The End of An Era (and a short book review)

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So if you guessed from the last post that I’m job hunting, then you’re right! I am job hunting. Applying for jobs is a job in and of itself, but I have hope, work experience, and a constantly updated resume and cover letter, not to mention lots and lots of ideas for activities, new instruction designs, and potential ways to keep students awake during classes.

The end of an era comes next week when I leave Champaign to go back to Chicago while I look for jobs. I have had my diploma for a few months now, but as my time at the Undergrad Library comes to a close, I thought I’d put together some final thoughts.

Working with undergraduate students is difficult, but it is a ton of fun. I worked for a few summers at an arts day camp for 11-15 year olds, and I’ve discovered that undergrads…? Not that different from middle schoolers. They respond to the same things–making fun of myself and also being strict with them gets middle schoolers’ attention, as well as 18 year olds’. I remember from my college days that the drama was just as intense in undergrad as it was in middle school. And there is always that new technological toy distracting students–be it from a theater class or discussing the differences between Google and databases.

What I have learned most, though, is that undergraduate students have a capacity to learn rivaled by 5 year olds. They just don’t care, or don’t want to show that they care, as much as the 5 year olds. So the best way to get them interested? To get them to care? Challenge them while explaining the details. Also known as scaffolding up! Teach them what they need to know (preferably in a fun and authentic way) and then challenge them to make it better, find it faster. They’ll perk up. Unless it’s just after lunch; if it’s just after lunch…well…good luck.

 

Two side notes:

First:

The Martian, by Andy Weir, is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. The story revolves around Mark Watney, a 30-something astronaut who was left for dead on Mars when he was hit by debris during a sandstorm. Problem is, he survived, and now he’s going to starve to death. Or possibly freeze to death. Or perhaps not. Using his background as the odd-job man on the team (a botanist and mechanical engineer), Mark decides he’d like to survive, thank you very much, and soon finds himself faced with very new challenges. Although definitely science fiction in premise (this takes place in the “near” future during the third manned mission to Mars of a possible planned six) it reads like realistic fiction comedy. Weir brings together an optimistic protagonist with a penchant for swearing, a desolate landscape that tries to kill everything in sight, and hard science. All told, Weir drops Mark Watney in a story that in a spoiler-free summary sounds like a possible tragedy and yet made me laugh every step of the way.

Second:

I have removed all of my decorations from my walls in my apartment in preparation for moving and packing, and it’s astonishing how much more depressing my little home looks without frames on the walls. I will keep this in mind for any future jobs, and will show up on my first day with something to hang in my future office.

 

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