Monday, January 25, 2010

The semester so far

Today began the second week of a new semester.

I have two particularly small sections of one class, in part, I think, because I'm the only person teaching the second semester of the course who was not teaching the first semester in the fall. I love having small classes, so I'm not complaining. One of my students who didn't show up on the first day claimed she had switched to Professor D's section, but was still showing up in my roster. I double checked with Prof D, since today was the last day of add/drop. It turns out that Prof D had signed an override to allow her to enter his already overfull section. He now has 33 students. I went from 16 to 15. I'm laughing. I'm not sure Professor D was when he found out what had happened.

On the other hand, my Gen Ed class (aka, "So you think you can math?") is not small at all, and has stayed firmly at the enrollment limit of 40. Students have some incentive to pass the class this semester, since in the fall both the difficulty of the course and the prerequisites will increase. I'm being very straightforward (and maybe just a little easier than usual) to give them the best shot of getting through before the new course requirements kick in. We have just finished the second class (for a total of 2.5 hours of classroom time) doing nothing but unit conversions. Some students are completely lost.

I had a student show up in my office today wanting to do an independent study this semester. We discussed some possibilities, but I said we should talk to the chair to find out if it was possible such a study could be approved this late. The chair responded by putting her head in her hands and making a sound like a expiring mongoose. Since the student still needs to be in the chair's good graces, he wisely rescinded his request for an independent study.

But my joy this semester will be teaching the "Intro to Proofs" class for majors. I'm teaching the course using a technique commonly known as a modified "Moore method", which I've been interested in for some time. I went to a workshop for new practitioners two summers ago, and last semester I applied for and received a mentor so I could start trying it. It's the ultimate in student centered instruction, where most (or sometimes all) class time is spent with students presenting proofs to the class and the class dissecting the proofs as needed. I was prepared for all sorts of disasters to occur, but to my astonishment, my first two classes have gone extraordinarily well. My current major concern is to make sure all of the students stay involved in the class, rather than just a subset. But so far the discussions and presentations in class have been wonderful, and in fact beyond what I had hoped for. I still expect plenty of challenges ahead, but at least I feel like I've been well prepared for them, so I'm cautiously hopeful that we may have a really good semester.

Oh, and the unseasonably warm weather we have been enjoying is drawing to a close. Looks like we'll be down below freezing for a while now. Drat.

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