Classes for the Fall Semester will resume shortly on college campuses. Most of the students I teach are freshmen and their experience with chemistry was most likely sitting at home in front of a computer during COVID.
In other words, they have learned next to nothing about chemistry.
To help make up for this deficit, I have had to find creative alternatives to regular pedagogy in the form of demos, videos, and extra credit assignments to go along with the old-fashioned hard work by my students pushing a #2 pencil across reams of scrap paper. One cannot learn chemistry by osmosis, by reading a textbook or even by attending a lecture. Students have to take notes, be engaged by asking questions, and above all learn to solve problems—lots of problems.
I am willing to do whatever it takes to help students pass my class—within academic standards of fairness and the university’s grading policy. But students have to be willing to meet me halfway.
The following list of commandments may help to get them on the right path.
I—I am the professor your instructor, you shall have many other sources of information before you. Please feel free to consult other textbooks, seek out a peer tutor, or watch online chemistry videos. Some of the best are available free from Khan Academy. My preferred teaching style may not be best suited for your preferred learning style.
II—You shall make graven images of molecules. Drawing images of molecules and building 3-D models using molecular model kits are important in organic and biochemistry classes. They will help you understand such concepts as structure, bonding, and stereochemistry.
III—You shall not take the name of the professor in vain. Chemistry is hard. But it’s not my fault. I try my best to make class enjoyable by interjecting humor when appropriate. Nevertheless, you will sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of time and work required to do well. Please don’t call me names.
IV—You shall remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. I teach at a Christian University and encourage my students to find a good church where they can attend faithfully on Sundays and get involved, serving in some capacity. It is also good to take a day of rest from your studies for your flourishing (one purpose of the Sabbath is for our flourishing). And come exam time, it helps to have cultivated a good prayer connection with the Creator of all laws of science.
V—Honor your mother and father. Our Associate Provost reminds us that we have a responsibility in loco parentis (in place of parents). I take this charge seriously, notwithstanding, students must remember to honor their parents, who are probably paying for their tuition.
VI—You shall not murder. Yikes! Really? Perhaps a stretch, but I teach multiple sections of laboratory classes where we work with acids, bases, flammable organic solvents, poisonous metals, and open flames. Over the years, I have never had a single accident, but I have read about several in the chemical literature. We take laboratory safety seriously and so should you.
VII—You shall not commit adultery. A very bright student I had in two of my laboratory classes once gave an interesting response when asked if she had a boyfriend, her reply was golden: “Are you kidding? I’m dating my books!”
VIII—You shall not steal. I often joke that plagiarism is stealing another person’s work, but research is stealing from many people. All kidding aside, we have strict rules against plagiarism in all forms including cheating on exams, copying from the Internet, sharing another student’s work, and most recently, the use of AI such as ChatGPT to author assignments. You are only hurting yourself and in the long run, you will be found out.
IX You shall not bear false witness. Honesty isn’t just the best policy; it’s the only policy. Please don’t cut my class or miss an exam and proffer some lame excuse. I’ve been at this long enough to see through any slacker that thinks he or she is pulling the wool over my eyes.
X—You shall not covet anything that belongs to your classmates. To covet is to wish for, to long for, to have one’s heart set on something. In this regard, I have two words of advice: set your heart on achieving academic success based on integrity and hard work. And secondly, in the words of Saint Paul, “Set your hearts on things above” where obeying the original Ten Commandments will count for far more than any temporal academic success.