03 December 2012

The joy of teaching

Disney alert! This blog post is a politically correct feel-good story. Sometimes these things happen for real.

I wrote we are teaching the sea level module again. This year we had a Spanish Erasmus student; I had heard of his arrival and his enthusiasm about that, and I looked forward to teaching the chap. I wasn't really prepared for reality.

I knew from Marta that at Spanish universities, one tends to learn only theory. These students aren't taken into the field, they are not placed in front of microscopes, they don't get to handle samples. So this guy
 wasn't prepared for the practical side, and the theoretical side of the teaching was hidden behind a language barrier for him. The first few practicals he spent dividing his time between misunderstanding our instructions, and understanding them, but throwing his hands up in the air, claiming he couldn't possibly do what we wanted from him. Not a student that brings out the best in you.

But immersion in another culture can have thorough impact. Every week his English was better, and every week his practical skills were better too. And after only a month he was already done. He had done four samples (we require them to do only two), his taxonomy was quite good, and he had found two species of foraminifera nobody else had found. The practicals run for two more weeks, but he can go to Spain with an unburdened heart.

One of the species he found: Gavelinopsis praegeri. Isn't it a beauty? Picture from foraminifera.eu

I thought things got really funny when Roland sent the spreadsheet template around that the students have to use to document their data. A few hours later he mailed another version around; the Spanish guy had found errors in the original file, and Roland had to send a corrected version out. This guy is going to get far in life...

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