Prof. Rembert's Reflection on Summer 2018

 Teachers, students, family, and friends after our showcase at the J. Austin White Cultural Center, where Prof. Rembert taught “How Does My Smartphone Work?”

Teachers, students, family, and friends after our showcase at the J. Austin White Cultural Center, where Prof. Rembert taught “How Does My Smartphone Work?”

Since returning from Eudora, I have been asked the same question over and over again: “Did you enjoy your teaching program this summer?” Once the question lands, my mind runs through the same thought process every single time.

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I think about how great the overall experience was—the teaching, the course design, the constructive criticism, the chance to learn about fields outside of my own through my co-teachers. What a unique opportunity that I would never have thought I would have in graduate school.

I think about how difficult it was physically—late nights of adjusting my course plan and prepping content (probably should have done a little more prep before the summer...), frantically trying to help students finish their final projects, questionable WiFi in a hunting lodge that housed us from 100-degree weather the entire summer. And the mosquitos...

I think about how great it was physically, and by that I mean the food. All of it. Homemade tacos and tamales, local barbecued meats, Grill & Chill chicken wing sauce. Not to mention my reunion with Blue Bell Cookies n’ Cream ice cream...

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I think about how rewarding it was emotionally—making new friendships with other grad students that I’m sure will last a lifetime, bringing smiles to the students’ faces, becoming their friends, immersing ourselves into a small community that was nothing but welcoming to us from day one. The parents were nothing but appreciative and loving of our short time in Eudora.

I think about how challenging it was emotionally—being pushed out of my comfort zone, hearing about each student’s issues and personal struggles outside of the classroom, opening up to my housemates (aka my co-teachers) about my own personal struggles, hearing their own struggles as women of color in our divided country.

I think about how, even with the heavy emotional weight, this program was unquestionably worth it. Freedom Summer Collegiate gave me the opportunity to be an influence in young people’s lives in a way I had always dreamed of. I got to show students that science is cool and accessible to everyone and that they have the ability to grasp conceptually difficult graduate-level material. I got to show students that the teachers don’t just care about the class but rather the students in them. Of course we wanted them to enjoy the classes and the material being presented, but assessing their knowledge about how smartphones work was only one part of my role. I got to know so much more about the students: their favorite sports teams, their pet peeves, what drives them, who they are inspired by, their most/least favorite teachers in high school and why, how they want to contribute to society, how they have been judged because of their race, where they’ve traveled, their favorite Snapchat filters, the names of their loved ones... The list goes on and on.

So when I think about the summer, I think about the students and how everything about this past summer was for them. The fact that the students said in the end of summer evaluations that they loved the classes and want the same teachers to come back next year shows me that we did something right. Whether that’s manifested as giving them new potential majors in college to consider, giving them a desire to attend college at all, or having them feel cared for and heard, we were able to reach them in some meaningful capacity. And to all of that I say, 

“Yes, I really enjoyed my summer, and I hope to be able to do it again next year.”

 A final project by one of Prof. Rembert’s students, showing his design for a self-spit-releasing instrument.

A final project by one of Prof. Rembert’s students, showing his design for a self-spit-releasing instrument.

Andrew Donnelly