Sunday, January 24, 2010

Two weeks in the can

We just wrapped up Week Two here at UNC Asheville, and because of the MLK holiday I've yet to teach a full week of classes this term. In fact, I'll be skipping out on my Friday Calc II class this coming week, so it won't be until Week Four that I manage to teach a full week.

Things are...well, I think they're settling in.

I still feel unsettled, though. Missing the second half of the first week because of the Joint Meetings really threw me off. Nevertheless, the classes are starting to come together, the enrollments are stabilizing, and we're getting work done.

My Calc II students did quite well on their first miniproject. (It was the perennial favorite, "Confectionary Conundrum," in which they are asked to estimate the number of gumballs it would take to full the candy machine I keep on my office desk. They're meant to use Riemann sums, but there are always a few folks who come up with other clever ways of getting an estimate.) And I've got great attendance so far, which is somewhat troubling, since there are 36 people enrolled in one section and 37 in the other, while the room is designed to seat about 32.

Meanwhile my Topology students have weathered their first round of homework presentations. The presentations (of which there've been two so far, delivered by four students) were a bit different, as is to be expected, from the homework committee presentations in past classes. The presentations were less coy and more direct; this is unsurprising, given that in the homework presentations in this class the students are asked to sketch draft solutions for their peers, whereas the purpose of the committee presentations in past classes was not to solve the problem, but rather to highlight common errors and pitfalls, and indicate any clever methods one or more students may have discovered.

I'm hoping that as the homework sets become more difficult, the students will put more thought into their presentations, planning ways to offer their friends helpful hints without giving away the full story. Being able to sketch a proof is as important a skill as being able to write it out in detail.

I'm also hoping that students will start to take advantage of the unlimited revision and resubmission policy I've got for the course.

I think one of the things that's kept me from settling into a groove is that much of the work I've done so far this semester is administrative rather than pedagogical. We've got a lot going on in our search for a new faculty member, and I've been scrambling around putting out fires for the Writing Intensive Subcommittee (dealing with student petitions, setting a new meeting schedule, uploading course proposals, planning next week's workshop, puzzling out assessment) and the ILS Oversight Committee (another new meeting schedule, dealing with the Academic Policies Committee, and putting out a bajillion little fires regarding Clusters). And I'm trying to organize the growing list of students who are planning on going to the MAA's Southeast Sectional meeting at Elon University in March. (Twenty students have committed to going now, and I've got my sights set on nine or ten more.)


Okay, I just realized that I've said nothing interesting or insightful in this post, so I'll end it here and wait until I've got something more meaningful to share before I write again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After having read your previous post and then this one, I can see that you're overextending yourself.I'm glad you're getting back to being human. I love the human Patrick. Beth