Sweat equity; I frequently mention this term to my students as a simple expression of how you develop as a chemist, that you develop yourself through effort. (I also have a painted picture from a weightlifting magazine of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing on my office wall with the sage advice “Keep Pumping” written on it, for students that need an object lesson. Yes, it’s as awkward as it sounds.)
I also draw upon this idea when a student is painstakingly deciding if they should put some flowery banner on a resume or when they are vacillating about the color of a PowerPoint slide. I advise them to stop waffling because it doesn’t matter, chemists know how to see through that stuff, they want to know where you did or did not build sweat equity.
I bring this up because it was on my mind at the VIPEr Fellow summer workshop in Dearborn, MI. I really can’t say that all the professional development activities or trainings or whatever else that I have taken part in have challenged me to build real sweat equity. However, I can say that this VIPEr workshop was filled with sweaty teachers, people who reflect on what they do, who want to be great teachers, and want others to be great too. I think a common retort from inorganic chemists is a sense of isolation, but much the same way that being around experimentalists at a conference makes me want to get back in the lab and make things, this time with other sweaty and devoted VIPEr Fellows makes me want to come back and teach. Stop talking about how the students just didn’t respond to an activity the way I wanted, stop talking about how their math is weak, stop talking about how they just don’t seem to engage with the chemistry and start working up a lather, break a sweat, and teach. There are things I can change, add, try for the 1st time, or expand and the VIPEr site is the well we can all draw from for ideas. The content is there.
I always look forward to teaching Inorganic, but my time in Dearborn added another facet to that. There are new things to try, things I can adapt, and data to reflect on. I just need to find and adapt the LO’s to make it happen. One could even say, just “Keep Pumping!” Because there is one thing I think we all know about students; they respond when we are excited about our science and our teaching.