Growing up with Students

Ying Chen
Adjunct Faculty, Biology

Teaching in a community college opened a new window for me. Before I started to teach in a community college, I taught clinical skills for medical students or medical courses for senior undergraduates in colleges from time to time. At that time, teaching wasn’t a hard task because my students would read their textbooks, take notes in the class, complete their home assignments on time, preview and review the course content before and after lectures, and prepare for their exams. Every student I had was highly self-motivated and knew how to achieve their goals. What I need to do is focus on teaching.

Teaching in a community college, I found I have a significant diversity of student populations. One group of students is incredibly smart and disciplined. They are the same type of students I met in the past: they have their goals and know how to achieve them. Another group of students also has goals, but they are struggling to work towards them. It was the first time I realize that I needed to teach something outside of course content. I am spending a lot of time talking to my students to dig into the reasons why they couldn’t learn well in the class, or in other words, what are the barriers holding them back. Some of them are very busy with their families, jobs, and academics, struggling with time management and active learning strategies. Some of them lack prerequisite knowledge for the course. Some of them lack good learning habits and time management skills.

To help students to improve their time management and learning strategies, I taught learning tips in my classes. I invited students who had done well in the exams or made vast improvement to share their learning experience in the class. I also formed study groups outside classes. In the meantime, I referred them to academic success coaches.

To help students to gain prerequisite knowledge for the course, besides my office hours, I referred them to Learning Commons and professional tutors. I also recommended the free online resources to help them catch up. In the meantime, I also took care of a group of students who learn well. I delivered materials and carry on activities beyond the course level to meet their learning capabilities.  I provided extra credits to encourage them to learn more.

In one semester, I found one student’s scores slide down suddenly. I asked her, and she told me her mom was diagnosed with cancer recently. She needed to take care of her mom and was struggling to decide which treatment would work best for her mom. I guided her to research the pros and cons of different treatments from “Center for Disease Control” and “PubMed “webs, run by National Institutes of Health. In the IDEA, she wrote,” I loved this course… My life is better having taken this class, something I can’t say very often…” 

I am growing not only in my teaching experience but also in advising experience. My students and I both get to grow as people throughout the semesters, and I am always learning new things. That is one of the reasons why I enjoy teaching.

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