Classroom Victories

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I posted about a classroom victory of mine over on the Inhaling thread, but as I was doing so, it occurred to me that it might be cool to have a thread called "Classroom Victories."

I'd like to hear about the things forumites have done in the classroom that were planned well and worked well, or that accidentally worked well, or that were just plain fun.

Have at it!

As promised:

During lab this week, near the end of class, with most of the students already gone, one guy is looking at a map of one of the Galapagos Islands, which happens to have a volcano named Darwin.  He looks up and says, with total sincerity, "Why is Darwin so important?"  This started about a twenty-minute conversation (well, mainly from my side) about Darwin, The Beagle, the Galapogos, and (especially) evolution.  It was pretty much off-topic for the class, but it was a great opportunity to educate a couple of students (one of his lab partners stayed and participated in the conversation) about one of the most important figures in history and one of the most important ideas in science.  I wish could remember specific lines, but it was one of those times that make you really glad you're a professor.

One of the courses I teach is 100% classroom discussion of the assigned readings, usually socratic method, but not always.  We only have a few more class meetings this semester.  Usually, it is like pulling teeth to get more than 3-4 of the students to respond to the questions/prompts.  This week, I had one of "those moments" where you actually get to take a step back and observe something amazing that has just happened.  We were in the middle of a discussion that had started to become quite heated, and then all at once the members of the class turned from their seats to face each other and started asking each other questions--really good questions.  I just stood there, amazed, for about 5 minutes just watching this.  I then pointed out to the class how amazing that was--essentially I was no longer necessary to "facilitate" their discussion; they didn't need me anymore--and you could see that THEY got what a big deal that was, too. 

What was most amazing... the class is all first-semester freshmen.

Demonstration lab in a structures class.  We've been through a couple days of pretty tough stuff on frame theory.  In the lab we load popsicle stick frames to show how they react to loads in different directions.  The moment frame displays AWESOME double curvature (long story, but this is what it's supposed to do).  One of the students pipes up with:

"Wow, that looks kinda like the diagram you showed in the lecture.  Cool."

Epic win.  I was almost in tears.

I am teaching a class on local history research methods where we meet at a museum every other class and do work in the archives. The fourth week of class I went to the museum 15 minutes early. "I want to be here before my students," I told the lady at the desk. "Well you are a bit late for that professor," she said. And I looked at the sign-in sheet in my hands and saw that every single student was already there, and that some had signed in three hours before. They are just on fire with their topics.


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