Q&A: Mr. David Harnish, Science


Mr. Harnish stands in his high school classroom. He has been teaching college courses at Indiana University.

Bianca Matchain

Q: What classes do you teach at Indiana University?

A: I teach what is called C110, which is the “Chemistry of Life”. It is a required course for nursing students, dental assisting, students in hematology [blood work] and people possibly going into pre-med who want a little bit more chemistry background.

Q: How often do your high school and college schedules overlap?

A: [College classes] are always in the afternoons and evenings, so they never overlap.

Q: How is the teaching environment different at high school than in the college setting?

A: I find the biggest thing is a lot of [college students] are not as prepared as they should be. I think Lake Central students should feel lucky that they are here because they have people encouraging them to take chemistry and higher sciences in high school. I have some [college students] who have never [taken] chemistry and the big [problem] is because the speed [college students] have to go, we only meet them 30 times and that is it. In my class, we have one chapter every two days, and it is very hard for some of them to keep up. Their tests often have three or four chapters at once, so that is a big difference for a lot of people. Everybody in high school is used to a one chapter test, but in college we only have four tests during the regular semester. When I teach in the summer, I only have 11 days to cover the same material I do during the semester, so they have a test over eight chapters at one time.

Q: Do you teach high school and college students differently? If so, How?

A: Because of the time [the college students lack], we have no time to do creative things like labs we do at the high school. I cannot do a demonstration or anything because there wouldn’t be enough time. I primarily use PowerPoints but I don’t even read the slides, I just use them as a discussion point.  [Instead, I] emphasize problem-solving. I let [college students] read the background information, and I put in YouTube clips to give them a visual idea about what is going on. A lot of the responsibility for learning the material is on the student. They get assigned homework but they do not have class time to work on it.

Q: What influenced your decision to have two different teaching jobs?

A: Actually, I started Indiana University before I came here, so I have been doing that for 20 years. I just like doing both, so that’s what I do.

Q: Which is more challenging for you?

A: High school is more challenging, because there is a lot more going on in the classroom. You have more responsibility to the students. The college classrooms are big, but I do not have as much interaction with them. I don’t have to schedule makeup work or grade their homework because it is all turned in electronically.  The high school definitely takes more time.

Q: Only teach high school or college, which would you choose to teach?

A: At this point, I like aspects of [teaching] both. My plan when I retire at some point in the future [is to] just teach college.  I don’t necessarily like or dislike one or the other, it’s just different.