Sunday, January 13, 2008

All beginnings are hard

"All beginnings are hard."

These are the first words of Chaim Potok's In the beginning, a book I read long ago and decided just this afternoon to read again.

They're true, no matter to what "beginnings" refers.

They're also fitting words to have in mind as I begin tomorrow, the first day of my 31st (if I'm counting correctly) term of teaching at the college level.

I'll tell ya one thing, folks: after a bit it might get easier, and it goes more smoothly, but the nerves never go away. I'll probably be up half the night tonight wondering how it's going to go down.

Saith Potok: "I say it to myself today when I stand before a new class at the beginning of a school year or am about to start a new book or research paper: All beginnings are hard."

In one form or another I've taught Calc II six times before, and I've assisted in three other Calc II classes (again, if I'm counting correctly). It's my favorite class to teach, hands down: there are so many beautiful concepts, wonderful and broad-based applications, and computations that require not only mathematical dexterity but also almost poetical creativity...how can one not love this class? I feel like I've finally gotten Calc II where I want it, but I'm sure my students this semester (roughly 35 of whom are coming back from previous semesters with me) will be able to teach me something new.

Graph Theory will be presenting new challenges: for one thing, I've never taught the course before. Moreover, I don't think I've ever had such a high concentration of proven talent: I strongly encouraged a lot of our ace students to take this course, and my advertising efforts paid off, giving me 17 students representing the cream of our crop, all but a few of whom I've worked with in previous courses. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can get out of them, and to seeing what kinds of new ideas we can uncover. (By the way, a special shout-out goes to my colleague Fosdick on the West Coast, who's also teaching Graph Theory for the first time this semester!)

How will it go tomorrow?

I'll keep Potok's words with me as I start the day off.

Beginnings are hard.

If you're reading this and like me are girding your loins to go into tomorrow's fray, please keep in mind that I'm sure to be as nervous as you are, as jittery, as excited. I know the beginning'll be hard, but I also know that if we keep at it, we'll be capable of wonderful things together, and that the semester will bear that out.

I'll be there, in Rhoades 105, by 9:00 a.m., bright and early. I hope you'll be there with me.

Until then, take care, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

1 comment:

Maughta said...

Oooh, that's my favorite book! Wait, you know that...