Since returning from Zambia, I jumped right into my first semester as an Assistant Professor at Millersville University. The very short summary is I love it, and I’ve never been so exhausted in my life.
I was fortunate in that in Fall 2019 prior to heading to Zambia I had time on campus to get oriented and start planning classes. I was also fortunate to have previously taught courses similar to those I’m teaching now – so I could revise and improve on materials I’d previously developed. Despite these advantages, it’s still been an extremely busy spring…
What’s gone well:
I’ve had materials together before the start of every class. In more than one case this involve printing copies with 15 minutes to spare, but I’ve been ready to go by the time each class has started.
Students are responsive, and their feedback has clearly enhanced classes. I’ve had students fill out surveys several times throughout their semester – the students have been very responsive, and I’ve been able to make positive changes to both of my lecture courses in response.
Students seem to be enjoying the classes. In addition to constructive feedback in the surveys, the general consensus seems to be the students are enjoying the courses I teach. I’ve been able to modify the curriculum to address relevant current topics including the emergence of COVID-19 and Ethics in Science.
Undergraduate Research. I currently have two awesome teams of undergraduates working on research projects. One team of four have worked together to develop a project on social network establishment in Poeciliid fishes, another team of five students is analyzing 100+ hours of behavioral videos I collected from Lake Tanganyika. Watch out for some cool stuff out of these teams!
Teaching Elementary School Students about the Social Lives of Animals. I was invited to give a talk at Infinity Charter School in Harrisburg, PA. The students were a blast, and they sent me some really sweet thank you letters.
What I’m looking forward to improving on:
Being more than a few days ahead. With time this will come (I hope!).
Modifying Animal Behavior labs so that students can make reasonable predictions about how the animals should behave. The labs are cool, but fiddler crabs have made my life difficult more than once this semester…
Getting Involved in Collaborative Projects with my colleagues. We have a great team in the Department of Biology here at Millersville, and I’m looking forward to working with them to further enhance our curriculum, our outreach to the community, and to develop more undergraduate research opportunities for students.
Staying caught up on grading.
Establishing more connections in the area and state to better facilitate student learning.
Like nearly everywhere else, Millersville University is shifting online for the remainder of the semester due to COVID-19. As frustrating and stressful as the transition to online teaching is, its presented a great opportunity to take a critical look at our content and whether and how it connects to the aims of the course.
It’s my hope we’re back on campus this summer and fall, that we’re past the main threat of the virus, and that we continue to make big things happen!