Travails of a first-year Hosta College teacher

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Travails of a first-year Hosta College teacher

Postby thehostagourmet » Mar 19, 2007 9:14 pm

Well, I can say it definitely was a learning experience for me, and hopefully for some of the 20 attendees in my class on Hosta Hybridizing 101. I hesitate to call them students, but most were.

Notwithstanding the classroom being electrically not ready for a computer demonstration, nor the projector lacking the higher resolutions conducive to good-looking pictures, and finally having to move the projector a lot closer to the screen, I got class under way. (Next year we should have ceiling-mounted projectors ready to just plug in a computer. Whoopee! Maybe we’ll have ready access to power too.)

The problem is there was no time to setup equipment. You can’t just leave it there and go to your classes; it may grow legs, especially my notebook computer. Chris was willing to skip his class prior to the one he was teaching to setup for his Hosta virus class. I wasn’t. It was Bob Solberg’s class on growing Hostas in pots. After all, we are students too. We are not a paid teaching faculty. I mention this because one of my students seemed to think so.

Two people in the class of twenty were experienced hybridizers. I had a roster, so I knew they had signed up, even with the elementary “101” title for the course. I was a little nervous about it, but I felt they could add additional viewpoints in the discussions. They wanted to know how another hybridizer was doing things. Reasonable. Not according to the one student (out of eleven that submitted evaluation forms) who gave me a devastating class evaluation. This student thought that the class was not truly elementary enough to be labeled “Hosta Hybridizing 101”, mentioning that two experienced hybridizers were in the class. It has taken me two days to calm down. It was a tough six hour ride home yesterday.

I provided handouts including a two page class outline with sources for my equipment, the AHS picture of the Hosta flower with all its parts labeled, and a list of Hostas which I have used in hybridizing divided into five categories. These were Hosta characteristics: 3 colors (blue, yellow, and streaked), red petioles, and edge waviness. Another student suggested distinguishing between pod and pollen parents in this list, but most swing both ways, except the streakers, which are pod parents. Next time I’ll try to make that clear. I also added the optional class evaluation form.

I started class with a discussion of why hybridize, then hybridizing goals: what are you trying to achieve? The tools I use for hybridizing, and a demonstration on how to prepare the flower for pollen dabbing, and actually dabbing the pollen. I used an Easter Lily, because the few Hosta flowers I was able to get were too small to be seen in a classroom setting. (I should have asked those that hadn’t seen this before to gather around while I actually did it.) I mentioned that except for H. plantaginea, which is better crossed in the afternoon or evening, Hostas were ready for crossing early in the morning. But since it’s tough to beat the bees to the flowers, it’s better to prepare them the night before. Apparently, my student critic didn’t hear this part of the lecture, as it was one of his (her) criticisms.

I touched on variegated pollen parents (‘Bright Lights’) and that they pass on their center color, and talked about storing pollen in refrigerator and freezer.

I briefly covered record keeping, and showed my old notebooks in which I wrote my crosses, then the new Excel spreadsheets I had added this year. Discussed briefly cleaning and storing seeds, and even seed starting, before starting to show some pictures of my hybridizing results, both good and bad. This was another negative from my critical student: too many pics of my own work. I ask you, whose hybridizing results would I be most familiar with? I don’t know if he (or she) even liked ‘Lily Blue Eyes’.

I ran out of time and got to show Hosta pictures in only two of the five hybridizing characteristic categories. Too bad, because I had some great pictures. Reldon contributed one, Mike Shadrack who did the photography in the Hosta book he co-authored with Diana Grenfell, added 20, and I had mine from my garden and recent AHS conventions.

After two days, I now accept the fact that my first teaching effort was far from perfect. I was quite nervous at the start of class. I will try to address some of this critical student’s concerns, and make the mechanics of hybridizing portion of the class more of a step-by-step presentation. I will also try to move faster, even though I want questions as we go along. (Nobody remembers questions by the end of class, unless they write them down. Do you? I don’t.) Funny though, nobody except the two experienced hybridizers asked a question that I can recall. You need to question to learn. I don’t know how my grade school and high school teachers kept from killing me.

I don’t know if I can present this material in a one hour class, at least not with all the great Hosta photos. By the way, I have been doing presentations of computer software for about thirty years, but this is a new topic. I’m sure my first software demonstrations of every new product I have sold seemed as disjointed as this class seemed to my critical student. Repetition, repetition, repetition. I promise to get better.

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Last edited by thehostagourmet on Mar 20, 2007 6:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Travails of a first-year Hosta College teacher



Postby FreakyCola » Mar 19, 2007 9:46 pm

Wow George, I'm sorry that student was so critical, as I'm sure the class was very interesting! Wish I could've attended.

I can't believe a hosta person would be so critical. Must've been an imposter!

Keep up the good work! And don't get discouraged coz lots of people want to learn!
PS How cool that Reldon submitted a photo you used! Way to go Reldon!
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Postby renaldo75 » Mar 19, 2007 10:14 pm

I'm nervous just reading what your class was like, George so I can imagine how you felt. Especially with the one student. I'm sure if you have the chance to do the class again, you'll do some things differently. That is usually the case.

I did a presentation for a speech class a couple of years ago - the proper way to plant a hosta - the teacher videotaped each one & then discussed with us individually what to do to make it better. That was kind of an eye opening experience. I don't like doing stuff like that anyway, but there was lots of room for improvement besides just my bit of nerves.

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Postby Primroselane » Mar 19, 2007 10:17 pm

George, sure did enjoy your posting and I have to agree with Ellen, hard to believe that a Hosta person would be so critical, sounds like you did a terrific job of teaching.
by the way I know you were in a couple of classes that I took, but did not see you, hard to read those name tags right?
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Postby addieotto » Mar 19, 2007 10:25 pm


I was in your class, sitting behind the two "experienced" folks ((with the streaky dyed blonde hair)). I really thought your class was great for beginners and your demonstration with the lily was perfect. Don't worry too much about the criticism, you can't please everyone! You can't even try because you'll never get them all. :wink:

I could tell that you had a lot of information that you wanted to get in and could probably have kept on going. I was in another "beginner" class that was also good but didn't have any slides or pictures at all. Yours were great.

The only advice I can give - based on personal experience - is to give the presentation a few times to friends or even strangers to try to get the timing right. If it goes too long, try to see where you can save some time. Sometimes giving the presentation to people who know nothing about your topic are good for fine tuning a "beginner" class because they have questions you might not have thought about.

I have a presentation that was a rambling two and a half hours that I am tentatively lined up to give to a few (large) audiences in the next year. I must get it to fit in one hour no matter what. I'm at about an hour and ten minutes now so I'm redoing my power point presentation and outline to help me stick to my time better. Then I am going to make a few friends and coworkers suffer through it for the hundreth time until I get it right :P
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When did class finally start?

Postby thehostagourmet » Mar 20, 2007 7:21 am

If anyone who was there looked at the time when we actually started the class, it would help a lot in knowing how much I need to pare down and/or speed up.

Thanks for the kind comments.

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Postby thy » Mar 20, 2007 7:39 am

It sounds good to me :wink:

Sue have some very good points

Nothing is as bad as starting with tecknical problems :evil:
It make everyone nervous, time is running and as a teacher you think your audience is bored :cry:

Try to turn things upside down- give them a smile and for the critical one- there is normally such one - be glad the critic was told to you, not just to every body else- after the class :wink:
I do not like to teach in a ... have to be 60 minutes way... but here is what I would do:
You know you wil get questions, but you do not know how many - hey can take time from 5 minutes to an half hour :roll:
Make a show/ speach planned to last 30 minutes - then think they will only ask questions in 10 minutes and find areas you want to dig into - and prepare them or find pics from other hybridizers - and show them if you have time :wink:

The best advise I ever got was: " If you cant find the words, your brain is like an empty white board- don't stop, just go around speaking of other things or say you will come back to the topic if needed- YOU are the only one, who know what you had planned to say- the audiense do NOT know

Keep up the spirit- Sue told you it was good and I would have loved to hear it :D

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Postby DBoweMD » Mar 20, 2007 12:53 pm

I was very happy with your talk, even having been hybridizing for a few years.
For me the best parts were the methods you use for identifying seedlings and labeling crosses, as they are different from mine.
The pictures were great, the Easter Lily flower demo was very effective.
The talk with Josh Stadden had no pictures, so his could have been so much better.
The criticisms don't seem well founded to me, probably a matter of taste. I wanted to see your personal results. As a doc we get evaluated constantly by patients, and I know how you can feel stabbed in the back by a negative comment, particularly when you were treated well in person.
Sometimes it is because the complainer was already in a bad mood. So try to ignore those things that don't help you see the things that you want or need to know. The best criticism tells you something that you are happy you found out about.
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What time did we start?

Postby thehostagourmet » Mar 20, 2007 1:00 pm

Thanks for the encouraging words, Dave. Do you remember what time I actually got started?

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Postby tsbccowboy » Mar 20, 2007 1:06 pm

My guess is there were nineteen happy attendees.

Way to go,
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Welcome to the club

Postby oldcoot » Mar 20, 2007 1:49 pm

OC was a lecturer and demonstrator for a long time. He taught and participated in a lot of College Continuing Education Classes and at technical conference. And there is not way you are going to please everybody. At least yours didn't get up and walk out as some did to me one time. The ones who stayed and OC had a great time.

One of the great things you did, was give out a handout for them to take home with them. As they look over it they will remember a lot of things they didn't even know they had absorbed.

Unless you have time to "PREPARE" before hand that old guy Murphy will bite you in your rear end everytime. Your students got more from your talk than you can imagine or than they Thought they got. Once the dust settles. and they slow down, it will osmosis it's way in and they won't even remember that they knew it.

Cheer up fellow, it has happened to all those on the lecture or banquet circuit.

OC guesses the thing that got him at first was the fear of not doing well and sometimes he over prepared, OC is sure you did really well, you just felt uncomfortable. The folk here that were there, confirms OC's feelings.

Thanks for taking time to do it OC who has been there many times......
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Postby poppi » Mar 22, 2007 3:20 pm


Although I was at hosta college I didn't take your class. I wish I had though. I think it was closed by the time I registered. :(

I just want you to know that everybody appreciates the efforts the teachers put into preparing for the class...especially knowing that you don't get compensated. I'm sure you'll do great next year. :D

As far as the length of the class, I took grafting that we had over 2 class periods. Do you think you have enough material to fill nearly 2 hrs? If so, maybe you want to consider that. Just a thought. :-?

FYI, I was also in Bob Solberg's class on potted hosta. I found it very well organized and useful. I've got a few in pots so I wanted to see what I was missing. Thankfully he filled in a few missing pieces. :D
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Postby thehostagourmet » Mar 23, 2007 5:20 am

Thanks, Poppi, but I think if the equipment is ready, I can hurry things a little. I thought as last class in the afternoon, it could run longer.

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