Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Day Two: A survivor's tale

Made it!

Yesterday wasn't so hard as it was looooooong. And dealing with the tail-end of this dratted cold didn't help matters. I realized as I got into campus yesterday morning (at about 7:05) that though I'd done a huge amount of preparation well in advance (two or three weeks ago), because of the cold I'd not really done much prep work for my classes during the last half-week, during which time I'd ordinarily have gone over my notes again, gotten my Day One crap in order, made sure all of the technical details were tended to, and so forth.

As it was, I staggered into Rhoades Hall and stopped at the calculus classroom on my way to my office: I wanted to make sure the computers were on and functional. Of course, three of them ended up being inoperative, and the projector for the instructor's terminal at the front was wonky. (The projector problem I managed to fix before class got underway, but in the course of the in-class exercise I'd scheduled, my students discovered that two additional computers were not hooked up to the internet, further limiting the number of workable stations. Grrrrr...) I left, shutting the door behind me, blindly trusting the ITS people to come through and open it up a bit before 8:00 so the students would have access to the classroom in order to get settled in. (Notice the words "blindly" and "trusting"?) Up to my office (by about 7:25 or so) to assemble my thoughts and get my gear in order.

Of course, I'd only remembered while walking in that I'd yet to write up a sign-up schedule on which students might pencil in "meet 'n' greet" appointments with me during the first two weeks or so, so I had that to arrange. Thankfully I've still got several sheets of poster board left over from Super Saturday activities; I was able to fashion a schedule out of that. I had just enough time (by now it was 7:40) to go over my first section's students' faces a few more times before heading downstairs, where I supposed I would find them cozily resting their tushies in their desks' seats, eyes forward, brains engaged and ready to learn.

Instead I found them lining the hall on either side, in some places two deep along the walls, stretching twenty feet in either direction from the classroom door. (I found out this morning that someone over at ITS has been dropping the ball on opening labs in the morning...it's not a big deal, I can open the classroom myself, I just need to know to do it! Grrrrrr again...) No worries, mate.

After a quick by-your-leave with the lock and a twiddling of the knob, we were in, and I spent the first ten minutes with the names. I had a relatively rough time with that first section, I think my accuracy was something on the order of 50% or 60%. Bleh. I let my poor showing get to me, I think, and I was out-of-stride for the rest of the class. Looking back, I don't think it was a wasted hour, but I certainly wasn't very comfortable at the time. I had too much to say, and not enough time to say it, and I let the first group activity run a little too long. The students seemed like sharp ones, though, and I look forward to our next meeting on Wednesday. (It's weird having Tuesday as my "off day," and not Thursday!)

The second section of Calc I? Let's just say we had it goin' on. It went well. I was able to adjust by correcting most of my missteps from the morning class. And perhaps this was a function of the time of day, but the students were definitely more engaged. We had a few laughs while I was playing the Name Game (I think I only missed one or two, and though I needed the assistance of initials for three or four students, I achieved something around 95% accuracy in a class of 32), and we segued nicely from our brief discussion of the syllabus into the first group exercise, modified from its morning form: I moved the responsibility for the concept review from my shoulders to theirs, and they carried it well. After a brief brainstorm, we filled a board with calculus concepts, zeroing in on the notion of "function," the heart of the Google pedometer exercise I'd planned for them (see my exercise Pedantic Pedometers for more information). They pulled that one off without a hitch; Henrietta (remember, folks: fake names!) gave a really clever way of interpreting the Google Maps path as a function, and we were off and running.

After class, Henrietta and a few others (Tallulah, Beatrice, and Belladonna) joined me in my office for the semester's first meet 'n' greet session. We talked for about a half-hour, had a good ol' time. All four of them are fired up about the class, and their enthusiasm really helped me look past my cold and get in the groove. All four were also very open about their own particular learning styles, and our discussion really helped me articulate my thoughts on how our course can help to accommodate those different styles. Thank you all around, kind students, for helping me get a grip on the start of the semester!

MATH 280's turn came next. After a pretty easy round of Name Game, I started off with the same opening exercise I used last semester: from the ground up (i.e., starting with suggestive data and working from there), build the statement of a "theorem," introduce appropriate notation and terminology, adding definitions where needed, and prove the darned thing. Stating the theorem isn't so hard: "the sum of an even number and an odd number is an odd number"; coming up with a proof means first coming up with definitions for "even" and "odd," which Theodoric handled well, with a little input from Quincy and some other folks. These definitions in order, a proof is only a careful logical flourish or two away. We finished in time to spend a few minutes going over the syllabus. I regret that I didn't have a chance to mention the writing assessment grant; that's the first item on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting.

By the end of 280 yesterday, it was only 2:35, but it felt like 8:00. I spent the rest of the afternoon on research and on getting all of my scattered course notes together. By 6:00 p.m. I felt like I was where I should have been by 7:00 a.m. I was so tired, it was all I could do to keep at the enigmatic graph theory data Mathematica was spitting out at me, and by 7:00 I gave up and played Nelinurk until Maggie came by at 8:15 to take me home, exhausted.

Today's been more manageable, chocked full of meet 'n' greet appointments and assorted meetings with colleagues, but nothing overwhelming. I actually feel human. I'm more healthy, I'm more well-rested, less nervous, and looking forward very much to the second round, tomorrow. Lemme at 'em!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Go get 'em, Tiger! Rrrrrowl!