Reflection on the First Week

I wanted to wait until I’d had a chance to attend labs before I posted some thoughts on my first week back in school as a post-bacc student:

As I mentioned earlier, I’m taking the second semester of general chemistry and the first of two semesters of biology.  As required by AMCAS, I’m also enrolled in the labs for both classes so altogether I’m carrying a nine hour course load.  The material doesn’t seem too intense, but there is a great deal of reading (which I’m actually going to do) and online assignments (which are a total waste of time).  Here are some thoughts on each of these classes.

General Chemistry II

A couple of professors from first semester didn’t complete the requisite material, so about half of the class hasn’t seen VSEPR theory or hybridization, so that particular chapter of the textbook was added onto the course so that everyone is on the same page.  I was actually glad to hear that, because I can really use the review.  Surprisingly, I actually like chemistry, now that I’m making a serious effort to learn it.  It’s a fascinating subject and I’m really excited to learn how it relates to biology and pharmacology.

So, the subject is awesome….the class is awful.  My spider-sense is fairly well-tuned when it comes to discerning the quality of a professor and it went haywire the moment I sat down in lecture.  The professor has absolutely no organizational skills and her lectures tend to be a lot of disjointed ramblings without any real success had in communicating the material.  A question was asked earlier last week about drawing a Lewis structure for a sulfate ion.  She spent the next 45 minutes trying to figure it out and concluded her explanation by saying that she would never put something like that on an exam.  Not good.  I’m not going to get too bent out of shape about having a bad professor – she’s not the first I’ve had, nor is she the worst, and I have doubt she’ll be the last.

This is also my first class to feature online homework assignments (which I had to buy – apparently, our textbook which is filled with perfectly good problems isn’t sufficient).  My physics department had begun to embrace online assignments while I was an undergrad, though I never had the pleasure until now.  So far, I’m not a huge fan but I’ll try to withhold judgment until the semester is over.  Online assignments seem to be useful for review and self-assessment, but I’m not convinced they have a great deal of pedagogical value.

Our first chemistry lab met yesterday and it seemed pretty good – my lab TA just got into medical school at the institution I’m hoping to attend.  I hated labs as an undergrad, which is why I took so many math courses.  But, so far, both lab classes look like they’re really well run and will actually be enjoyable.  Quite a shocker to me, let me tell you.

General  Biology I

I knew 30 seconds after the start of class that I’d found a good one.  Organized.  Professional.  Quite a welcome respite after my last chemistry lecture – he’s definitely one of the best lecturers I’ve ever had, which is some fairly stiff company, PowerPoint charts notwithstanding.

This is my first real exposure to biology since a class in 10th grade, but I’m really enjoying it so far.  There is a great deal of overlap between chemistry and biology and it’s been a real delight so far.

Ultimately, this should be a good semester, assuming that I can keep everything in order.  The difficulty isn’t in the material, but in staying organized and getting everything done on time.  There isn’t a lot of room for error and it’d be easy to get behind; good practice for handling the rigors of medical school.  I don’t know if I’ll be posting a lot this semester, but I’m going to try to keep a decent record of my thoughts and experiences as I plod my way through these.

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