Tuesday, October 03, 2006

You're gonna make me cry...

What a day!

This exam has been a bruiser. While the computations themselves are not all that difficult, the concepts are the slippery sort that are hard to grasp at first, and a number of folks in the class have had quite a struggle in wrestling them to the ground.

They're pretty hardcore "word problems," after all, and two of them involve concepts which, though analogous to application we've covered in class, are not derived entirely from examples we have seen before. These are the sort of problems one has to grow in to, the kind from which one can learn as the problems are solved.

Progress is being made. I spent much of the day in the company of a number of the 365 students...looking at the list, I count 20 of the 32 students in the class with whom I've spent some face-to-face time today. Now that's dedication! These folks are hard workers.

Even for me, it's not all wine and roses, it's not all stress-free. I've been on pins 'n' needles all day, put on edge by my students' discomfort. I feel their stress, their frustration. Every time I give a take-home exam, I'm made to remember how painful it was for me to take one of these blasted things (insert memories of pounding out page after page of Frame Theory for Prof. Wayland-Walters while listening to way-too-loud Nine Inch Nails, thereby annoying the living crud out of my downstairs neighbors...).

On the other hand, more than once today I've had one of those magical moments which makes it all worthwhile. Fiona's "Aha!" moment in tonight's Problem Session (now capitalized!) was a grand one. And this afternoon, minutes after quitting the second of my Calc II sections, I was joined by one of the 365 folks in my office so she could have me look over what she'd done so far. She was worried she was TOTALLY off the mark, but almost everything she'd done was bent headlong in the right direction.

It was enough to make me weep with joy, and I did.

"Your eyes are watery. Are you crying?"

"I'm happy," I said. "This is one of those teaching moments."

"Oh god, now I'm going to cry."

Later on, several 365 folks would admit to having shed a tear or two over this exam.

It's a toughie, but we'll soon be through it.

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