STEM Education Poetry

Starting Lines

“Fall 2020’s path,
General Chemistry,
Now underway.
Socially distancing;
Patience and fortitude 
Carry the day.”

This is the shortest delay between Twitter posting and explanatory essay that I’ll likely ever have on this website; given this poem’s specific, stated relevance to Fall 2020, I will discuss it here in Week 1 of the new semester.    

“Fall 2020’s path, /
Synchronological: /
General Chemistry, /
Now underway.”
Synchronous” and “asynchronous” were not definitions I knew prior to March 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, but I now use these words often, as they pertain to online education and course design.  Synchronous sessions are those that meet at a specified time, while asynchronous courses are those for which materials are posted and accessible any time.  My particular autumn semester has aspects of both, but my General Chemistry classes are synchronous, meeting in the early mornings.  In this poem’s near-double-dactylic form, the most fitting adjective became “synchronological.” As of Monday, the courses are underway.     

“Socially distancing;

Some Autumn 2020 courses will involve in-person, socially distanced discussions; others will involve online lectures; others will involve some combination of the two and/or many additional possibilities.  All options have involved a significant amount of faculty preparation and flexibility over the summer months.  

“Patience and fortitude /
Carry the day.”
I’ve discussed in this space previously the concept of the zeroth law of thermodynamics: the necessity of the statement via which thermodynamic temperature is formally defined, before temperature can be used as a concept in subsequent scientific discussions.  Likewise, whatever this fall semester will bring, it is likely that its own “zeroth” requirements– the properties that must be established before any progress can be made– will reveal themselves as fortitude and patience.  Keeping these in mind, faculty, students, and staff will work together to navigate this challenging term and “carry the day”: to find success, even in these unusual circumstances.