The Class and the Lab

One of the unique things about this group of bloggers is that we are all teachers. One of the unique things about me among this group of bloggers is that I am not an English teacher. My day job is teaching chemistry.

The classes that I teach all have a co-requisite lab that goes with them. If you want to take the class, you must be enrolled in the lab. If you want to take the lab, you must be enrolled in the class. There is the learning that takes place inside the classroom, and then there is the hands-on practical learning that takes place in the lab. One isn’t superior to the other. They are both absolutely necessary if you want to really learn your chemistry.

I remember a sign outside one of the student labs at grad school. It said,

“An hour and a half in the lab will save you ten minutes of reading the pre-lab report beforehand.”

I loved that sign. As a teaching assistant, I would smile and point to the sign when a student would ask me a question that was very simply and explicitly covered in the pre-lab reading. (Questions are great and I encourage students to ask them, but one of the most important things I can teach my students is to find the answers themselves.) The reading and learning were an absolutely crucial step before the hands-on application in the lab. You could certainly get by without reading the pre-lab report, but why? It made your life so much harder and your work so much poorer.

Fast forward to the present, and I have become a writer with a tendency to break this rule.

I realized this when I attended the LDStorymakers Conference a couple of weeks ago. I had been plugging away and hoping my manuscript would get better. After all, I had been to a writing conference before, and I read articles and blog posts on writing. I thought I knew what I was doing and just kept plowing forward. I was doing the lab and barely auditing the class.

One of the great things about the conference (and there were many) was seeing bestselling authors that day, attending each other’s classes and talking about the classes they wished they could have attended. They get it. They recognize the value of the class and the lab working together, of learning and growing and writing and their ability to build upon each other.

So my new goal is to really make the most of the symbiosis of learning and practicing the craft of writing. Now wish me luck- I’m off to the lab…

2 thoughts on “The Class and the Lab

  1. This is great! I am working on similar things right now (in fact, kind of talked about something similar my blog – are we sharing thoughts?)

    I'm hoping to really merge the class and the lab this summer in a way that keeps them more inseparable.

    Like

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