Today morning, my sister asked me a doubt involving vectors. She expected me to understand it – and I did understand how they found the cross product, how they formed the coordinates from vector, but nothing of the role of “t” or role of “torque” etc., which she wanted to know. I stared at it for a while and started filling my ignorance and her expectation with gibberish, finishing it with the remark
Me: “Also note that I am a mathematician, and I have no clue what these things do here.”
Sister: How can you say that it’s not your thing? It’s just vector calculus!
Me: “It is, but how and where did this “t” come from? What’s torque? What’s force? How does it work here? I’ve got no clue.”
She got frustrated, and I could see that the friction is on the thin blue line between the two worlds we belong to; of mathematics and physics.
Apart from that; I’m getting back on foot when it comes to teaching; having subjects of my liking and excited students with their eyes wide open while teaching. Though sickness is a curse in classrooms preventing me from raising my energy too much (which is out of my control when I have a real good crowd listening to me – I get a bit too excited!) I am getting better at keeping it in check and delivering with enough energy in classrooms.
I started a new experiment – where it’s monotonous lectures; but lectures focus on students exploring the subject. For example; in Fuzzy, I’d give them a concept and ask them to formalise it into a definition; find examples and counterexamples, guide them into discussion rather than teaching it all – more of discussions in class. It is, so far working well with Fuzzy and Java.
Only trouble is that the pain is more openly pronounced at times – and students have raised their concern; funny that they noticed it more than my colleagues. I am learning my new limits; learning to put my excitement under control (failing which the reminder, the pain shoots up – a damage I feared will happen as a part of growing up – finally has happened.), inability to run around with infinite energy and reach every corner of the world.
Biggest consolation is three first year students who come for discussions in afternoons – I am,in a way taking advantage of their innocent minds – to re-explore mathematics from a fresh perspective. I don’t teach them, but rather give them pointers for a concept, make them explore it – and its properties, operations on it etc.
I feel I am slowly bonding with 1BSc students. Last week, I went as a substitute when Ruby was on leave – and their joy in seeing me made me excited. I left the class with shooting pain having run around with all energy (and trust me – the whole class patiently listened to all I had to say, with eyes wide open!) I regretted it a tiny bit – because of the pain, but it was a consolation that I missed only the biggest rowdy in the class – even his friends listened to me and every word I had to say. Even he, at times, showed elevated interest – I feel I am connecting with him, too.
All regret turned to joy next day morning when a first year girl came and said that I answered many questions that was disturbing her since college began last day in class. I found another three students, who were a tiny bit excited about abstract mathematics which I introduced in one such class earlier, about whom I told you earlier – they come for afternoon discussions these days, and I have been learning infinitely many things from them.
Not just that – HOD, Robinson sir, on listening to all these events, asked me if I can, in free hours, give the whole class more orientation towards pure mathematics, and that official word from him was exciting enough. He said that I can make use of any free hours that come by, where I can meet the whole class. Well, that dispels the fear if I am overstepping boundaries.
Best part is that off late, the way I speak subject is pretty much different; I emphasise on the core of the subject; I focus on making them explore it, formalise thoughts rather than me giving them concise conclusion of studies till date – which is a surprise for me as well. If you don’t know me, I am of the sort which knows what I am speaking myself only after I speak it out. This way of speaking seems to appeal to students a lot – I have more class and students involvement than before in lectures, almost similar to student centred activities.
I’m now trying to step into student culture; as a department. Having seen many goodness out of working on better classroom culture inside classroom, I am trying to build a healthier interaction between classes – mainly focussing on MSc students, where I teach this semester. Idea of discipleship translated into secular terms, in other words. Also, many 2MSc students have agreed to stick around Sololearn and take time off to encourage their juniors and help them learn better by challenging them on Sololearn etc.
There’s something crazy that I am attempting to do – I would parttake in 3CA along with students – as one of them. While I mark them for their studies, they would mark me for my teaching once in a week, I will write the tests with them, I will do activities with them, be a part of a group taking rounds. Students are still sceptical about it; but I believe I am doing it right. It will make them better critiques of lectures, teaching, my conduct – which might benefit them if at all they are to teach some day, and also keep a check on myself – I have to be doubly careful to deliver my best to them, if I don’t want to fail in 3CA. 😉
I am in am attempt to rethink exams, as well. At this moment, exams test their retention of fact they learned – which is, of course important. But at a point of history, information was not freely available; books were restricted to libraries, knowledge was limited to few – which made it essential to retain information for ready dispense. But this scenario, in my opinion has changed. It’s time that we rethink this exam pattern as information is readily available these days – about anything under the sky. More than retention, exams, in my opinion should test their ability to capture and comprehend new information; and teaching should focus not of making them by heart more definitions and theorems, but rather equip them with ability to read,understand and explore themselves. But it’s still a vague idea, I have to develop on it further.
Anyway, experiments will continue over the semester, and my only motivation to get rid of the pain is that it hinders my teaching – I wonder if I would have even done anything about it if I have not been teaching.
Meanwhile the students and their affection is conquering my heart in and out. They are caring, understanding (though they don’t know what’s wrong with me – they just sensed that something’s not right) and just there to support when I am struggling.
I on the other hand is enjoying this attention and drama, and this couldn’t tie my happiness when I am so – fact that I am relieved from college duties is making me happy more often these days.
Anyway, I have an odd feeling that it’s time for me to wrap up, with a note that I am liking this new WordPress Gutenberg editor. Super-awesome is an understatement.