to help her), I realized she is already doing everything I would have suggested. She is already doing all she can to help her students succeed. As I am sure you are too. Hang in there and share a story here in the comments of the student who you helped this semester to make it though another step toward their goals.

My friend shared that some of her students were frustrated because they "felt" that she was demanding too much time from them. Yet if they were taking the class in person, they would have 3-4 hours of in-person instruction each week with another 6-8 hours of outside of class work expected. However, some students who are frustrated with "learning remotely" think they should be able to learn enough to get A's on tests just by passively watching videos, or sitting in on synchronistic classes for about 3 hours per week. I think there certainly are classes in which this is possible, but not in the sciences. Continue to be demanding of quality work while you continue to be flexible with due dates during this difficult time.

As we continued to chat, she felt that about 30% of her students were doing excellent work with academic integrity. She felt there is another 30% who are working with integrity, but they may not be taking advantage of the tools offered for them to be successful. Then there is the other 30% of students who are probably not behaving with integrity. These are "gut" feelings, not scientific data. Yet I trust her experience and her gut.

We discussed those students who were working hard and doing well, and she shared a story of one student who was applying for a big scholarship to do research in chemistry education because of her! My colleague is changing the world for this one student at least. She is likely doing the same for many others. 

The COVID pandemic has been challenging for teaching chemistry, but I want to say how proud I am of her and so many of my colleagues who are giving it their "all", trying several different methods to teach their subject remotely. These teachers are showing up for online office hours, writing letters of recommendation, and building confidence along with competence in their students. These teachers are changing the world- one student at a time.  

Hang in there!  We need you to continue building successful students. Don't dwell on the 30% (or less) who are not putting in quality work with integrity. This is not to ignore them, but for now, for a little while, spend some time feeling grateful for the students who need you.