Monday, April 04, 2011


The end is near. I can almost see the end of the semester from where I stand. And, unlike many of my colleagues, friends, and students, the rest of my semester should be relatively unbusy (compared to the past month or so) after this coming week. I no longer feel overwhelmed; I'm simply...whelmed. However, Webster's Free On-Line Dictionary lists "whelmed" as a synonym for "overwhelmed," so maybe that's not accurate.

The past few weeks I've felt the urge to post here, but have been at a loss for what to post about. Anything that I felt was worth saying was too trivial to mention or to comprehensive to put into a one- or two-page post.

I thought about writing on some of the Neat Teaching Ideas my colleagues offered up in the Project NExT-SE session at the MAA conference in Tuscaloosa this past weekend. My UNCA colleague Kelli talked about the "peer mentoring" program she's been using in her Calc I class here this semester, and my Project NExT colleague Kade talked about using "math moments" to expose lower-level math students to nifty ideas from higher mathematics, like the Four Color Theorem and Russell's Paradox. I've done this sort of thing in the past, but not recently, and I've never tried putting a peer mentoring program into place. I'm going to try both out in Precalc next fall.

I thought about writing on the feeling I had driving back from Alabama, a feeling of calm, serenity, and oneness, as, just for a moment, I felt like I saw with perfect clarity my role as a teacher and learner. I felt for a moment as though I understood precisely how what I do affects what my colleagues do and reciprocally, and precisely how I help my students to learn as they help me to do the same. It was a pleasant moment.

I thought earlier today about writing on a common category error my MATH 280 students tend to which I didn't mention in class this morning as I was debriefing them on their latest homework sets. Namely: students frequently confuse conjunction ("and") of mathematical statements with intersection of sets, and disjunction ("or") of mathematical statements with union of sets. There's little to do but practice in order to overcome this confusion, training oneself through repetition to recognize the different between a set or a class on one hand, and a statement or a mathematical claim on the other.

Snippets, random snippets. If you've got something to say about any of them, feel free to chime in. In fact, feel free to chime in even if all you have to say is utterly non sequitur; I always love hearing from my readers, and I want to know where you are right now: puzzled and perplexed? Curious and questioning? Or simply stressed, and tired, oh so tired?

Hang in there, my friends. The end is near. Have a seat beside me and tell me a simple tale; I'd love to hear it.

1 comment:

Bret Benesh said...

I am not stressed, but confused about how busy I am. The workload seems to be manageable (aside from the usual "how do I effectively teach all of the remaining things I want in only month?" question), but somehow I never seem to get ahead.

I am super-excited about getting more into formative assessment; I am sharpening my "feedback that is actually helpful" knife as we speak. I am doing my best to incorporate them into my classes this semester.