Photo by Kyle West

By: Rida Pasha

Whether it’s the real world being brought into the classroom by a professor, or the ease in explanation provided by a teaching assistant, there is no doubt that a good learning experience is a product of the time and energy of professors and TAs.

However, these educators are often overlooked and underappreciated for their efforts to bring life to course content. It’s time we become more active in acknowledging our professors and TAs.

The 2019 Teaching Awards Ceremony, an event run by a subcommittee of McMaster Students Union Macademics, was held on March 15, presenting nominated professors and TAs with awards for their excellence in teaching.

As someone involved in organizing and attending the event, a common remark made by the winners was that the greatest compliment they could receive was hearing appreciation from their students.

Although we generally view professors and TAs to be confident people in positions of authority, it was interesting that many of them discussed how even though it’s their job to lecture or run tutorials, they still feel a sense of nervousness before the start of each class.

Though instructors are strongly educated and qualified, it’s reassuring for them to hear that they’re doing a good job from their students.

Let’s take the time to compliment instructors that incorporate memes into their presentations, relate class material to our generation, take feedback seriously and actually make course improvements based off of them.

It’s easy to take their efforts for granted, but if you really enjoyed a class, let your instructor know after class or send them an email with follow-up questions.

Trying to be actively engaged in class is a great way to show instructors that what they’re saying is interesting. Although three-hour lectures can start to drag on, it’s great to ask questions or give your professor a nod of understanding when they look in your direction.

With course evaluations now open, spare a few minutes to describe what you like about your classes so far, and provide suggestions if you have any.

Not only is this an opportunity to give your input, it’s also a great way for professors to cater their class to their students’ needs, something many professors genuinely want to do.

When it’s Teaching Award nomination season, make sure you nominate professors and TAs that are doing a great job. The process takes no more than five minutes and can make all the difference for the educators you’re nominating.

Besides the fact that appreciating your teachers is a kind gesture, it’s also important to remember that beyond the course they are teaching, professors and TAs have industry knowledge and professional experience that could benefit you.

Whether you’re interested in learning more about the field they’re in, getting advice about graduate school or acquiring volunteer opportunities, it’s not a bad idea to start building a relationship with your instructors by showing them how they’re making your learning experience better.

Of course, be genuine and mean what you say, but recognize that sharing your thoughts and opinions about a class can result in a really great professional relationship.

There are classes you will love and others you will hate. But amongst the many that are boring, annoying and difficult, we all have at least one class that we look forward to attending, even on a rough day.

As students, let’s take the time to show our appreciation for our beloved educators that make a positive difference in our lives.

 

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Photos C/O Steel City Stories

By: Neda Pirouzmand

Abeer Siddiqui, McMaster’s librarian and adjunct lecturer for the school of interdisciplinary science, partnered with Steel City Stories to create “Science: an evening of true, personal stories about science,” an event held on March 12 featuring personal stories told by STEM professionals to community members.

Hamilton storyteller Lisa Hunt, a member of the Steel City Stories Planning Committee, met Siddiqui through the LIFESCI 4L03 course. This new course was designed and implemented just this past fall by Siddiqui and her co-instructor.

Hunt introduced students to the art of oral storytelling through a guest lecture and provided feedback to students in the class.

Speakers at the story-telling event last week included Roopali Chaudhary, the owner of a cake business called (C6H12O6)^3. Her first order came from the McMaster’s biology department. Chaudhary made them a Madagascar hissing cockroach cake for a retiring entomologist who supposedly loved the insect.

The department of biology now commonly orders cakes from her online business.

Chaudhary promotes her creations by bringing awareness to the importance of communication in science. Her passion is driven by a goal to combine art and science in an edible form.

The story she shared revealed the path that led her to where she is today.

“My story was inspired by a critical moment in my life as a post-doc that completely changed how I viewed science as a whole,” said Chaudhary. “It led me to quit my research position, but also allowed me continue doing everything I loved about science without organizational constraints that had been holding me back. Now I get to bake cakes too, and I am happy.”

Rodrigo Narro Perez shared his story of immigrating to Canada at a young age. He highlighted the first decade of his rocky journey to learn English and integrate with Canadian culture.

“My first day of school is vivid in my mind. My parents decided to enroll me in primary school just three days after arriving in the frigid cold of Canada’s November,” said Perez. “When they introduced me to my teacher Ms. Smith, I did what every good Peruvian boy would do and I tried to kiss her on the cheek. I will never forgive my parents.”

As a sessional instructor for McMaster’s school of geography and earth sciences, Perez piloted a field course to bring 10 McMaster students to his home of Peru. As the liaison between two countries, he is responsible for the translation of documents and conversations crucial to his research on the retreat of South American glaciers.

“The fact that my two homes are collaborating in the pursuit of greater knowledge is extremely meaningful to me. I have fully embraced that Peru and Canada are a part of me, not one is more and not one is less,” he said.

McMaster university librarians built on their momentum from the story-telling event and continued to celebrate contributions to STEM by by giving away about 3,000 pies in H.G. Thode Library, Hamilton Hall and Mills Memorial Library for Pi day.

On April 24, an open house will give students a first-hand look at iconic scientific texts, dating from the 12th century to present day.

 

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Thou shalt not sit at the edge of the row

Shimmying past a group of seated people is as difficult as an Olympic-grade obstacle course. You have to avoid knocking knees, impaling yourself against the back of the row in front of you and stepping on valuable belongings in the attempt to flail your way to an empty seat. All the while, you’re stiffly leaning forward and praying to God that your backpack won’t accidentally smack someone in the face and give them cause to sue. While there are some exceptions to this golden rule (say, if you happen to be left-handed, or if all the seats in the middle have already been taken, in which case this rule is void), be considerate and move in. Otherwise, if someone backpacks you in the face, it’s only karma.

Thou shalt not hog half the row of seats

While it’s definitely nice to be surrounded by your friends, remember that you’re not in lecture to have a reunion. You’re there to learn, which can be done no matter where you sit, and regardless of whether everyone in your crew is accounted for. Your obligation is not to be the designated usher for everyone you know, but to be considerate of the general public (i.e. your class). So if you decide to look out for your friends, then please, for the love of all that is good, divide and conquer. Don’t be that one person who takes up seven seats. Limit yourself to maybe one or two seats beside you, and meet up with everyone else after class is over. If that ends your friendship, then good riddance.

Thou shalt not leave drinks on the floor

This is Murphy’s Law in action. You’re placing your half-finished coffee in the vicinity of a bunch of limbs whose main purpose is to kick things over. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens next. Once you spill your coffee (and you will, inevitably, spill your coffee), it becomes a nuisance for you to clean it up. Since a lot of lecture halls are slanted, you’ve not only effectively forced all the following classes held in that lecture hall to wonder which jerk committed this indecency, but you’ve allowed it to spread. So either put it on the seat’s desk beside you or hold it securely. It might even be less of a hassle to wait until after class, where you can actually enjoy your beverage.

Thou shalt not speak over the professor

Nothing is worse than making the commendable feat of actually going to lecture, only to find that you can hardly hear anything the prof is saying. No one wants to hear you gossip about how wasted you got last weekend or whether so-and-so is interested in you. If a lack of general privacy for your personal affairs doesn’t concern you, then ask yourself why you’re in lecture in the first place if you don’t intend to learn. You are in a room filled with bleary-eyed faces, all of whom are copying down notes in attempt to actually be effective with their time. It’s time to have some respect for your peers. So put on your keener jeans and kindly zip it, or take the rest of your conversation outside.

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Chad Regan / The Silhouette

This past week, the Faculty of Humanities had Jasper Puar to speak on her work ‘Ecologies of Sensation, Sensational Ecologies: Sex and Disability in the Israeli Occupation of Palestine’ for their Whidden Lectures series. If the verbiage of the title doesn’t lose your interest, hopefully the borderline anti-semitic sentiment encapsulated by it will.

First, some pretext: I am an openly homosexual man, and a proud supporter of the state of Israel. Some, such as Ms. Puar, would call this intellectual schizophrenia; I call it logic.

Israel is a modern state, unparalleled in the Middle East for its liberalism, modernity, and acceptance.

Ms. Puar’s lecture, held on Jan. 14 and funded by the Faculty of Humanities, was an exercise in spitballing and seeing what stuck. Her lecture discussed two main themes: Israeli prenatal screening practises and ‘pinkwashing’. If you were unable to understand what those words meant without a Women’s Studies lexicon, join the club: her talk was as esoteric as a lecture could be, and with a purpose. Ms. Puar, who is from the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, made some rather outlandish claims that do not find their place in fact, but in an intrinsically anti-Israel political agenda.

To examine them is to familiarize oneself with the rhetoric of pseudo-intellectualism.

Ms. Puar began by discussing what she effectively described as a military-industrial fuelled eugenics program in Israel-Palestine. Citing the practise of prenatal screening, Ms. Puar somehow managed to say she was both pro-screening but simultaneously found the Israeli practise thereof to be deplorable, because it devalues disability: all of this, of course, is a result of the Israeli Defence Force’s lust for warm, healthy bodies to go out and perpetuate ‘the Occupation’ (a term she used both liberally and vaguely, a catastrophic combination when it comes to intellectual speakers).

Let’s set the record straight: Israel’s disabled rights movement began in 1988 (arguably) with the Special Education Law, and continues to this day with the National Insurance Institute providing benefits to children 3-18 year old.

After this, a series of equality measures were enacted, least of which included the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law, and a series of integration laws to better include mentally and physically handicapped individuals in the broader society. With about 7.6 per cent of Israeli children (both Arab and Jewish) having some form of disability, the government provides grants for both home accommodations, and education accommodations. As of yet, these efforts have not been enough, with a need for about 30 per cent more coverage than current programs achieve: Israel, like most modern democracies, is not a perfect state - welcome to reality.

Regarding Ms. Puar’s claims of a ‘perfect baby syndrome’ amongst Israeli parents fuelled by the national military complex, this is simply an unfounded interpretation.

A prenatal screening process is much needed in a population historically afflicted with a disproportionately large number of Tay-Sachs and other genetically transmitted disease sufferers, particularly amongst Ashkenazi populations. While Ms. Puar expressed support for this, she seemed to reject the practise when conducted by Israelis, which seemed to be a thread throughout her discourse.

On that note, while Ms. Puar expressed support for rights for LGBT people generally speaking, when it came to Israeli LGBT rights, she preferred the term ‘pinkwashing’.

‘Pinkwashing’ is a nifty manufactured term used to claim that Israel’s stellar LGBT rights record is only used as a cover for its brutal occupation of ‘Israel-Palestine’.

While she acknowledged the progress the State of Israel has made, she downplayed it by claiming that the end of the occupation superseded rights for gay and lesbian Israelis. Israel’s long history of liberalism toward its LGBT population, starting with the de facto nullification of buggery laws in 1960 and culminating today with legal recognition for same-sex civil marriage, Right of Return to gay couples, and the adoption of one’s partner’s children.

Thankfully, all of this progress has occurred in spite of people like Ms. Puar, who seemed to convey that LGBT citizens could wait to have their rights dealt to them.

Any progress Israel makes is, in Ms. Puar’s eyes, tainted by the occupation and therefore ought not be made at all. As gays in Palestine are constantly maltreated and dealt with under Islamic law, gays in Israel enjoy the rights and freedoms afforded to any individual in a free, democratic nation. This is the reality whether Ms. Puar would like to remain blissfully ignorant to it or not. When this point was contended, the questioner was shot down: Ms. Puar’s ability to respond to critical questions was just about as good as her ability to make clear, decisive statements on the existence of Israel.

Throughout her talk, I felt the urge to ask Ms. Puar one simple question: What would your optimal State of Israel look like?

Deep down, however, I knew I need not even ask. Her answer was clear: it would look like nothing at all.

 

 

 

 

Fariha Husain

The Silhouette

 

On Jan. 10, McMaster president Patrick Deane hosted a lecture, featuring guest speaker Dr. Andrew Furco, on community engagement as a part of the McMaster Seminar on Higher Learning series.

The seminars were inspired by Deane’s letter “Forward with Integrity,” and were organized to address the issues surrounding the institutionalization of education at the university level and specifically to foster the development of innovative ideas at McMaster in the realm of education, teaching and student involvement.

Furco, the Associate Vice President for Public Engagement at the University of Minnesota, looked at the increasingly significant contribution community engagement can make to the university institution and how it can translate into funding for universities.

Furco began his lecture with an statistic pertaining to the increase in service-learning (volunteering, community internships and other activities) available in American universities, which increased from 49 per cent five years ago to 90 per cent now. The increase in such community engagement opportunities stands as a testament to the resurgence of the idea that universities and colleges are institutes that exist to benefit society.

This important idea may seem obvious to many students, faculty and staff alike. Furco, however, noted that educational institutions such as the University of California at Berkley, where he was the founding director for the Service-Learning Research and Development Centre, had many world renowned experts on issues ranging from homelessness to cancer yet ust across the street from Berkley there was, and had been some for time, a growing poverty issue.

Community engagement in an educational context refers to the consolidation of educational endeavours into it’s implication for the surrounding community, which Furco referred to as the “So what?” factor. All of this research, education and training must be undertaken in order to accomplish certain goals and community engagement seems to be a way to do exactly this.

Community engagement through service-learning is certainly relevant in an institution such as McMaster which is located in the city of Hamilton, often regarded as one of the only cities where housing is cheaper when individuals move closer to the downtown core. Some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada can be found in Hamilton’s downtown core.

McMaster’s reputation lingers among those of world-renowned institutions and as such attracts immense talent in its students and faculty. McMaster is also situated in close proximity to some of the poorest districts in Canada, and is well equipped with the experience and skill to put forth the effort to create viable and long lasting change in order to meet the societal needs of this city.

This fundamental goal is central to McMaster’s mission, as stated, “At McMaster, our purpose is the discovery, communication, and preservation of knowledge. In our teaching, research, and scholarship, we are committed to creativity, innovation, and excellence.” McMaster students are encouraged to incorporate community engagement in their educational pursuits in order to gain the most from their experience, explained Furco.

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