Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer is over (Oh bother)

I did get to spend a little over a month all told with my other half, including about a week spent up here with me. (He hadn't been able to come up before.) That was really good on the one hand, but spending so much time together also made me remember I miss him a lot. I was pretty bummed when I had to leave.

It doesn't help that he had lots of adorable kittens living with him at the time, before they were going to go off to homes. One in particular decided I was the best bed EVER. I'd feel a couple of little paws grab my ankle and hear a "mew!", which I discovered translated to "Sit down so I can lay on you and go to sleep." That's hard to leave behind, too.

In terms of productivity, I went to a conference on Moore method teaching, tried to get back into some research, got (partially) ready for classes, and worked on some projects related to our library. (In particular, given the large temporary budget we had for books last year, I wanted to find ways to encourage students to go visit the library and take out some books. This ended with what I personally consider a rather nifty poster I made and hung in our hallway featuring cool new books we have. I plan to keep swapping out the featured books periodically.) I suppose I could probably count that I did clean the apartment pretty well, even though you can't really tell anymore...

But classes started last week, so I'm through my first week. Highlights from that first week:
  • I discovered two students in one of my classes who had taken another class which duplicates it. On being informed that no one can receive credit for both, one was surprised (it turned out her advisor had specifically selected the class for her), and the other said she already knew that but thought she just had to take this one anyway.
  • Get the impression our registration system is a little goofy? It is. One of my colleagues and I have conjectured that it does not actually enforce prerequisites at all. Her analysis class contains several students who have not taken one or the other (or both!) of two prerequisite classes. Some of these managed this by simply failing the prerequisite the previous semester, so that they registered before the system knew they failed, but others seem to have been able to slip in some other way.
  • I helped with an introduction to the computer software Mathematica for a group of students on Friday. When we arrived at the lab, it turned out that the software was installed (as we had been promised), but that the license had expired. The first twenty minutes (in a fifty minute class) were spent talking the students through the registration procedure.
  • One of my classes went more smoothly than it has before, I think because I successfully managed to cut a lot of stuff out of the class time and just leave the students to read and do it. I feel like I need to add a line to the Tao Te Ching: "I teach nothing, and nothing is left untaught." (This actually goes along really well with the Moore method conference I was at this summer, come to think of it.)
  • I seem to have become the "contest" guy in the department. I'm trying to organize participation in one national mathematics contest, seem to have volunteered to take over a college bowl team, offered to help with running a small local math contest one professor is organizing, and have signed on to consult with a computer programming contest team. All this from the guy who basically doesn't like competition. One of my favorite authors is Alfie Kohn. Go figure.
It was a busy week, but I guess not too bad. I'm sort of glad it's a long weekend (even though I normally only teach one class Monday anyway). But it seems a shame this all has to start all over again now.