Monday, August 17, 2009

Does not compute

No time like the first day of class for the campus internet system to go farfufket. Connectivity to off-campus sites has been spotty since noon, and it's wreaked havoc with class activities, e-mail, and class prep as I'm trying to put out the fires set during the first section of Calc I this morning.

So what happened in that today that got my ever-lovin' panties in a big ol' knot?

My colleague who directs our Math Lab came in to give his Math Lab spiel, and to give the students pretty explicit instructions regarding the precalculus review "pretests" we've asked them to complete for placement purposes. These instructions, detailed and demonstrative as they were, took a good deal of time, and by the time I finished going over the syllabus (in what I felt were fairly broad strokes), there were precisely three minutes of class time left.

I didn't get a chance to solicit contact/background info from the students, and I didn't get a chance to ask them to sign up for a "meet 'n' greet" interview with me sometime in the first couple of weeks. This may not seem like that much of a big deal, but those of you who know my teaching style can vouch for me when I say that it's crucial to me to establish a good rapport and simpatico (for lack of a better term) with my students, right out of the gate. Both teaching and learning are optimally done in an environment of familiarity, support, comfort, and mutual respect, and such an environment is built by early and frequent efforts on the part of both instructor and students to meet one another on common ground.

Like I said, farfufket.

Moreover, we had no time for review, as it took all of the measly amount of time we had left simply to explain the homework for Wednesday. (Doing this was of paramount importance, as they simply have to be prepared for Wednesday's class if we're going to get anything out of it.)

The second section of Calc I ran much more smoothly: the Math Lab/pretest spiel was dramatically abridged due to the aforementioned network outage (silver lining, anyone?), leaving more time to answer student questions and then proceed more leisurely to the homework for Wednesday.

Nevertheless, though I'm much more satisfied with my experience in the second section today, it was still far from ideal.

If I had to rate the first day, I'd give myself a B for 280, a C for Calc I, Section 1, and an A- for Calc I, Section 3. Combine that with an A for damage control and coping with chaos, and I might just make a B so far.

It'll all be calmer on Wednesday, folks, believe you me!

P.S.: I've already had a few very pleasant out-of-class exchanges with new students, and I've no doubt they'll be joined by myriad more as the semester goes on. Keep at it, my friends, keep at it!

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