So this nightmare of a semester is finally over.
Teaching online is…not enjoyable. I miss actually getting to see and interact with my students. I feel so disconnected from them and I feel like I’ve been absolute crap at my job this semester, even though I’m really trying to do the best I can given the garbage circumstances.
It’s so demotivating, and now is not the time to become demotivated. It’s also SUPER FREAKING FRUSTRATING that the first “real” (non-spring/summer) semester of my tenure-track position has been marred by online nonsense, and it’s even more SUPER FREAKING FRUSTRATING that my first actual course coordinating assignment (next semester’s STAT 213) will be during an online semester rather than a “normal” one. I feel like no matter what I do, I won’t get to show my true ability to coordinate effectively, especially since everyone is new to online teaching and there are so many things that can go wrong.
But the main thing? I miss my students. I miss actually teaching them in person and feeling like I’m making a difference in their learning. I’m definitely not getting that vibe this semester and it’s destroying my soul.
So very demotivating.
And just for clarification, I’m not blaming the U of C for any of this. They (at least the Math/Stats Department) did the smart thing by making all the courses online this semester and next, especially with how Alberta’s crashing and burning COVID-wise right now. It just…sucks.
AAAAAAAAAAA SUMMER CLASSES START TODAY AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
This will be my first full semester online. It will also be the first time I’ve taught two classes in a short semester since I taught STAT 213 and STAT 217 a few springs ago.
Hopefully it will all go okay. My two classes are back-to-back, though, which means I’ll be talking for four hours straight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays…not sure how my voice is going to handle that. I guess we’ll see.
SHORT BLOG SORRY BYE
What up, NERDS?!?!?!?
So today, let’s do something that – for whatever reason – I’ve never done before: let’s make a semester class schedule for U of C rather than UI!
And just for funsies, I’m going to do one for last semester (Winter 2020) rather than the upcoming fall semester, since COVID botched up everything and the vast majority of classes will be online in the fall. I want to make a fake schedule where I have to actually plan out the course meeting times as well.
Because that’s how I roll with these things.
CPSC 491: Techniques for Numerical Computation (9:00 – 9:50)
STAT 533: Survival Methods (10:00 – 10:50)
HIST 361: The United States Since 1877 (14:00 – 14:50)
CPSC 491: Techniques for Numerical Computation Tutorial (13:00 – 13:50)
GEOG 310: Landforms and Soils Lab (13:00 – 13:50)
ENGL 594: Studies in Creative Writing: Prose Fiction (18:00 – 20:45)
STAT 533: Survival Methods Tutorial (16:00 – 16:50)
GEOG 310: Landforms and Soils (9:30 – 10:45)
ART 341: Drawing the Figure (11:15 – 12:30)
ART 341: Drawing the Figure Lab (12:30 – 13:45)
DRAM 413: Directing I (15:30 – 17:20)
We can technically contact our supervisors if we “can’t or don’t” want to work from home, but I don’t want to be that guy who goes against the “let’s get this under control” rules just for the sake of convenience.
So I guess tomorrow I’ll haul all my nonsense home and hope that I’ll be able to concentrate well enough here to actually work.
(I might also try running outside tomorrow, since we’re finally getting a day where the weather is no longer in Super Winter mode.)
I submit to you some very creepy photos of the University of Calgary without students.
It’s…it’s weird in here.
So MATH 249, SCIE 301, and STAT 323 have now been frantically converted to online format!
Classes have been cancelled today, too, because it sounds like they realized that asking instructors to completely readjust their courses with less than 48 hours’ notice was a little rough.
Which is good for me, since it’ll put my video lecture recordings two days ahead of when they need to be posted rather than just one. Buffers are good.
BLAH SORRY too busy to blog.
(Also, I will never tire of referring to the internet as a series of tubes. Never.)
Yup, I was right. We got the email today that we’re supposed to use this weekend to convert our classes to some sort of format that can be delivered online; students will not be coming back to campus for the foreseeable future.
Converting to an online format won’t be too hard for my courses, but I imagine there are a lot of profs who are in a bit of a panic right now. Two days is not a lot of time to make this transition…
So classes were cancelled today.
Classes are never cancelled here.
It can be -40 degrees with ice covering every inch of every road and the U of C will still be like “lol campus beckons, children.”
From what I’ve heard, the last time classes were cancelled was during the 2013 floods.
I suspect they’re going to have us move to some sort of online format. When? Who knows. It wouldn’t surprise me if we have to do it over the weekend, even though as I’m writing this it’s 5 PM and we haven’t gotten any information yet other than that classes are closed today and are supposed to resume “in some format” on Monday.
So fun times.
Edit: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BASEBALL IS BEING POSTPONED
HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO L I V E
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS.
OH MY GOD.
Let me tell you about my day today.
So as I’m sure you’re all aware (if you read my blog, at least), I am currently in a limited-term contract at the U of C, which I just got last August after being a sessional (semester-by-semester) instructor since 2016. This limited-term contract is good through this coming August (2020).
I’m sure you’re also all aware that my dream is to have this job as my career for the rest of my life, so I’ve been really trying to let the higher-ups know that I would basically do anything to keep teaching here.
Anyway, Alberta just made some huge cuts to education, which will affect the U of C in some sort of negative way. We’re not sure how bad it will be yet as the University has not yet released its new budget, but we know it will be a cut from what we’ve got going on so far.
So you can imagine that when our department head emailed me and said he wanted to talk to me today, I was immediately like “oh fuck, here we go, he’s going to tell me they can’t renew/extend my limited-term contract after August and he’s just giving me a heads up.”
That’s not what happened.
Want to know what happened instead?
He said that they’re going to be converting my limited-term position into a tenure-track position.
Do you know what that means? That means that I’ll be able to go up for a tenure review and possibly become a tenured professor. Tenure is basically the supreme job security level.
Tenure is permanence.
And they feel like I’ve earned the right to apply for it.
W H A T .
I don’t think I’ve completely wrapped my head around this yet. This is a huge step towards what I’ve been wanting ever since I started teaching back in 2012. This is the university basically saying “we like you and need you and have confidence in your abilities.”
This is a huge, huge deal to me.
I’m so freaking excited.
So I’m sure you’re all curious as to what I’m teaching next semester, right?
Edit: MATH 249
That SCIE 301 class is not even in the Math/Stats Department, so that’ll be interesting (that’s the one I was in the meeting for last week).
I hope the fact that I can teach math, stats, AND outside the department increases my usefulness around here. I fear for my future, even though I’m good up through next August.
So this is my first semester teaching as an actual factual instructor rather than a sessional instructor.
This is also my first semester teaching Calc I (MATH 265) instead of “Introductory Calculus” (MATH 249), though it sounds like the two classes are very similar.
AAAAAAAAA I FINALLY HAVE MY OWN OFFICE
LOOK LOOK LOOK
I’ve been super vague on this blog regarding this topic ‘cause I didn’t know what the outcome would be and didn’t want to jinx it, but here we go.
Back in June, there was a job posting for an instructor position in the math/stats department here at U of C. I was encouraged to apply for it, which I readily did. Last week I had my interview (it was just myself and some other dude who got to that point).
And today? I got the news that the job is mine!
Starting September 1st, I will be a limited-term instructor with a guaranteed one year contract. That might not sound like much, but that’s a big step in the right direction. I currently am a sessional instructor, which means that I’ve just been hired on a semester-by-semester basis. Zero job security, lots of panic near the ends of semesters, and way too much insecurity for a control freak like myself.
But now? I’m guaranteed work through next August. I have a set amount of classes to teach per semester (three in the fall, three in the winter, one in either the spring or summer). I get a semester off (either spring or summer, whichever one I’m not teaching). I’m getting paid a lot more. I get benefits and a pension.
But most importantly, I am one step closer in making this job a permanent, long term thing. I am one step closer to being able to say that I get to work my dream job for the rest of my working life. And I can finally (at least until next July or so, haha) stop spending so much of my energy on freaking out about job security and re-direct it towards teaching.
Because that’s what I love. That’s what I want.
Man, I am ready for this semester to be over.
Making brand new sets of notes* as the semester goes is a lot of work. The last time I was making brand new notes without any prior material of my own was when I first taught STAT 217 in Winter 2017; the last time I was making brand new notes for a subject I’d never even taught before was when I first started working at UI in 2012.
So it’s been a while.
And I forgot how much freaking work it was.
*And lab material, and additional practice problems, and practice midterm keys, and midterms, and a final.
Is the semester over yet?
I spent twelve hours at work today.
Which is actually not as unusual as you might think for me, but the reason I was able to do so today was because I didn’t walk (today is my scheduled day off).
Which I realize now was a stupid thing to do, because the weather is supposed to be crap tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday.
But I also realize that I’d probably STILL BE AT WORK if I’d walked this morning, so…
(Not that it matters; it’s 4 AM and I’m still doing work from home.)
Gotta love midterm season.
There was no actual teaching today, since I usually just take the first day of classes to go over the syllabus, expectations, due dates, etc., but it’s nice to be back in the swing of things.
I am both terrified and beyond excited for this calc class. We’ll see how things go.
It’s weird teaching a small section (120 students) of STAT 213, though, especially after having two sections of 240 students (plus 120 students for STAT 217) last semester.
Jesus, I had 600 students last semester. No wonder I had no time for anything else.
Final exams are always chaotic, especially if you have to try to coordinate four instructors and approximately 1,000 students across three different rooms.
BUT IT’S OVER NOW, so it’s time to grade.
Also, I’m pretty sure my blogs got lost in the mail. It says they got shipped, but it’s been more than two months now (I think?) and even with the postal strike that happened, I would have thought they’d be here by now. SAD NEWS. I guess I can just order another copy, it was only like $20.
UGH this was a long semester. Lots of work. Lots of lecturing. Lots of answering emails. Lots of office hours.
600 students is a lot of students.
I’m so freaking burnt out right now, but I guess I can’t really afford to be. Time to start working on next semester, I guess.
But not today. Today I will be the most useless human being in existence.
OH WAIT I ALREADY AM
I wanted to put this in a separate blog post from the previous one. I’ve already talked about what teaching this calculus class means to me “personally.” I suspect you know what I’m going to talk about in this one.
As I’m sure you are all painfully aware, I really, really like Leibniz. I don’t know what it is about him and his ideas and him as a person (from what I can determine from bios and descriptions of him), but I just…connect with him. I of course am not comparing my meager intellect or impact to his; I just feel like he needs to mean something to me, if that makes any sort of non-creepy-history-stalker sense. I’ve joked in the past that such a connection might be due to a surplus of Leibniz atoms in my body…it may be the case, who knows. The universe is weird.
A while back, I wondered what it would be like if I were to get a chance to teach calculus, never actually believing that I would ever get the opportunity.
But now I’m going to be teaching calculus, and I’m trying to wrap my head around just how much that means to me.
It’s a connection to Leibniz. It’s a pretty loose one, and it’s one hundreds of thousands of calc teachers share, but it’s a connection.
I mean, calculus was something that he helped to develop, refine, and bring to the public. He had a very direct hand in this incredibly useful, powerful mathematical study. The fact that I get to have even just a very small role in the passing on of the knowledge of calculus to others is just…it’s so cool. It’s so amazing. It means so much to me.
Like, come on. If someone has a historical figure as someone they greatly admire, how often do they get to directly help pass on that historical figure’s ideas, inventions, influence, etc. to future generations?
It’s an honor. It really is.
And I don’t care how corny that sounds. It’s how I feel.
Leibniz is my dude, and I am damn proud to be given the opportunity to help teach others about calculus.
OH MY GOD
So this is the “I might have news soon but I don’t want to jinx it yet” from my November list a few weeks ago. Wanna hear it?
I GET TO TEACH CALCULUS.
Yes, you read that correctly.
I. GET. TO. TEACH. CALCULUS.
It’s intro calc, but man, that’s all I need.
I’m a little bit hesitant to blog about this so soon after getting the news, as this means so much to me on so many different levels and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to express its meaning very well. But I guess the “personal” reasons are a little easier to express, so let’s start there.
I never really had an issue with math until 6th grade. I suppose I was decent at it; I didn’t really pay that much attention. I didn’t like it and I didn’t hate it, it was just something I had to do in school. But then I was put into the “advanced math” class in 6th grade (which was just two super smart n’ nerdy boys and myself doing 8th grade math in the janitor’s closet; yes, it was as weird as it sounds). I probably could have handled it had I been put in there at the start of the year, but they threw me in there like two-thirds of the way through the year and I had no idea what was going on. What was a variable? What was a parabola? I had no clue. And that made it so that I couldn’t keep up with the dudes and had to be put back into the “regular” math class.
Yeah, that wasn’t humiliating at all.
But that was the start of my struggles with math. It started to make me really nervous and I started to doubt my abilities. 7th grade math was a bit rough. Then, in 8th grade, I had to miss like a week and a half of classes due to my grandpa dying, and once I got back into things, I was once again lost in math. 9th grade wasn’t too bad (it was geometry and I was decent at it), but 10th grade was the worst. I didn’t like the class (algebra 2), I didn’t like the teacher, and I just dreaded the whole thing. By the middle of the year, I would literally break out in hives whenever I had to walk down the hall to go to that class. I never told anyone about that, but it definitely happened.
Needless to say, as soon as I was no longer required to take math (which was after that 10th grade class), I stopped. I took the minimal amount of math while I was getting my psych degree and it was only once I took the required intro stats course that I started to get into stats. But plain old math still scared me. Hell, even when I was getting my math degree, math scared me. I’d look at an equation and I’d get that nervous dread that always accompanied any dealings with math.
It’s really only been in the past few years that I’ve started to feel more comfortable with math. The comfort is not at all natural; it takes a lot of work to ignore that “oh my god I don’t know what these numbers and letters mean in this equation I am so stupid” feeling that I still get. But just knowing that I’ve gone from math causing me to break out in hives to being qualified to teach math gives me enough confidence to feel like I’ll be able to do this. If I can teach stats with the level of confidence that I currently can, surely I can do the same with math, right?
And hell, I think the fact that I’m not naturally a math person will be helpful for my students. I’m sure there will be a decent number of them who are dreading this calculus class and who are terrified that they won’t be able to understand things. I know what that feels like. I know how bad that feeling is. And I know that it’s important to be able to explain math to the “non-math” people so that they don’t feel stupid or feel like they’re being overwhelmed and can actually get something useful out of the class. And since I am a “non-math” person, I feel like I’ll be able to do that.
And that’s really important to me.