Narrowband composite image of a fragment of the Veil supernova remnant, called the Bat Nebula.

The light at the end of the teaching tunnel

I’m over halfway through my first semester of teaching! I’d been a teaching assistant and ran laboratory physics sections and an observational astronomy practical lab, but never before had I been an instructor-of-record. The [Adjunct] Prof. We’ve gotten through the awkward start and the growing pains, and settled into a nice rhythm for the synchronous class time (it’s virtual). I can see how the next 7 weeks or so will shake out, and it looks like mostly smooth sailing!

I’m teaching one section (out of three) of intro astronomy for non-science majors, with very minimal math. Other prof friends have told me how much they enjoy teaching this class, and I can definitely see why — none of the students are science majors, so they’re just fulfilling their science requirement with the class, but even so, they have so much enthusiasm for outer space! This is also probably the last science class they’ll ever take in their lives, so there’s a non-negligible pressure to instill basic science literacy and math literacy.

I wouldn’t quite say that teaching comes naturally to me, since I’m putting in a ton of work and preparation, but I seem to be good at this, and it’s pretty fun. It’s so rewarding and enjoyable to teach students who actually want to be there! I have big dreams of creating a seminar-style class on astronomy and society with a focus on science literacy (so, blending this class and the preparation I’ve done so far for Citizen Science coming up at Bard). For now though, I’ll not bite off more than I can chew. This one course is only 30% of my contract but about 75% of my time, so I can’t imagine teaching 3 courses for a full-time teaching faculty position.

More on the lessons I’ve learned from surviving this semester to come after I’ve actually finished and survived the semester!

Header image: the Bat Nebula, a region of the Veil supernova remnant, by Josep M. Drudis.