The view from the back of the class

How to get over a HangoverA new faculty member sat in on my class. He was astounded. Immediately in front of him, a student asleep, evidently hungover. To his left, three women painting each other’s fingernails. To his right, two students on their phones, one playing a mountain bike game, the other watching basketball highlights — out of season.

My colleague had seen nothing like this in the Penn State science-for-scientist classes he’d sat in on, let alone in his own training (Princeton, Stanford, Oxford). All I could offer by way of explanation was more of an observation: science-for-non-scientist classes are a challenge. Fortunately for the sanity of those of us who try, the view from the front of the class is dominated by engaged students.

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