The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

The kind of teacher I want to be

I spoke with Dr. B yesterday…I have another grant to apply for (by Friday, eek!) It looks like I’ll be spending 6-8 weeks in the Place of Moving Water this summer, setting up field studies and also spending a fair bit of time liasing with the local people, and working on training/education opportunities for students there.

This is a really, really cool (and rare) opportunity; not only will I be engaging in buggy, geeky goodness in an extremely new type of environment (for me), I’ll also get a chance to immerse myself in the socio-ecological context of my project AND pad my training/teaching resume a bit.

Teaching is just as important to me as the research itself: I love it. There are few things more rewarding than making students care about something seemingly mundane…being able to help them see and appreciate the extreme awesomeness of nature, and being able to actually connect with students on that point…to send out enthusiasm and excitement about a topic, and receive it right back. To make them want to come back for more.

When I worked at The Large Nature Museum, there were a few times where I had a person or a family trail me litterally all afternoon, simply because they got hooked on what I was telling them and they wanted MORE. (And boy oh boy in a room full of dinosaurs and with the mouth on me I can keep an audience busy for HOURS if they’re willing.)

I’ve had the privilege of being taught by a few amazing teachers…people whose enthusiasm for their subject matter was positively infectuous. One in particular…I always swore that the man could be talking about pocket lint and I’d be positively enthralled. THAT’s the kind of teacher I want to be.

I really hope that I can live up to that and inspire some young people this summer.

6 responses to “The kind of teacher I want to be

  1. R October 28, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    C, I admit I don't understand the whole graduate thing, like what you'll be doing and how that turns into a graduate degree, but you can tell and read your passionate about this. I really couldn't be any happier for you and I'm so excited to read all about it! YOUR enthusiasm is infectious also, m'dear! I think you'll make a wonderful teacher.

  2. Who, me? October 28, 2009 at 2:10 PM

    LOL it's cool, Rach. Unless you've been immersed in academe for a while, it's pretty confusing (heck I'M still confused most of the time).

    Basically the way it works at the PhD level (for a research/science degree anyways), you do a pretty intense study of one area (in my case it will be diversity of insects and how it's changed over time in response to changes in the climate). The study usually involves a few years of field/lab research and then you write up all your findings in a series of short reports (for publication in journals) and one long report with everything (your thesis). A committee evaluates your work along the way. At the end, you should really be "the expert" on the subject, and it should be useful to the rest of the scientific community.

    This added teaching bit is really a bonus for me. Since my ultimate goal is to be a professor, I need to be good at both research AND teaching. Most grad students get to do some teaching as a "Teaching Assistant" (for the most part this means you're the person who marks reports for the main instructor, although I have been lucky in the past to land TA jobs where I could actually deliver lectures). In this case, I'll get to design some aspects of the training program for the northern students, AND it will let me dabble in the sociology/anthropology of my main subject (the bugs).

    These days, research is really starting to move away from people working in isolation, in very narrow fields, and is moving towards a more holistic, multidisciplinary approach…so you get "hard" scientists working with sociologists working with health care specialists working with etc etc etc…you tap into each others' knowledge and make all the puzzle peices fit together. It's the kind of work I was looking for in a lab: something that would let me do the good ol' "mucking around in the field harassing the wildlife" bit PLUS new areas of science I'm not familiar with (like using computers to make large-scale predictive models and maps) PLUS stuff that touches on the human dimension…a little o' this and a little 'o that. I want to be well-rounded and well versed in as many areas as possible when I'm done…it will help me in the long run in terms of employability and flexibility in the type of research I'm able to do.

  3. R October 30, 2009 at 3:34 PM

    OK, that makes sense and sounds even cooler than what I was thinking. But let me make sure I got this:

    So you don't sit in a class with the DrBug guy teaching to a class? You're basically just working in his lab as a scientist (or his assistant) and learning through that. Plus some research of your own but with his guidance? Then you write a book and they give you a Dr degree?

    How long does it take? Is it up to you? Do you pay them or do they pay you? And how does the whole grant thing factor in?

    I know, lots of questions but I really appreciate you taking the time to explain this to me a little better. Very interesting process.

  4. Who, me? November 1, 2009 at 5:19 PM

    Aaaak, sorry it took me so long to reply, I totally forgot that I put my comments on "MODERATE" (duh). I totally was sulking thinking that no one was posting, waaaah!!!

    Oh, so, yeah, I don't sit in a class with Dr. B. I will probably sit in on a class or two but the thesis is based on my own research, not course work. I'm a researcher/assistant researcher working in the field and in the lab. The work is mainly up to me, but he will guide me and provide feedback along the way. I will have an oral exam after about the first year. This tests me to see if I know the basic elements of my area of research, including theory, stats, etc. Any areas of weakness will be pointed out and they could do things like tell me I need to take a class to catch up on something.
    The final result is basically a book (thesis) with chapters on different elements of the research. At the end, you have to present your research to a team of evaluators and your peers, they grill you again with a bunch of other questions, and if it's satisfactory, you pass and get the degree. The amount of time to do the research is typically 3-5 years for a PhD, depending on how much experience you already have and how much luck you have in terms of getting the work done (mother nature doesn't always cooperate).

    Moneywise, I have to pay a nominal amount for my tuition (about $1500 per year or so). I will get "paid" as well, by a combination of grants and scholarships (from the university, provincial and federal agencies, not for profits etc – usually you have to submit research proposals along with a CV to apply for these.) as well as, partially, from working for the university as a teaching assistant. I'm also lucky to have a prof who has funding that he can use to provide me with some funds to top it all up to a reasonable living wage. At this level of study, students really need to be able to bring in funding on their own, or else they'll be living below the poverty line. Most supervisors won't even consider a student who can't help provide some funds (i.e. through grants, etc.). Good questions!

  5. R November 3, 2009 at 10:23 AM

    Good answers. Thanks for taking the time to explain some of this to me. Very interesting. I guess you have to really love the one subject your researching or you're screwed.

  6. Maki January 20, 2010 at 3:37 AM

    That T.A. thing… yeah I remember that most of the T.A. were basically the teacher’s bitches. marking essays and doing the labs. We had one who had to do a few lectures in biopsych when the prof was away, but it sucks b/c she didn’t have answers on the spot. but it’s gotta be a bit nervewracking though.

    Glad to hear you’re liking lecturing. If only all profs were as enthusiastic about their subject as you are, Crystal.

    If I could, I’d TOTALLY come to one of your lectures. hehehe…
    by the way, bugs creep me out.
    Spiders, wasps especially. BC has some HUGE spiders…

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