This project is being launched for the first time this quarter,
fall 2008, and it is about reducing student anxiety in college.
My hope is that it will help you to genuinely enjoy the college
experience by becoming and staying happy, without stress. As a result,
in addition to excelling academically on exams, you will be making
the right decisions about your major and career after college.
I have decided to work on this endeavor lately after realizing
how widespread the phenomenon of student anxiety is. This past quarter
of Fall 2008, I tried to spend more time thinking of how to minimize
the pain of my students and to advise them how to reduce their anxiety
by following very simple techniques. The feedback I received from
my students this quarter was amazing and greatly rewarding. In some
cases, the improvement of their grades and their life experience
in general, not just their college experience, sounds almost unbelievable.
Notice how the first and second student below specifically talk
about their best grade not coming just by studying but by enjoying
the learning experience without anxiety.
I feel very happy to share my findings with my students and my
colleagues. But let us see what the students have to say, starting
with the winner of our Natural Soap Award.
FEEDBACK FROM STUDENTS
CHEMISTRY 2A (D) FALL 2008
Hello Professor Toupadakis,
It was very pleasing to hear that I am the receiver of this quarter's
Natural Soap Award. The credit goes to you. Chemistry used to be
my weakest subject in high school. I think the major reason behind
my success in this class was taking your advice seriously- "feed
your soul as you feed yourselves with food". I didn’t
start studying more or something of that sort; instead I took this
class very leisurely and simply made sure that I enjoy whatever
we do in this class.
Thanks and congratulations to you also. I would be glad to pick
up my soap by the beginning of the next quarter from your office.
If you can send the message to my fellow classmates that you conveyed
to me, I will be really grateful of you as I have noticed that a
lot of my friends did not perform well in class, particularly on
exams, because of stress.
When our mind is disturbed, it creates uneasiness among our self
and if it is not given the right kind of food, the uneasiness turns
into stress. So, it is really important for us, to do what we enjoy
the most (at least once a while), and to enjoy what we do (all the
time). Enjoyment is, in essence, the food for our soul.
I hope I have not copied any of your lines. I sincerely apologize
if I did. This impression is engraved so deeply in my mind that
I could not separate out mine and your words.
Professor, enjoy the break! Relax and have fun! See you next quarter
Karandev Singh "Karan"
First of all, I wanted to thank you for teaching me chemistry this
quarter plus some other valuable lessons about being relaxed and
doing what I like in life. It did really impact me! It was an absolute
pleasure to be your student this quarter!
I know that you wanted to collect different student's emails about
how anxiety impacts their ability to take different tests!
Yes, sure you can use my name if it will help other students more
I remember I emailed you after my first mid term. I still have the
email! I don't know if you remember, but I was so afraid and wanted
to drop the class! But you said "it might not be that bad,
come to my office hours" and it did really help! Thank you
so much for all the helps!
I truly understood the material! And I really like the fact that
you teach concept instead of how to solve specific problems! Thank
you for caring about us!
So I just wanted to give you some facts that proved to me how important
I got a 41/100 with class average 57 on the first mid term! I was
so nervous and when I got out of the exam I knew how to do all the
questions! But my mind was locked for some reason when I looked
at the problems during the test!
I did your exercise for relaxation for the second mid term! My
grade improved more than twice....I got an 84/100 with class average
58! And for the final! I had two finals back to back! Chemistry
and physics, Monday of the final week! I was stressing out so much!
But I reminded myself what you told us!
"You did the best you could, you don't have control over the
rest, you can just control your minds" with that thought I
went and took both of my finals!
I got a 180 out of 197 for finals; that's 91.4%
Its amazing how relaxation brought me from a solid D, nearly F to
a B+ in grade!
With that said, I really know that the problem is not from how much
I did or did not study! It’s about how relaxed I can be during
the test and do my best!
So, thanks again for everything! Hope I have you as a teacher for
the following 2 series!
SUBJECT: The most important thing you taught me.
Dear Professor Toupadakis,
I appreciate the fact that you have made yourself a human being
for your students. Many times you made it obvious to me that you
truly care, not only for WHAT you're teaching, but especially to
WHO you are teaching. You did this by anticipating our questions.
Through both your experience and foresight you explain and clarify
ideas in chemistry, big or small, that confused you as a student
with the thought that it may also confuse us. In reality, many of
the ideas that confused you as a student confused me too, which
make me so glad that you did those things!
Your passion for your craft is contagious. After this quarter and
the many words of wisdom you've offered, I realize too that I must
also have a purpose to work towards in order to give my life meaning.
Therefore after one of your lectures I decided that my purpose in
life is to give my future family security and stability as well
as leave the world a better place than when I entered it.
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed you're class this quarter
and although I only earned a C+, I still was very lucky to have
had you. You have intrigued me and lit a flame in me to seek out
my own individual purpose, a purpose that gives my life new value
and meaning, which in turn gives me the will to succeed at whatever
it takes for me to accomplish my dreams. I feel like I'm a brand
new person--my spirit rejuvenated.
I realized that I needed a purpose in order to find meaning in
life. The most important thing I learned in your class was not the
expanded octet rule that confused me all throughout high school.
It was that we as people give ourselves meaning. We choose our purpose
and we are powerful in the sense that we can change all that surrounds
us according to the purpose that we choose. I feel like I can move
mountains. Thank You.
I have wait-listed your 2B class for next quarter with the prospect
of better grades and better understanding of myself and the world
Anyway professor, I hope that you enjoy you're winter break and
that you and your family be safe. Merry Christmas if you celebrate
it, and I wish you the best for the New Year!
Chem. 2A Fall 2008
I cannot begin to say how grateful I am to have had you as my chem.
professor. You have opened my eyes as to how I should study, how
I should work, and how I should spend my time. I do however regret
to inform you that I will not be completing the chem. 2 series at
this time. I am a CSE major, and there are other core classes my
time has to be devoted to. But I hope that if the day comes that
I take chem. 2B, or any chemistry class, you will be the professor.
You are one of my first professors here at UC Davis, but you are
probably one of the best professors I will have. I hope that students
in future quarters will see you as I have seen you; a professor
with the will to teach and the heart to help others.
Thank you for everything,
prospective computer geek
I am really happy that I chose you for my Chemistry classes this
quarter. It has made a world of difference. All of your motivation
and advice during lectures helped me to do extremely well in class.
I was able to get an A+ in this class and I'm sure that it wouldn't
have come if it wasn't for your help.
Unfortunately, I do not need to take Chemistry anymore because
my degree doesn't require it and as a result I won’t be continuing
But I would like to thank you for all of your advice during the
course of the quarter. You are really a wonderful professor and
you convey concepts very clear and your notes help back them up.
All the things you said about anxiety, relaxation and the life curve
will always be with me. I'm sure it will really make a big difference
just as it did in the class.
Thanks a lot!!
Hi there Professor,
I just wanted to send a quick note to thank you again for taking
the time to make the video of the review session. I attended the
live session in SLH too, but so many people were talking that at
times it was hard to follow what you were saying. It was so much
more crowded and noisy than the reviews for the midterms! I left
feeling really disappointed.
I was able to watch the video on Sunday, and it was great! What
could be better than being cozy at home, with a cat on your lap
and a dog on your feet, watching a video of your own professor reviewing
important concepts on the day before an exam? Being able to pause
and go back is such a luxury.
Thanks for going out of your way and working so hard to give all
your students every opportunity to do well in your class. High school
chemistry was 20 years ago for me; it was my worst subject then,
and I dreaded taking it again after all these years. I entered 2A
as one of your "weak background" students. Thanks to you,
I won't go into 2B the same way.
Have a wonderful vacation, and I'll see you again for new chem.
in the New Year!
Dear Professor Toupadakis,
I know it's a little late but I decided to write this after reading
your email attachment. I hope you will still take time to read this.
To be honest, after reading and hearing what some (note: some,
not all) of the people said about you, I initially regretted having
you as my professor. My first test, I earned a 52% and that certainly
did not help my chemistry experience. However, during one of your
lecture, you mentioned that we're only capable of doing so much
and if a B is the best I can get, then I should be happy with it
(at least i hope that's what you said). Before the second midterm,
I was 'freaking out.' Even though I was motivated to study hard
from my first F, I wasn't feeling confident for the second midterm.
I was then reminded again what you told us. Then for the second
term, I just did my 'best.' Thankfully, I got a 78%, certainly way
better than a 52% and on the final, i got a 72.5%. I ended up getting
a B in the class.
This class did not make me enjoy or love chemistry any more than
I dislike it. However, I learned a lot from you. I learned that
life is not always about having the best GPA. Instead, it's about
doing your best and doing what you love. I did learn a lot of these
'life lessons' before but I am really thankful that you reminded
me again what it means to learn. Especially in college where it
seems like i feel like everything is bombarding me with grades and
papers, you taught me more than chemistry theories and methods and
I wanted to thank you for that. Thanks again for reminding me to
just simply do my best and do what I love.
And because in life we should to be able to hear what everyone has
to say, I also include below the opinion of a student (I got the comment
from the web) who speaks from the other side of the spectrum. Always
remember that light has high frequencies but it also has low frequencies
and we need them all in order to be able to see clearly.
11/25/08 CHEM2A If you're not a chem. person, avoid his class.
I had a hard time in his class. I tried to do everything I could
to keep up with him but I couldn't. Worst teacher ever. ANONYMOUS
FEEDBACK FROM STUDENTS
CHEMISTRY 10 FALL 2008
SUBJECT: Thank You
Dear Dr. Toupadakis,
I've been meaning to write you this email but somehow got delayed
with all the packing and leaving for the holidays. My name is Nadhira,
and I'm in your Chem. 10 class this fall quarter.
I'd just like to say a simple thank you for your class. It was definitely
something I didn't expect in the beginning of the quarter. I went
to all the lectures and definitely learned something from all of
them. I've never quite had a teacher who has your approach and believe
Another thing I'd like to thank you is on your advice on life; what
we want to do next, doing the things we like, how to approach life
etc. I was unconsciously thinking about it the whole quarter since
you started advising us. It really made me think of what I want,
and what I want to become (although I don't think I have the answer
yet...ha-ha). So, thank you. I mean in sincerely.
Have a great holiday!
-Nadhira Abdul Halim-