General Chemistry Tutor
September 1, 2019
September 1, 2019
The Benefits Of Having A General Chemistry Tutor
Chemistry is one of the hardest subjects. It’s one of the most popular and common subjects that we assist with at Tutor Portland. General chemistry concepts (in both college and high school) are challenging because gen chem forces you to think and understand what is going on. In addition, the subject is highly quantitative.
But the best students are able to weave in both a qualitative and quantitative understanding. This is something that I worked very hard at developing. I was always trying to understand big concepts. I figured that if I understood how the molecules were interacting and what was happening in the beaker, then I would do just fine on the exams. And that played out to be true. In chemistry, even highly quantitative problems can often be solved without crunching any numbers. If you have a really good understanding of the laws and properties of chemistry—and the definitions of the terms—then you can often figure out the answer to multiple-choice problems without using your calculator.
Challenges With General Chemistry In School
Another reason that general chemistry is challenging is that there is often intense time-pressure on the examinations. You might have two or three minutes per problem. And some easily require four or five. That means you have to use your time very wisely. You have to have calculated so many practice problems, that you are acting on muscle memory. When you see a simple problem, you don’t even have to think about it, you just start plugging numbers into your calculator instantly. And you can’t be slowly typing numbers in. You are *flying* through that exam.
One of the best tricks is to be able to answer some of the longer quantitative problems instantly without having to calculate. If you have a really solid understanding of the principles of chemistry, then you should be able to do this. While your friends are struggling to calculate these long problems, you will have moved on and will have more time to spend on other difficult problems. That’s why learning concepts is so valuable.
Learning about the concepts of chemistry is valuable for other reasons, too. These are powerful concepts that you can apply to everyday life. They help you think about the world. They also help you ponder the world around you. It’s fascinating to learn about the autoionization of water. H2O is constantly changing form right in front of our eyes, switching back and forth between water, hydronium, and hydroxide. That makes you realize the law of imperanance—that nothing in life is truly permanent, everything is constantly changing shape. Things are unstable. When you truly feel and grasp this concept, you will have peace because it teaches you that there is nothing to cling to or hold onto. If things are constantly changing, it doesn’t make rational sense to try and cling to anything. Without clinging there is no attachment. Without attachment, there is no agitation. And without agitation one is able to attain nirvana. That’s one of the many connections between chemistry and Buddhism. Chemistry can also connect to investing. Just as water is constantly changing, so too is the stock market. Everyday “Mr. Market” comes to you and tries to offer you stock at a certain price. And all you have to do is wait. You can wait for the day when that price is low enough, and then you buy.
Other science courses also teach us lessons about life. For example, Biology teaches us about “fundamental” and “realized” niches. Fundamental niches are the total amount of space and resources that a species could possibly occupy. But no species ever realizes it’s entire fundamental niche. Species are only able to attain their “realized” niche. This is the same in your life. It has brought me a great deal of peace to realize that it’s natural that I won’t reach *all* of my goals. I won’t attain my entire fundamental niche. But I can attain my realized niche!
In addition, many species in biology are able to find co-niches. Instead of complete competition, they are able to live side-by-side and even benefit from each other. We can see this play out in life as companies compete with each other in the market. They often don’t entirely destroy other companies. Each company is able to carve out its niche. This is the same with people, too.
Other ideas in chemistry help us think about life. For example, we can consider how the ideas in bonding theory relate to our life. I like to think about how when a bond is created there is actually a decrease in potential energy, and the new molecule is more stable. This is one of the benefits that relationships and other people bring to our life. When we engage with intimate relationships and close friendships and family, our lives actually become more stable than they were before.
One huge idea in chemistry and biology is the old “structure and function” lesson. This concept says that the structure of something correlates very closely with its function. This gets very specific in subjects such as organic chemistry. The smallest changes in structure—the placement of an atom or even the 3D shape of something—can dramatically change its function. This can help us ponder our own structure. What are our strengths? What function in society would we be best suited for? What will my life look like at a certain school, job, or occupation? The structure of the day is so different depending on what you choose.
But most importantly, underneath all of this, chemistry is simply inherently interesting. It is fascinating to learn about these ideas. Still, even with the vast beauty of chemistry, it’s very challenging to convince kids and students to like it. It takes finesse. It requires good communication skills and an open, likable personality. You have to think about things from the kid’s perspective. How can you connect with them? How can you empathize with their life? Try to think, connect, and feel what might be going on in their life. Chemistry is probably the last thing in the world they want to focus on. I always thank my students and tell them: “I know that Chemistry is the last thing you want to be doing on a Sunday, so thanks for putting the time and effort in. It won’t be too long or terrible, and we’ll get through it.”
This builds connection and rapport. With that little sentence, you have separated yourself from teachers and other educators who only care about imparting their agenda. This sentence shows that you are actually taking an interest in *their* life and attempting to see things from their perspective. If you ever want a student to try and see your perspective on something, you first have to try seeing theirs. That is how you build a connection. And connection and rapport are how any great learning process begins.
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