Monday, June 29, 2009

The First Day of Class

The first day of class was very similar to the ones I've experienced at Pinole. Anxiety, fear, intimidation, excitement -- all of the feelings a student feels when he or she first enters the classroom for the first time.

As everyone -- residential students and commuters for the program -- congregated inside Lerner Hall (I think!) to receive our course schedule for the next three weeks, I noticed the tremendous amount of students. I estimated about two hundred high school students to attend this program, but the sight quickly altered my perception. Students from all over the world came, united to study at Columbia University.

When I first received my folder, I noticed that the administration had given me the courses of Ms. Tiffany Sanchez who signed up for Creative Writing. Confused, one of the assistants just told me to follow my assigned class. Thus, I went, along with Cristina, Julie, Jackie, and Sophia all the way to the Havemayer Building to meet my professor.

Professor Luis Avila is his name. This man appeared to a majority of the class, but told everyone that he is of Venezuelan descent. He teaches at the very own Columbia University and has been here for a good decade and more. To me, Mr. Avila came out as a very friendly professor with a passion for the material he teaches, so passionate that he asked any students in the class a few times to leave if they were bored.

Mr. Avila begun his class with a small icebreaker: each student would first state their full name, location of residence, hobbies, along with a small piece of paper the professor asked each person to pick out of an envelope. Each strip had one term; after telling the class what the word was, Mr. Avila would ask the holder if he knew what the term was, and if he or she didn't, he would then direct the term to the entire class. I thought it was a great way to break the ice, both for the people enrolled in the course, and for the course material itself.

After lunch, Mr. Avila dove right into his teachings. When everbody first arrived into the lecture room just a few floors from where everyone met, we saw that he was preparing numerous things. We all knew that he was about to show a series of various experiments, but he caught me off guard with experiments he displayed to the class. These labs made the ones that my class and I have done back in Pinole Valley look like elementary school science.

Mr. Avila showed us a number of labs that caught our eyes, at the same time explaining the reason for each experiment's outcome. There were times where I was completely lost, where I felt that the students and Mr. Avila have taken their discussion into another dimension, but I was lucky sit aside Julie and another fellow Modern Chemistry student who helped me to understand everything.

Overall, this was a incredible day. It was a first bite into not only what would be my first class in this summer, but my first taste into a college course as well. I'd really like to thank Mr. Ramsey, Mrs. Krnonenberg, and all the fellow sponsors who have worked so hard to send me to such a wonderful opportunity. Your guys' effort is greatly appreciated!


Mrs. L said...

Sounds like you were challenged starting from day one. I encourage all of you to set up a study group to help each other. Also, with the lengthy lunchtime I know the students last year used their time wisely and even did some work during that open time.
I certainly hope Professor Avila was not addressing any of our students when he invited them to leave.
Don't be hesitant to ask questions if you do not understand. I am eager to hear what happened today now that you have your feet wet in the program you can relax and delve into the content.

Don Gosney said...


As has been said aptly on many occasions: You're not in Kansas anymore.

Yes, there is a reason why Pinole is free and Columbia is $53,000 per year. The level of instruction has been ratcheted up a notch or two for you which means it's time to dig down and find that special something that will allow you to be an integral part of the class.

You now this already but ti bears repeating: you simply cannot allow yourself to fall behind for even an instant. There's no time to play catch-up.

By the way, if any of this is a surprise to you, I suggest you go back and look at the title of the class: INTENSIVE Seminars in Modern Chemistry. Nowhere does it suggest that this is "Chemistry for Dummies".

It's crunch time, Gabe.

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