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.
So like I mentioned in an earlier blog, all three of my classes meet right in a row, starting at 9:30 and ending at 1:45.
I don’t mind that, of course, but I can already tell this is going to be brutal on my voice. We’ll see if it makes it to the end of the semester.
The fall semester is about to start up soon, which means the hallways will be back to this nonsense:
So this week has sucked royal nuts for various reasons. But today I got an email from Jim saying that STAT 213 in the spring was suddenly available and that it could be mine if I wanted it.
And I had to very calmly reply “yes plz give” without actually being like “YES PLZ GIVE!”
So yeah. I get two classes this spring: STAT 213 and STAT 217. I’ll hopefully be getting STAT 217 in the summer, too.
(And, you know, more classes in later semesters as well.)
So I was in the mail room at school printing some stuff, and I saw this guy:
How…how have I not noticed him before? He’s awesome. He looks cool and calm and all…until you zoom in.
Reduce, reuse, recycle…
I’m probably more stressed about tomorrow’s than some of my students are. I’m worried something’s going to go wrong, because that’s been the defining characteristic of this semester so far.
Sorry for the crappy blogs. Been really busy/stressed/nervous/overwhelmed.