Things I Should Have Learned in Chem I (but didn’t)

Coastal Carolina Community College, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Coastal Carolina Community College, by LouFCD @ Flickr

I love my school. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

I love the campus (tore up with construction as it is at the moment), I love the size, I love the variety of classes offered (though I wish there were more, of course), I love the high standards, and most of all I love the faculty and staff. I don’t think I’ve ever met a conglomeration of people so dedicated to the purpose of helping a rag-tag, diverse bunch of people and their unique needs as the faculty at Coastal. With one exception (an instructor no longer there, I might add), I’ve spent nearly two years watching instructors fall all over themselves to help students understand the presented material, and inspire us to think about it, evaluate it, expand on it, and run like hell with it. I don’t know if this is the norm for the community college as I’ve never attended another, but it certainly wasn’t my university experience lo, those many years ago. I will sorely miss Coastal when I graduate this Spring and transfer to UNCW this Fall, regardless of how wonderful an experience that might be.

That freedom, I tend to think, has taken a rather extensive toll on this blog (not to mention JanieBelle’s!). I expend a great deal of creative energy going above and beyond, working my ass off to not just pass my classes, but to excel in them, and when I get home, quite frankly, there’s little left for personal projects like blogging or even photography.

So it pains me to level a criticism, valid as it may be, in any shape or form. I have already taken my concern to several of the instructors there, and to The Chair, and I am satisfied that my voice has been heard and the situation is properly addressed. Nevertheless, I thought a bit of explanation for the title and point of this post is in order.

I took CHM 151 (Chem I) online last semester. I didn’t want to, but it was only offered at times when other classes that I needed were offered, and it was the best of a list of unsatisfactory choices for me, near as I could tell with the information I had in hand. Some days will be like that. Coastal can’t possibly tailor their entire schedule to every student, and they do go out of their way to do the best they can with what they have to work with. So with the consolation that at least I’d have a real on-campus lab, I elected to do the online lecture.

Big mistake.

Let me say this before continuing. Never, ever, for any reason, take a science class online if you can take a seated class instead. Work the other stuff around the seated science class instead.

Now, I took Chem I and Chem II in a seated class my first go ’round with a real university (as opposed to the brainwashing institution of Bob Jones “University” that I did right after high school). I got a B in Chem I (not totally unrelated to my inadequate Jesusschool high school education, in the instructor’s defense) and a C in Chem II (not totally unrelated to issues of native language and accent of the instructor, in my defense) back in the mid ’90’s at Marshall. Although the credits didn’t transfer due to the intervening ten years, I felt fairly confident that some of it would at least be familiar, and I picked up some understanding of Chemistry in Biology classes at Coastal, so I was pretty sure I’d be OK, if more than a bit challenged. That might have been the case had I taken a seated class.

As it turns out however, I had an online lecture instructor that was pretty much phoning it in. We got notes that amounted to “Read this chapter, know these three principles, and here’s a youtube video.” When the weekly quiz showed up, it rarely had more than a tangential relationship to principles A, B, or C, and the exams were similarly unconnected to the material (and insanely easy). It was bizarre.

Complicating matters was that 1) the instructor turned out to not even be a member of our faculty, but was an instructor at some other community college, and 2) she did not respond to email from any of us. OK, so if you’re taking an online lecture and you’ve got a question or are having a bit of difficulty, you’ve already got to figure in some lag time for a response, but to not get any response at all? Now add to that the fact that you can’t even track the instructor down at her office, and there is a serious problem. It gets worse, but that’s the gist of the most relevant problem.

On the upside, the seated lab was mandatory, and hence we had a real human being to whom we could go for help. Dr. P. (that’s not to protect his identity, that’s just what everyone calls him) rocked, as is expected for Coastal faculty. On the downside, he usually spent the first hour of our three-hour lab teaching us enough of what we should have learned in lecture that we at least had a vague idea of what the lab was supposed to be about. That of course, only left us two hours to do a lab experiment that was designed for three hours, but Dr. P. was very good about making shit happen. I think he deserves a medal or something.

In any event, at the end of the semester, I approached Dr. P. with the question, “What are the most important parts of Chem I that I should have learned so that I have a fighting chance in Chem II?” He enumerated a list for me of indispensable things that I could not get through Chem II without knowing, and I spent my Christmas vacation memorizing the things below (and some other stuff, this is a partial list), figuring out gas laws, solubility, and half a dozen other principles, rules, and laws.

I got an A in Chem I, but to be honest it’s the only grade I’ve ever gotten at Coastal that I do not feel I earned. I walked out of that class with half an understanding of half of what I should have learned (and that entirely at the hand of Dr. P.), and frankly? That A pissed me off. It irritated me. It disappointed me, and that’s the worst thing of all.

I’m holding my own in Chem II (an A so far – earned this time), but I’m busting my ass to work from behind to do it. I’m putting this stuff here for reference, and I’ve added it to the Escuela section of the blog so it’s accessible when I (or you) need it. I’ll add yet more Things I Should Have Learned in Chem I (but didn’t) like formulas, laws, and important constants as I get the time. (Read: “Don’t stand around holding your breath, I’m a fucking college student!”)

Important Ions

Type I Monatomic Cations
Li+ Be2+
Na+ Mg2+
K+ Ca2+
Rb+ Sr2+
Cs+ Ba2+
Fr+ Ra2+
Ag+ Zn2+ Al3+
Cd2+ Ga3+

Monatomic Anions
N3- O2- F
P3- S2- Cl

What happens when you start throwing Hydrogen ions (protons) at the right side of the Periodic Table:
H+ + H —> H2 Hydrogen Gas
H+ + F —> HF Hydrofluoric Acid
H+ + Cl —> HCl Hydrochloric Acid
H+ + Br —> HBr Hydrobromic Acid
H+ + I —> HI Hydroiodic Acid
H+ + At —> HAt Hydroastatic Acid
2H+ + O2- —> H2O Water
2H+ + S2- —> H2S Hydrogen Sulfide
3H+ + N3- —> NH3 Ammonia
3H+ + P3- —> PH3 Phosphine

Type II Monatomic Cations
Hg22+ Mercury (I) Hg2+ Mercury (II)
Cu+ Copper (I) Cu2+ Copper (II)
Cr2+ Chromium (II) Cr3+ Chromium (III)
Mn2+ Manganese (II) Mn3+ Manganese (III)
Fe2+ Iron (II) Fe3+ Iron (III)
Co2+ Cobalt (II) Co3+ Cobalt (III)
Pb2+ Lead (II) Pb4+ Lead (IV)
Sn2+ Tin (II) Sn4+ Tin (IV)
Tl+ Thallium (I) Tl2+ Thallium (II) Tl3+ Thallium (III)

Polyatomic Anions
Carbons and Acids
HCO2 Formate HCOOH Formic Acid
CO32- Carbonate HCO3 Hydrogen Carbonate H2CO3 Carbonic Acid
C2H3O2 Acetate CH3COOH Acetic Acid
C2O42- Oxalate HC2O4 Hydrogen Oxalate HOOCCOOH Oxalic Acid
C6H5CO2 Benzoate C6H5COOH Benzoic Acid
Chlorates and Acids
ClO Hypochlorite HClO Hypochlorous Acid
ClO2 Chlorite HClO2 Chlorous Acid
ClO3 Chlorate HClO3 Chloric Acid
ClO4 Perchlorate HClO4 Perchloric Acid
Nitrates and Acids*
NO2 Nitrite HNO2 Nitrous Acid
NO3 Nitrate HNO3 Nitric Acid
*Chlorates, Nitrates, Bromates, and Iodates all pretty much seem to follow the same pattern.
Chromates and Acids
CrO42- Chromate HCrO4 Hydrogen Chromate H2CrO4 Chromic Acid
Cr2O72- Dichromate HCr2O7 Hydrogen Dichromate H2Cr2O7 Dichromic Acid
Phosphates and Acids
PO43- Phosphate HPO42-
Hydrogen Phosphate
Dihydrogen Phosphate
H3PO4 Phosphoric Acid
Sulfates and Acids
SO32- Sulfite HSO3 Hydrogen Sulfite H2SO3 Sulfurous Acid
SO42- Sulfate HSO4 Hydrogen Sulfate H2SO4 Sulfuric Acid
S2O32- Thiosulfate

Sundry and Misc.
OH Hydroxide
O22- Peroxide
CN Cyanide
SCN Thiocyanate
MnO4 Permanganate
N3 Azide
NH4+ Ammonium
CH3NH3+ Methylammonium

From whence came the art:

That image is titled Coastal Carolina Community College by me, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license.

4 Responses to “Things I Should Have Learned in Chem I (but didn’t)”

  1. khan Says:

    I’ve forgotten so much.

  2. Rystefn Says:

    I took two Chem classes in high school and helped my Dove a lot with her homework in the subject, so I like to think I have a pretty good grounding, but there’s no way I’d feel prepared for a class after a course like that, even if I actually was. I think it’s a good thing for every student that follows you that you were in the class before. Something tells me that when you say the situation has been addressed that you’ve helped them all in a meaningful way.

    I guess this is me thanking you on their behalf, since they will likely never even know.

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