Did you know that classes start up for me in two weeks? I am determined to be better organized this year, so I’ve spent my day assembling my syllabus for one course…and it’s almost done. I’ll be working on the second course after that. I may actually have everything all laid out and ready to go a whole week before I have to teach, which would be quasi-miraculous.

So this Fall I’m teaching cell biology again (I think that one is locked into my schedule every year from now until I die), and also a course in science writing called Biological Communication. I expect y’all to tell me what you’re teaching, if you are, in this coming year.

We’re a little odd at UMM in that we start our school year at the end of August, and most of my fellow teachers probably have until sometime in September to get your act together. Are you better organized than I am? You are allowed to gloat.


  1. kelecable says

    I just finished teaching my first course last Thursday (“Revolutions in Science: Lavoisier, Darwin, and Einstein”) and do not envy those who are just getting started for the semester! Like you I tried to get as much done before class began as possible, but because it was the first time I taught (not only this class, but ever), I was playing catch up for a 8 weeks continuously. It was exhausting. (The summer class was 8 weeks long, met twice a week for 3 hours each, 9am-noon.)

    Now I get to go to the BEACON Congress at Michigan State for a few days and then begin a month-long research trip in Philadelphia at the American Philosophical Society. It’s going to be a ton of fun.

  2. says

    I’m teaching Advanced Pokemon Bioethics, but only when I’m showering so the classroom might be a little cramped.

    I’m not a teacher of any kind…

  3. marcoli says

    I start early in September. Introductory Biology, Evolution, and our Senior Capstone class. For the latter I have students test their observational and hypothesis testing skills by looking at Drosophila embryos that have amorphic mutations of various segment polarity genes. So here i go on a bit, but that is because this posting is making me think about next semester, which is good for me. Since the engrailed gene is needed for expression of hedgehog, and hedgehog is needed for expression of wingless, and wingless is needed for expression of engrailed in the embryonic epidermis, a mutation of any one demonstrably results in loss of expression of the other two, right? So the question is: do mutations of these genes look alike? The interesting answer turns out to be ‘no’.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    By the time I left academia, we were on the early quarter system (from the previous late quarter system), so I needed my syllabus for Instrumental Organic Analysis, or more appropriately, structural determination based on UV, IR, MS, proton NMR, and carbon NMR, before labor day. Since I often taught General Chemistry during the summer quarter, it was not hard to get into place as I was in my office daily.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    I thought a syllabus is what takes all those church groups to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky.

  6. iknklast says

    I start in one week – almost ready, but still a little. I am teaching Environmental Science, Earth Science, Physical Geography, and GIS. (We have a very tough workload).

  7. neuroturtle says

    Two weeks! Intro to Psych and a fun class on the history of human drug use. Oh god, I am so far from being ready for that second one. It’s a new prep.

  8. says

    #1: Oh, yeah, I remember my first year teaching. No training in teaching, but because I was thoroughly grounded in the research material (an invertebrate dev course + a cell bio course), they figured they could just throw me right into the deep end of the pool and I’d thrash my way through.

    Which is generally how college professors are made. It’s very Darwinian, but with the unfortunate escape hatch that, if you make lots of grant money, they’ll let you keep doing it no matter how terrible you are at it, rather than letting you go extinct.

    Sorry, students.

  9. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s very Darwinian, but with the unfortunate escape hatch that, if you make lots of grant money, they’ll let you keep doing it no matter how terrible you are at it, rather than letting you go extinct.

    Sorry, students.

    I can’t argue with that. The chemistry prof with the best grant money couldn’t teach his way out of a torn wet paper bag, with a compass, GPS, and book of clue. He was thinking the sophomores were graduate students, and should have the same background. Those of use making up for his ineptitude without big grant money were considered expendable by the administration.

  10. lb says

    In October, I’ll be teaching a class in pen and ink techniques for the botanical illustration department here at the local botanical gardens. It’s only four classes, but introduces intermediate students to the basics of botanical scientific illustration.

  11. mareap says

    Two sections of elementary science methods this fall and probably spring. Our usual load is four classes/semster (MnSCU, um, make that “Minnesota State”). But I have half release to direct our STEM center so twice a week I’ll slog over hill and dell from Winona to Rochester. If anyone in Minnesota needs a nice room for a meeting (with sciencey stuff to play with) let me know.

  12. says

    Seventh grade math and two sections of computer skills, starting the 22nd. We start early because we take a full week off for Thanksgiving. Doing the same things as last year so I guess I’m prepared. Four more years to retirement. That’ll be 26 years in the HS and JHS classroom.

  13. Skatje Myers says

    No teaching, just grading for NLP. Getting ready for another semester of distraught graduate students complaining about getting an A-, oh boy.

  14. robro says

    …most of my fellow teachers probably have until sometime in September to get your act together.

    You might be showing your age, PZ. I’m under the impression that schools typically start in August these days. No more of that sometime after Labor Day stuff. My sons first class at SF City College is next Tuesday. I have a friend who teaches 3rd grade who starts next week, with classes probably beginning the following week. My niece in Florida usually starts within the first couple of weeks of August…which is a horrible time of year to be cooped up in a classroom in Florida.

  15. Bill Buckner says

    We start the same week as you, PZ. (Although I assume you are like us, and the week before classes, i.e., next week, is loaded with meetings.) I have the the third semester of Introductory Physics (Waves/Thermo/Optics) and junior-level mathematical physics. Taught both last year, so only minor mods to the syllabi are needed.

  16. says

    Not a teacher, but I am going back to school to learn a new skill set: Actuarial Science at Central Washington University. Math, stats, math, finance, math, economics, stats, math… ugh. I just hope I can find a job after I graduate.

  17. lither says

    I start the same time, though I’d expected it to be next week — it’s been middish August for 30 years. It’s Calculus I and Topology I, so new undergrads and new grads. Both syllabuses just need minor tweaking.

  18. stwriley says

    I’m back in three weeks, teaching three honors biology classes and two physical science classes (basic chemistry and physics for non-science-track sophomores and juniors.) It’s supposed to be a trade-off schedule, where I get rewarded with the honors bio classes for taking on the other two, but I actually like to teach physics, so I don’t mind it a bit. I’ve taught both courses before, so it’s updating and revising syllabi rather than prepping new ones. My real focus right now is coordinating our First Robotics team for their fall event, Thor IV, since they’ll be redesigning their robot from last season for an updated version of the previous challenge (a storm-the-castle event called “Stronghold!”.)

  19. Zeppelin says

    I’m, uh, I’m going to be running a tutorial on linguistic text philology next semester. Maybe another one as well, if I can get it. Hopefully morphology, that one was always fun!

  20. shouldbeworking says

    I’ll be teaching 2 sections of AP physics, 1 section of general science (physics, phys chem, organic chem + a genetics unit) and 2 sections of regular physics. I may be kicked out of the physics teachers beer-drinking club for saying this, but I enjoy the genetics unit.

  21. colinday says

    I teach statistics online (right now, as we have summer quarter). I’ve done this a few times, so I’m pretty much set.

  22. mothra says

    I wrote my syllabus for Ent 751- Immature Insect back in June. But I will be scrambling over the next few weeks to get my notes and lab materials in order for a course I have not taught since 2007.

  23. says

    Teaching Critical Thinking to first semester freshmen. I use my field ecology as a backdrop to test the skills, so I’ve assigned Changes in the Land. We start August 26.

    I am finished with my syllabus and all my major assignment handouts. Now I’m trying to prep some lectures and write some exams so I can ride a plan as far into the semester as I can manage.

    *I’m not bragging. This is the first time I’ve been this together since I was a freshman.

  24. AnatomyProf says

    human anatomy + lab (3 sections)
    non-majors biology + lab,
    human biology (online) – new prep, new LMS
    environmental issues

  25. mnb0 says

    My year is almost done; I’ll start again in October. And I teach lots of stuff; both math and physics to 13-16 year old teens. I like the variation. As everything is in my head I don’t have to prepare anything anymore, which allows me to improvise.

  26. AnatomyProf says

    I’ve flipped my anatomy class. Its ready to go, like an online class, except that I meet the students twice a week as normal. It allows me to be both organized and spontaneous. It supports different students in different ways. I’m always happy that the basics are ready to roll and that I just need clarify and engage. Of course lab is always intense with 28 students.

  27. Menyambal says

    The school district for which I am a substitute teacher starts back on 17th August. I’ve been working all summer in the IT department, trying to get laptops for the classrooms ready. Today I got to carry 24 Chromebooks at a time up two-and-a-half floors to some classrooms, so getting back to school might be nice. As a sub, I don’t have to do any prep, except to pack my bag with everything from a gym whistle to multiplication tables.

    I think I’m going to take some time off to catch up on sleep, though. You guys enjoy.

  28. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I forgot to mention that my teaching load in the fall quarter included some General Chemistry recitations. Since I wasn’t the lecturer, I didn’t need to work on the syllabus for that.

  29. M Keen says

    Crap, this post reminded me of all the little things, like finishing the syllabus, I still need to do before my classes start in two weeks. I’m kinda surprised how little information or direction I got considering this is my first time teaching.

  30. says

    Hah! I am on sabbatical this fall, so I will not have to worry about syllabusery until some time in December! I’m teaching an extra load this summer, though, and I’ll have some new preps next year, so I will soon be in your (very familiar) shoes. We’ve combined our formerly-separate anatomy and physiology courses, and the new versions will take some pretty significant work to get ready. I’ll teach zoology in winter quarter, when I get back. I always love teaching that class.

  31. ChasCPeterson says

    Human Physiology for nursing students at the smallest community college in California.
    Starts next Tuesday.
    I am so burned out I can’t even.

  32. says

    We start the week of Aug. 29th. I’ll be teaching an undergrad general education class called Meaning of Madness, which is a human behavior critical thinking course about mental illness. I’ve taught it before, but am teaching it as a large class with recitations for the first time, and just got my TAs last week.

    Also, as department chair, I’m leading the new grad student orientation week after next. You’re grownups now, take charge of your education, get involved in research, and don’t bitch about an A-.

  33. numerobis says

    My dad is procrastinating getting ready for his last semester before retirement by moving into a new home.

    I don’t envy setting up syllabuses, but I do envy the teaching. I’d have to get back into research to switch career paths though, and that’s hard.

  34. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin is still trying to convince the local museum to offer a course on Underwater Fishing for Cheese with Speargun & Oreo Cookie, which she’s offered to teach for free (well, all the cheese caught)…

  35. davidw says

    Mwa ha ha haaaa – I’m off teaching this year!!! To explain – as department chair, I have a half load. But last year, I taught a full load to compensate for a (tenured) faculty member who was undergoing a teaching remediation because of truly poor evaluations (an overall 1.1 on a 1 – 5 scale. Really.) My colleague is doing better, but because I taught a double load last year, I asked the dean for no teaching this year to compensate – and it was approved! Actually, I will be overseeing one student in a student colloquium course this term (the student needs the course to graduate in December, and as a capstone course we can’t waive it, and the normal instructor is on sabbatical this term), and next term I *may* teach a research methods course because (a) I’ve never taught it before and I think it’ll be interesting, keeping my motivation up, and (b) it’ll be neat to actually teach students who’ve never done research HOW to do research, and (c) it meets only one day a week for two hours.

    And we start on the 29th…

  36. AnatomyProf says

    #35: What’s the smallest CC in CA?
    I’m in CA too. I also get the burn out. Do you only teach physiology? I’ve got a lot of preps this semester, but the diversity helps a bit with the burn out, at least one aspect of it. Flipping the classroom really helped with the anatomy specific burn out. I don’t deliver the same lectures over and over. They are organized and help students with the original introduction to the material, but I don’t have to approach the material that way. I can have them get the basic understanding and we can work together to identify the parts on an image and put them into the context of function. I spend more time on how we compare or contrast parts (e.g. tissues) or how parts relate to functions (e.g. segments of the nephron). That’s more fun but would be difficult without introductory knowledge. Of course I spend a lot of time on study strategy and motivation because a major factor in burn out is struggling students and a feeling that I contribute to the crushing of dreams. I think that I facilitate more dreams than I crush now.

  37. Rich Woods says

    I expect y’all to tell me what you’re teaching, if you are, in this coming year.

    This year I shall mostly be teaching myself.

    I haven’t taught a class since 1988. Programming for non-programmers.

  38. says

    In a month’s time, I’ll be teaching an algebra course for second-year Master math students. I don’t really need to prepare for this because it’s the same course I’ve taught last year. And I’ll keep tutoring my beginning PhD student. That’s it, woohoo!

    Curiosities of the French system:

    – Before you die of envy, just know that this light teaching load is a combination of the fact that I’ll compensate with a heavier one in the spring term, and that I’ve payed the university part of my “research bonus money” in order to reduce the load (yes, I’ve renounced part of my small salary in order to have a light teaching load).

    – Although I’m tenured here at the math faculty, I have just enrolled into my university as a student. Let me just tell you that it was a surprisingly complex bureaucratic operation… but soon I’ll get my student card and the movies will be cheaper again! This is part of the amazingly complex and equally useless procedure that one has to go through in order to get the French “Habilitation to Direct Research” diploma, which I need if I want to officially be recognised as the advisor my own student.

    – I’ll also need the Habilitation before I can apply to full professor jobs in France. Only academics already working in France need it for this!

    – My university is currently closed down for a month, because of the (compulsory!) summer holidays: if I want to access my office I have to ask for permission first and register with the security people. Like most of my colleagues who are active in research, I’m profiting of this quiet period to do some writing.

  39. Becca Stareyes says

    Starting teaching at a new university, so new classes. I’m teaching our Introduction to Astronomy & Astrophysics course, which is the intro course for the astronomy minors*. It comes with a lab, which I need to look over. I also am inheriting a “Life in the Universe” general education course**, which involves a lot of the middle part of the course bringing in biologists and geologists to cover their parts of the subject. Astronomers are humble enough to know that it’s probably better to get a biologist to teach evolution or a geologist to go into the history of the Earth, and then cover things like the Jovian moons ourselves XP. But someone then needs to do the bits where we figure out if the students were listening and thinking about what they hear, and that’s me.

    * If we ever get astronomy back as a minor or concentration in physics. Granted, that was part of the reason I was hired: so there’d be enough people to teach astronomy courses beyond the general ed ones on a regular basis.

    ** Really, I find it more interesting to just treat it as a theme around which students can learn a lot of different sciences that they can hopefully assemble into a coherent picture. And one that students find interesting enough to try.

  40. involuntarytexan says

    Most Texas public unis start in the fourth week of August, but then so do the regular K-12 schools. Seems odd, given how hot it is here in August, but that’s how they’ve always done it.

    I was supposed to start student teaching this fall, but had a health emergency arise which made that untenable. Hopefully next semester….

    Anyway, I’m a fanatical organizer. I’m that crazy student who gets textbooks as soon as possible, does homework ahead of time–sometimes even completing it all before the semester begins (if I can get my hand on a potential syllabus), and otherwise being a hopeless overachiever. My classes are color coded. My agenda entries are color coded. My notes are highly structured and I color code any highlighting of them. I’m a flash card fiend. If you need that obscure reference that is necessary for an entire chapter to make sense, then I probably have it at hand.

    I highly doubt that I would be any different as a teacher.