Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy holidays

Underneath this year's Christmas tree: a three-to-seven percent budget cut campuswide.


First in line for the chopping block: adjunct salaries (and by extension ordinary faculty release time) or operating budget?

Our mission: to teach more students in bigger classes with tighter budgets and fewer resources, while we forgo our own professional development and opportunities for relaxation and disengagement from our all-consuming careers.

And by the way, happy new year.

In other news, the "just-in-time" workshop (that's actually how we billed it) on developing and implementing writing-intensive courses that Lulabelle and I ran yesterday afternoon came off very well. We had four very interested individuals take part, and I felt our conversations were elevated and meaningful. It exceeded my expectations, and I think it was worth my time.

I realized a day or two ago that I've not yet filled out my own report card for the semester, as I've done at the end of each of the past few terms. Let's remedy that.

Abstract Algebra I?: A-. This is the second time I've taught the course anywhere, and the first time at UNC Asheville. I think my relative lack of experience showed now and then: occasionally I miscalculated my students' abilities, and every now and then I fumbled a definition or a description, and as well as I I know the material (probably because of how well I know the material!) I still found myself struggling to impart intuition for it here and there.

Nevertheless, the committees functioned more or less smoothly, the students' presentations were the best I've yet seen from an upper-division class, the energy in the both sections was frequently palpable, and 12 out of 29 of the students are continuing on with me to the course's second semester. Any one of these facts indicates some sort of success.

How about...

Precalculus?: A- there, too. I didn't have a bad run of it, considering this was my first time teaching it, ever. I don't mind saying I was scared about my perfomance in the class every so often, and lost sleep over it at least once (just a couple of weeks ago I spent a whole sleepless night worried about "coverage"). Ultimately, though, I think I pulled through: the projects were well-received, the classes animated and engaging enough to distort the students' sense of time (a frequent comment was that the 50 minutes seemed to fly by), and a substantial number of of the students felt comfortable enough to perform at the board with very little cajoling by the semester's end: by then I'd managed to get a room full of relative mathematical novices to overcome their collective trepidation and lead each other to better understanding.

My greatest failing was, not surprisingly, "coverage": I could have used another week. Hell, I could have used another two weeks.

As early as three weeks in I began to suspect that I'd eventually run out of time: at that point I was only at the end of the first chapter of the text, knowing full well that I'd ought to get through the first seven chapters. By the time we'd capped off the second chapter I knew that, even though our pace had picked up substantially, there was no way we were going to make it that far.


Minimal, I think. I know 7 of the 29 students will be continuing with me to Calc I next semester, and as all of these students are quite solid and as I know how it is that I conduct the first couple of weeks of Calc I (i.e., with a good deal of review of the skills from precalculus), I don't fear for these students' learning next term.

It'll be okay.

Oh, I guess I could also rate my performance as a Senior Seminar mentor: A. That grade, however, belongs to all of the students with whom I worked, too. It was their willingness, as well as my own, to meet on their own time and go over their own and each others' talks well before they were given that helped us polish them up and make them the wonderful talks that the were. Moreover, their written work was fantastic. Thanks, y'all, for making my job such an easy one. May I ever have such intelligent, diligent, and cooperative students working with me in this course!

Okay, it's late, and tomorrow is another day. Until then, adieu.

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