The Flow-State of Teaching

As I reflect upon my past semester’s work through the CUTF, I can genuinely identify it as one of the most meaningful and transformative experiences that I have had during my time at college. Introduction to Cell Biology is widely regarded as one of the most difficult courses in the curriculum of bioengineering students at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself exceptionally lucky for having the opportunity to teach the students in this course and work towards making their first academic experience in the bioengineering program as enjoyable as possible. Few things over the past four years have felt as rewarding as helping my students achieve that “lightbulb” moment when learning a difficult concept for the first time.

When I stood at the front of the classroom before recitations began, I found myself entering a flow-state, where everything in my mind melted away except for what I had slated to teach my students that week. I stood at the whiteboard, drawing out my mental representations of cellular organelles, molecular pathways, and experimental designs. I scanned the faces of my students, gauging from the frowns or nods of affirmation whether I had successfully conveyed my point. I fielded questions, I crafted analogies, and I drew some more. When the recitation period ended, I felt a whoosh in my ears, as if time had been suspended for the past hour and just restarted.

Teaching, I have realized, comes very naturally to me. When I’m standing at the front of that room, filling the whiteboard with illustrations of biological mechanisms, I feel like myself. The CUTF has been an incredibly valuable experience in that it has reinforced my desire to pursue further teaching opportunities and incorporate teaching into my future career. This coming summer, I will work with an after-school program in an underprivileged community near my home to teach basic science concepts to children of elementary school age. Moving forward, I will pursue a career in medicine and research. Throughout this journey, I plan to continue mentoring students and scholars, either in the classroom, the laboratory, or the clinic.

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