Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day One, vol. 2

Ach, what a long day it's been.

I'd fully intended (honest!) to check in in between each of my classes, but that proved impossible. The only chance I might have had came between Calc I and 280 around noonish, but even then I was swamped with various course-related nonesuches.

Here it is, though, near the day's end, and I've come through alive. More than that: I feel that almost all of my classes came off splendidly.

Calc I, a colossal class with 35 students now enrolled, went particularly swimmingly. After Quentin did his spiel on the precalc review test on the Educo software he helped put together, I took over and led the students through the syllabus. After this we had twenty minutes or so during which the students brainstormed terms, concepts, and ideas from algebra, trig, and other areas of precalc, taking turns writing their brainchildren on the board. By the class's end I think even the more timorous students were beginning to feel at ease.

Two hours passed before I had to run to my abbreviated 280 class. I love teaching this course, but the first day is a difficult one: even with the full complement of 50 minutes, I generally feel overly rushed. With only 40 minutes it was a hopeless battle to try to get through the first day's activities. While the students typically finish crafting rough proofs of "even + odd = odd" with mere minutes to spare, there was no way in heaven, hell, or Earth they'd finish at all today; I made it part of their homework for Friday (along with responding to the "history exam responses") to put together some rudimentary verifications of E + O = O.

Sadly, I also felt as though I had nowhere near enough time to give the necessary details on LaTeX and the committee system. Bleh.

An hour passed, and then it was off to Abstract II. "I feel great walking into this classroom," I told them on my arrival, "this is the first class I've had all day where I don't have any new names or faces to remember, where I don't have to introduce myself, and where I can just feel free to be who I am, since you all already know I'm crazy." These folks know the drill: committees, playing cards, presentations, the whole nine yards. It took no more than three minutes to make it through the syllabus, and that left us with the better part of an hour in which to help each other recall the highlights of Abstract I. Much as in Calc I, we spent a bit of time brainstorming the concepts that underlie that first semester of algebra. That done, the students took turns building a concept map of the first course on the board. Their homework asks each of them to investigate a topic from Abstract I in greater detail and be ready to present their findings to the class on Friday.

Finally, it was time for 480.

That class is huge! We've got 20 people enrolled as of this morning, making it far and away the largest crop of Senior Seminar students we've had since I came here almost four years ago. After the introductory song and dance, I had these folks too do a bit of brainstorming, creating a table with two columns, one filled with properties of a good talk, the other with properties of a bad talk. It's a fun activity, and the students easily filled a page with good advice for presenters. Loopy as a broken loom at this point, I had a fun time acting out some of the "bad advice."

The bell couldn't have rung too soon, and 5:30 found me done for the day and tired as hell.

A refreshing run and a little over two hours later, I'm home, my belly full of homemade split pea soup over rice, the next few hours stretched lazily before me.

What shall I do?

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