From student to teacher, part 1

March 7, 2010

Part 1 of a hopefully ongoing series as I continue to document my teaching experiences.

A chuckle; a joke. “Just teach it yourself.”

The words were rolling around my head when I went to bed that night. A few short, fitful bursts of sleep. At 5 AM, I was wide awake.

Just teach it yourself.

I sat down and began to write.

I had my eyes on UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Initiated Education program. Through it, I would work with a faculty mentor to design, propose, and facilitate a 1-unit, 20-person seminar. When my thoughts were finally drained, I hit Publish. And, citing “the pressures of self-doubt,” I allowed myself to forget about it for a while. That was in June.

In July, I received word that I’d be working for NASA in the fall. I had something new to lose sleep over.

The JPL internship was a full-time stint at 40 hours/week. The commute to Pasadena made it more like 50. Suddenly, it was November, and I had a week to submit the application for my class. I hadn’t met with any faculty mentor. I hadn’t brought the idea to anyone’s attention. I couldn’t even articulate my thoughts to myself, much less to a faceless group of judges. I was jingling the keys, afraid to try the first one.

Luckily, my chosen professor was a veteran to this arena. As he looked over my application, he coolly told me that he’d signed on as mentor for three other proposals—one on the brain, another on the Singularity, a third on transhumanism. (For a brief moment, artificial intelligence didn’t seem so cool. I felt fearful again.) We worked, reworked my proposal. “This tells me what you’re going to teach, but you’re writing for the committee. Dumb it down, and make sure they understand why it’s relevant.” Straightforward; no-nonsense. He liked the way I’d structured my ten-week schedule. It was the first time I’d talked to anyone about my ideas, and I was beginning to feel that it might actually work out.

The deadline approached. I must mention here that I am deeply indebted to J., who kindly acted as my proxy—obtaining my transcripts, printing out the application materials, and physically turning them in—since my 9-to-5 job (7-to-7?) precluded me from setting foot on the UCLA campus.

Not two weeks after submitting the application, I received an acceptance notice in my email.

It was on.

To be continued in the next installment.

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One Response to “From student to teacher, part 1”


  1. […] April 25, 2010 Well, I’ve been bad about writing—mostly because I’m actually teaching now. Since active reflection is critical at this point, I’m going to skip over 2-3 months of course development, hopefully to return to it later. See: part 1. […]


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