A Science Guy’s Almanac #16. Year 2. January 24, 2016
I am a member of the Church of the Nazarene. In October of 1995, I was reading the denominational magazine, Herald of Holiness, when I saw a blurb for “Openings in Nazarene Higher Education.” One of those openings was listed at Point Loma in Education. I remember thinking, “that’s quite a coincidence.”
In February of 1996, the Herald of Holiness had its annual education issue. In that issue, the blurb for the job at PLNC was described in more detail—specifically Teacher Education: Secondary Curriculum. At that point in my “PhD-dom”, I didn’t know much, but if I knew something it was secondary (middle/high school) curriculum. So I asked a lady at my church who work at the college whom I should contact. She gave me a name and phone number.
When I called the number the next day, the phone was answered by a male voice.
“Patrick Allen,” was all he said.
Now, Patrick Allen was the name of the person given to me by my “contact.” But I expected to talk to someone higher than a person who answered his own phone. Never the less, I explained who I was and my interest. He said to send him a letter, which I did. Shortly after defending my dissertation, I was hired as an Associate Professor.
Patrick Allen turned out to be the Vice President of Academic Affairs (also known as Provost). At that point in time, he was the second in command of the whole campus. He just liked answering his own phone for about an hour every day. He was very gracious in convincing the hiring panel to give me one year of teaching credit for every two years of my high school experience, “since it is what he’s going to be teaching.”
When I accepted the position at Point Loma Nazarene College (PLNC) in 1996, I became part of the Teacher Education Department.
While I did take a pay cut to go to PLNC, my youngest son got a tuition-free education there. I was promoted to full professor in 1999.
Inside the Teacher Education Department, I was, at first, the Secondary Education Coordinator. Later I become the Chair of the whole department. While that was not my dream job, I know I was privileged to chair one of the best Teacher Education Departments in California. However, for most of my time at PLNU (the school upgraded itself to University in 1999), I did get the privilege to work in the Biology Department each semester.
Most semesters I taught one section of the lab for Bio101: Human Biology and Bioethics, the General Education requirement. My lab section was specifically designated for Elementary Teacher majors, who, as a rule, don’t like science (or math) much at all. I considered it my goal to have them leave the class willing to at least tolerate the idea of teaching science in their classes. I think I met that goal.
Twice in my tenure at PLNU, I was asked/allowed to teach the lecture section that went along with three of the lab sections of Bio101. We met in a lecture hall. I had 72 students, only 24 of which were in my own lab section. I really enjoyed those times. After the second time I taught the lecture, I received a written commendation for excellence in teaching from the Dean for having “outstanding evaluations” from my students. I’m very proud that non-science students thought enough of me and my teaching to rank and positively comment on a science class.
A highlight of all my teaching is story-telling. I have a great time when I teach if the students will allow it. As long as they are willing to get back on task when asked, I am willing to go “outside the lines” for a time. I have several stories about injuries I have sustained over time. And, I like to paint word-pictures to help kids remember things. For example:
When talking about human female anatomy, one of the caveats I provide is that women need to support their breast tissue during pregnancy. The support is necessary because the breasts are not supported by muscle, only skin. Failure to adequately support the breasts during pregnancy may result in what I call “The National Geographic Look”—you know, that’s where you take your breast measurement and your waist measurement at the same place (here I demonstrate in pantomime how one would have to lift certain assets out of the way while using the tape measure for the second measurement. A brief silence, then snorts and snickers, and finally genuine laughter usually follow this story. I suspect my former students visit the maternity bra tables soon after learning of a pregnancy.
I have a booklet, which I cherish, from two of my PLNU students who dutifully recorded many of my sayings and presented them to me on the last day of class. You can check it out https://app.box.com/s/6ut6jcfghpjywvhl0imx1hcndz8xj7zq)--and try to guess what might have been the context for each comment.
In my experience, monetary compensation doesn’t come close to what students give spontaneously from the heart.
Next Almanac post: A ruptured Spinal Disk and Giant Snowflakes – Part 1
Follow me on Twitter: @CRDowningAuthor
and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRDowningAuthor
My website is: www.crdowning.com