Teaching at Harvard
After years of successful results tutoring Harvard and Harvard Extension students, I had firmly established my reputation and credibility with the teaching staff at Harvard as well as with the students. This opened the door for me to have an opportunity to teach at Harvard, something I thought could be a lot of fun and be another notable accomplishment.
For one school year, I was a Harvard section TF for Chem 17 in the fall and then the head TF for Chem 20 in the spring. If you'd like to read about my experience, details are below.
During the Fall semester of 2015, I was a teaching fellow (the Harvard version of a TA) for the Harvard Chem 17 organic chemistry course. I taught two sections a week (a total of 33 students were assigned to my sections, but students from other sections also attended) and ran Sunday office hours that were heavily attended (sometimes over 60 students were jamming the room!).
Having the opportunity to work with so many motivated students every week from the very beginning of the semester until the final exam was one of the highlights of my teaching career. The student experience was also very positive as evidenced by their performance in the course and my student evaluations. I have included pdfs of my "Q-scores" (overall mean score of 4.91/5) and my final student evaluations (yellow highlighting was added by me, everything else is unedited) to give you an idea of what transpired:
What was especially meaningful to me was the connections made with many students. When students saw where I was coming from and what I was trying to accomplish with them, they responded positively. Throughout the semester, I got to know most of my students individually, and they realized I had their backs. Getting to know most of my students beyond their names and faces added so much more to the experience (as it always does), and I continue to enjoy seeing and hearing from them on a regular basis.
Creating a good vibe with each other led to a better situation for everyone. Students were more committed to the process (many told me they didn't want to let me down on their exams because of how much I was pushing for them) and I felt a lot of satisfaction in being a part of their success. It was awesome to be appreciated by the students for what I was doing; their enthusiasm for my efforts and their willingness to do the work and understand the material encouraged me to keep working endlessly.
When I work closely with students who show they are willing to put in the work and appreciate what I'm doing, I go to extra lengths to help those students. We're in it together, and a camaraderie builds that makes the experience bigger than simply understanding arrow-pushing. Everybody benefits, and everybody comes away from the experience with something beyond just surviving organic chemistry.
In the Spring semester of 2016, I was the head TF for the Harvard Chem 20 organic chemistry course. That was a much different role than being a section TF or a tutor. Ha ha, even "old dawgs" like me can still learn new tricks! The position was challenging and a turning-point for me in my personal evolution, and it taught me many things about life that had nothing to do with arrow-pushing. I have included pdfs of my "Q-scores" (overall mean score of 4.5/5) and my final student evaluations (yellow highlighting was added by me, everything else is unedited) to give you an idea of what transpired:
Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching
Again, I was recognized with a Certificate of Distinction in Teaching for having a Q-score of 4.5, but I cannot find the actual certificate. However, you can find me listed on this webpage under Chem 20.
"Eddie was . . . an overall EXCELLENT and STAND UP guy."
It's nice to be recognized by students for the work I've done and how I have helped them, but the comment above was especially meaningful to me.
This particular acknowledgment meant a lot to me because the harsh reality of life is most people are not like this. It's one thing to be good at your craft, but in my opinion, it's also important that you care about helping others from a genuine place.
I feel confident that any student who I have worked closely with and has done their part can speak about how I go above-and-beyond for them.
I've been involved in tutoring and teaching organic chemistry since 2003. I've seen a lot of things change over time in this arena, but the one thing that has stayed unchanged has been my motivation, passion, and authenticity for wanting to help students. When I think of the highest highs and the lowest lows of the journey, I feel good that through it all, I can say with 100% honesty that I've never lost sight of this being priority #1.