The major challenge I’ve found in teaching chemistry and organic chemistry in particular, is that students typically find it difficult to differentiate atoms and atomic or molecular structure from what they can see and touch. What does that mean? Well it's easier to understand what table salt looks like than to understand what atoms make up table salt!
It sounds simple, but just having a feel for the concept of atoms and moleculars is really a journey in imagination. The more imaginative you are when learning chemistry the easier it becomes. Chemistry is really cool, if it is taught in terms of the students' interests as opposed to what the syllabus requires. Don't get me wrong though, the syllabus is very very important; it is the road map to understanding the subject, but if the subject is taught with the students' interests in mind first, then it becomes a lot more fun to learn.
For example: why does salt or sugar dissolve in water and cooking oil does not? Asking this question gives us a way to learn about the interactions that take place between the compounds, salt, sugar and oil and water, but the curiosity of the student is the starting point. Get it?
My goal when working with students is to build the foundational principles needed to grow in chemistry, by looking at their interests first and then helping them understand the concepts and principles that surround it. This does require more work on my part, but this approach has led to my greatest student successes, particularly for students pursuing careers in the medical sciences.
I've taught high school students, but spent most of my time teaching at university level. I love organic chemistry most. Something about how the molecules come together to create cool looking structures, that gets me every time. Also having done research in biochemistry, molecular biology and physiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the relationship between what students need to know from high school that can lead them to very advanced studies in the subject is very clear and very easy for me to teach.
back to top