Starting over and making mistakes

I really thought I’d mostly had the teaching gig figured out when I was at TAMU.

Then I come somewhere new, and man, I am back at square one again.

It has been a frustrating and difficult quarter.

I have made so many mistakes. I didn’t assess what my students already knew. I found I had many assumptions about what they knew that were not true. I had many assumptions about how classes like the ones I am teaching were structured that were not true. I had assumptions about the advice I was given that were not true.

And this has all hurt my students and me, much to my frustration.

Still. I have managed to turn things around in my calculus classes. I am doing a lot better at knowing what to do and how to do it, and how to reach these students. I am still worried that I did them a big disservice at the beginning of the quarter, but there isn’t anything I can do about that now. Or, rather, I have been doing what I can in consistently assigning review problems on that material, so that it wouldn’t get forgotten, and might be improved. (I think there are some problems that I have assigned 2 or three times now … they should be getting better at those … right? 🙂 )

One consistent source of extreme frustration for me has been my graduate class. It is small. And the aura of bad attitude (mine and theirs) has come to permeate that class. I don’t want to go, and I arrive in our classroom with only a few minutes to spare. I notice that students are consistently late. Students don’t take notes (and haven’t from the first — easier to take pictures of the board when I was using the whiteboard; now I use a tablet), and I’ve even had several borrowing pencils in class when I have asked them to do something. The homework is too hard, and it takes too long to do. Etc. etc.

I know that me being negative isn’t going to turn this around, but oh my gosh, am I ever having a problem not going straight into anger and sarcasm. WTF, students, coming to class without a pencil and not fixing that problem right at the beginning? WTF, not taking notes? I’m not wondering why you are having difficulties retaining then information later, and even the recollection that the information was discussed.

I know their expectations of graduate school are probably also being challenged, just as my expectation of graduate students are being challenged. It’s not a continuation of undergrad. There are hard things to be done, and faculty expect that you are going to suck it up and get it done. If you are missing pieces that you need to succeed in a class, well, you are responsible for finding them out and getting the help you need. Or to go back and take a prerequisite course and then take the class over. We expect you to start your work early enough to come ask us questions if you are confused or cannot do it. And we don’t expect you to be pestering us late in the day it is due or insisting that we have to help you because something is due this day.

I dread having to teach that group again next quarter, but there it is. I have to. And so I have to work on figuring out how to help us all get happier. I have to also think about teaching this class in future quarters and how better to prepare students for the rigors ahead.

Meanwhile, I’m tired. The 5 day a week teaching thing has its advantages, but it also has its downsides. I never feel quite ready for what comes next. I know I will get through this. I know it will get easier. But here and now, it’s tough and I am frustrated.

That said, one thing I am glad of. And that is that I made time to write tonight.