Trust God and relax-Flora, my student
That’s the crux of 13-point list which I just deleted – 13 things I was confident that I can achieve over next year. Let me KISS the year welcome, in another 8 hours!
Trust God and relax-Flora, my student
That’s the crux of 13-point list which I just deleted – 13 things I was confident that I can achieve over next year. Let me KISS the year welcome, in another 8 hours!
…was fairly funny, happening – extremes of good and bad alike!
As for resolutions;
I wished to implement the same strategy that worked well for 2BSc in 2MSc class – parameters for the subject fit, plus there was a much smaller class – much less to teach. But I missed a major factor – the students’ attitude.
This is how I treated the subject in 2BSc a semester before – I started very slow – two months for a unit, one half for second unit, half a month for third, a week for fourth and 3-4 days for fifth. It was fairly successful there – as there was more than 50% of the class above 75% marks, of which a great deal was above 90% marks.
But in 2MSc – you have already learned a lot that you are reluctant to change your ways – compared to 2BSc, for whom it was the first course in Analysis. They were headstrong. I started slow, and eventually found myself pleading them to read at least once a week and follow what is being taught. They did not. I decided to tighten the grip, contrary to my decision not to mind if they study or not, embossed in tears in one of the previous posts.
First reminder for them was 1CA – the question paper was stupidly simple. Every word there, I had taught in the class – to score 50/50, all you had to do is read tiny things I discussed in class and that’s it! And as expected, most of the class came back with a score less than 25 – I thought your eyes will open after the confession all of you made in private to me that “For your paper, we should start studying early!”
Ugh. No. Two weeks of grace period finished, and no sign of change. And I was forced to take the next blow – deny them of notes, so that they realise that they can’t afford to open the book only the day before exam. Who cares if we fail?
All these had already taken me off my pace – aim was to take all time to teach unit 1, then I have to spend less time on unit 2, which is the generalisation of unit 1. Unit 1 was ignored, forced me to spend more time on unit 2, making things slow down a lot.
Apart from that, the focus of my training was to teach them to read and comprehend definitions and theorems themselves, and to write theorems themselves. Steps and care was taken to present things slowly, but you ignored it from first day onwards – and how can I teach you to master it the day before exam, when you come and ask me for it?
I knew I am late – by the time it was 2 CA. 2 of 39 students were in the league, a plus one, goes without saying. Having closely observed their skill in subject, I had already identified 4 who are exceptionally brilliant (trust me, one of them failed in end semester!), another 20 who could do magic with the subject given a bit of sharpening.
Fact that as a mass, they are declined my appeal to them, I decided to attempt convincing them personally – of 24 I mentioned above, I approached all 22 (two of them, without any intervention, had it under control), of which nearly 10 promised to come, never turned up. The heart to heart sessions with rest 12, were infinitely effective, but most of them failed to take it forward, except two or three of them. I would end the sessions with a request to sit and work harder for next two weeks before semester exams, but the fruits of it, I saw it only in the paper of a handful of them
Then came the next surprise. Since they were going for “educational” tour, I am going to lose 3 of 5 last classes I had designated for 3rd unit, which came in as a bombshell – I was already running late given the tantrums they put me in, and I lost all interest to teach them – had they learned the way I wanted them to, 2 days were more than enough to cover whole unit!
Original plan for unit 3 was to make them explore it themselves – reading and comprehending definitions themselves, writing theorems themselves. But it’s too late already, plus, time’s restricted.
I forced myself through it, giving focus to main theorems and explaining it in and out. Not to do injustice, I shared the notes well in ahead, asked them to read through, prepare and come – I need not mention that only one of 39 read through it at least once.
End semester, as I expected, betrayed me as well. Setter asked questions in my section justly (but ignored the injustice in favour of students previous years), and that gave a prefect ending to it all.
To refute their claims against me, which goes four fold far as I see:
I must confess that I was busy and unavailable to you outside classrooms until mid semester, given the admin work in college which kept me busy till midnight everyday – which, on your request, I dropped it risking all possible consequences. There’s been days in which I was forced to cancel the class moments before I walked in – but I believe I made up to it by making sure I’m available to you last two months, whenever you asked me to.
Then those unprepared classes – mostly because I was jam packed with works and more kept showering in – is no excuse for it. But eventually I reoriented myself to give teaching my first priority.
The days I lost my temper since you didn’t come prepared – sorry for that as well. It was the frustration of being denied, which doubled, tripled, and an attempt to avoid what happened at the end – that I lose interest in teaching the subject.
Impact of this coursework in my professional life also matters:
Anyway – y’all are done with me for lifetime, so, let’s keep all these hard feelings aside and move on, forget each other.
Was not my focus for the semester – but some good came out of it. IE went well, but class did not take full advantage of it – notes were prepared, but no one cared to get it from each other, less practice lead to confusion on paper. Since it’s the first time with the paper for me, that did reflect in teaching. CV was mostly lectures, but there were rough ends as well – mainly me getting bored and losing all interest to teach any further, partially influenced by Topology above. That’s it about this paper – we had some fun. Also, I could consider your request for more teaching opportunities with 3CA – which focussed on making you better students, better teachers and better critiques of teaching-learning system.
Not the best, but better than last time. Realisation that minute details irrelevant to exam could be skipped in class struck me late – which also contributed to their disinterest in the subject. Lectures didn’t work with them; as they had their reaction to near zero. But partial SCL did the magic! I had them with me in classes where I made them explore it rather than lectures, hence eventually spend all energy on it.
I learned that each class is a whole different world – and need to measure them properly before I take a step forward. But lovely papers for end semester!
Though it started off at the bottom of the list, this class had all my attention, through the semester. I never solved a problem for them, they lived up to the challenge – the whole class, soon made it into my favourite list. The pace I told you about for 2MSc – worked perfect with this class – and they experimented, came up with their own methods which I personally never knew – it was fun.
I noticed that 1BSc is more open to changes, more open to work harder (and I wish they make it a habit!) compared to 2MSc, who acts as if they know it all, dead set not to change. Made me rethink my wish for all-PG semester. May be next time on, I’d prefer 2-3 UG and 1 PG instead of all three PG!
IQAC was at its prime, with odd jobs from The Caesar himself, and then from General of the Army kept me busy – a lot busy – that made me compromise a bit on teaching, leading to boring, unprepared lectures every now and then. Wherever I laid my hands on, came out pretty well and neat – to get good comments from high up-s and future high up-s. But dropped it all in a second when I realised that teaching has been forced to take a backseat, promising to get right back soon after the semester. But by then I fell sick. Sickness robbed life itself from me – both teaching and other works. Fact that it was a consequence of my own irresponsibility of past, I have no one to blame, than me myself. But lesson learned, with least damages than painful two months (and one or two more expected).
Relationships were at its best.With students, with colleagues, with friends. I recovered the forgotten personal life, which I had downplayed to accomodate more of professional life. Chip’s death was a shocker – spend hours crying, though the world never saw even a drop of tear. Made me rethink, rework my work philosophy. A foreigner, who had nothing to do with me or my life – loved me like his own son (in fact, he used to say, “I feel like Niko’s home when you’re around!”), earned that love back, too. He made me coin the ultimate scale for freelance jobs: “The one I am working for, are they “Chip-worhty”?” Aka, are they as innocent as, genuine as, a person worth respecting as Chip? If so, no matter how Himalayan the task is, it’s a yes from me. But unfortunately, I never found anyone Chipworthy yet, in my life so far, than my dad and may be TR is close enough.
Sickness made me mature a lot – learn to put my energy under control, avoid getting over excited et al. Also, made me health conscious. Before it peaked, by September end, after one such review posts which I later deleted, I had decided and started to exercise, drink water regularly, join a gym, fix food situation by starting to cook, look more into restricting work to department, till 5 in evening, wake up early enough, meditation and warm up, list goes on. All spoiled in a month by a tiny fever, later transcribed into back pain and all drama followed. As I write, it’s spiking again, forcing me to restrict this post to a semester review, instead of a yearly review.
I need to recalibrate myself.
I have been a preacher to stubborn bunch – whom I broke up with yesterday when TR told that I have been reassigned to a new subject – now to head to a more fertile, younger and rebellious bunch. That’s quite some transition. It’s like Jonah being send to Nineveh – my ship to Tarshish never made it there – and I nearly had a troublesome six weeks in the fish’s belly.
I was happy where I was – or at least I thought so. They were not the best of all – nor were we in perfect love – ask them to be serious about studies, they would ignore you in and out – only to treat you with comments like “Sir, how can I pass the exam tomorrow?” or “I should have started studying earlier!”.
From a class I knew all about, I’ve been moved to a class I know nothing about. From a class which will graduate in 6 months, to a class which started college 6 months ago. From a class I got so used to being in – where I taught two papers in multiple semesters – to a class where I only terrorised them twice, when staff was on leave.
On a brighter side, I have fertile ground. Like Chemistry allied students last semester, all set to listen, try, attempt to form their own perspective of learning and college life – it’s exciting. Bu just that they are not Chemistry students. Physics – a subject with which I had an affair going until I found maths – who with her beauty mesmerised me away from Physics.
I have grilled Chemistry students in and out. They worked out almost all problems – from textbook and out of it – and Vivek would proudly exclaim how wonderful and fast they are with problems.
The situation is a tad bit different here – these children were overfed with notes – a privilege Chemistry students never had – for I always insist on compiling one’s own notes, since spoon feeding in classrooms never helped me as student and as a teacher, I always stood against it. I need to break them out of their habits. Confidence on this fact is nearly 40%.
Then comes the class structure. All classes I taught so far, either by advantage of classroom structure or by the advantage of number of students, each student was accessible to me – I could go, sit near them, spend personal time, bond with them – this is a gallery class, and meets none of the above criteria – I need to find my way around. Confidence on this fact is nearly 90%.
My last two encounters with them is also worth noting. I was, well, a bit harsh tough to them – and acted tough, against the personality I had projected in my own department and to my students. Confidence on this fact irrelevant – but i am going to attach a 100% to it, since no matter how they took it, I plan on making it my usual tone with students in batches to come.
The problem with physicists is that they tend to claim to be superior mathematicians than the ones who have maths as primary business itself. Harish is possibly only one of many physicists I have seen, who can make such a claims – he knows maths, unlike rest, won’t call himself a master of maths even after knowing a great portion of maths he knows. Rest would know bits and pieces, and since they know the most in their side of the world, would claim themselves the best mathematician and try show off, while you and I, as a mathematicians are left to be a silent spectator tolerating their “superior knowledge” about maths, with no foundation. This class is pestered with few such wannabe mathematicians – though I don’t know which extend they are caught in the trap. Confidence on this estimate is 30%.
In other words, overall confidence on this initial estimate (Formulae below) is 26%, and that’s too weak. I must recalibrate myself after a month, possibly at the end of January.
Quick note to myself – main pointers to my present teaching philosophy:
Questionable policies; that needs to be clarified:
This is all I can think of now; will expand on it, as I remember/time permits. I wished to do it before semester began; but health prevented me from it. To do goes this way; homework before 2nd January:
Auf Weidersehen for now.
I’m an uncle for the fourth time (excluding Joanne, who betrayed the ship and sailed to America with her Amma!), and the whole house is in celebration. Sister ordered Beef Biriyani, plus baked cakes, fish fingers for snacks, leave alone the side dishes for lunch. Plus Aathu’s turns 4 today, who has declared me her friend. I’ve been told about the Pathiri (a speciality of North Kerala) with Beef. And I even went for the cake cutting, soon after she cut it, I walked out, without even tasting it a bit.
Who leaves a birthday party early?
When the nurse told me “You cannot have anything other than rice, with butermilk or rasam till the test” (on 20th), I did not foresee any of these. To console me, she added “may be Idly with sugar as well.”
Except for a tiny piece of cake, so far, amidst all these temptations, I kept my fast. I keep taking frequent refills of rice,to not leave me hungry, and above all, hunger may turn villain, tempting me to at least try taste the grape in the other side of the river.
I even found a new kind of hunger – a hunger for taste, because the amount I ate today may be infinitely more than what i usually eat – but my stomach keeps demanding, and I fear won’t be at rest until I give the tongue even the tiniest of joy in midst of this celebration of taste – making my life a lot harder.
I am kind of feeling bad that my sister, knowing that I can’t have any of these, intentionally chooses to forget this and try celebrate her culinary skills today – and I am left with a watering mouth.
After the pain shot up, I wished she acted a bit more out of concern, like avoiding comments like “if you want, you better pick food and eat now, or else I will keep things back” et al, specially when
A day more to go, that too, at work. I really wonder what’s in store. But I am up for the challenge.
Right at this moment, a friend of mine, Simi, tells me about her cousin, Meenu (my student) and her culinary skills. Perfect ending to the day, I tell you. I am more hungry now! Where’s the rice???? And…er… rasam!
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.
Al’s been pondering about her name for few days now and at last, she decided to have a heart to heart with me today morning.
“Achacha, is Bino a grown up name?”
Achacha is what she calls me – meaning elder brother in certain parts of Kerala.
Me: I don’t know! Achacha’s real name is Jesse.
“Yes, that. Did you ever think if your name is a grown up name when you were a kid?”
Me: May be.
“Alana is not a grown up name. Its Ariel’s sister’s name and I’m not a mermaid”
Me: But Alana is also the name of a MasterChef winner. You should be a chef like her one day, too.
“But I don’t want to be a chef! I want to be a teacher!”
Me: No! Chef! I’ll eat all that you make!
“No. Teacher like Amma and Binochacha. I don’t want to die in a fire accident”
Me: Chef! Chef! Chef! I want food! Now!
(Fading annoyed footsteps) “Amma, he’s so annoying no?”
Well, this is just a list of things I got to do in coming days, mostly as blog posts:
This is a portion of my sermon on the “dais” in 1BSc Mathematics classroom – where I randomly walked in as a substitute for staff on leave.
Prologue: ‘‘Generalisation is a heartbeat of mathematics. If the teachers are unaware of its presence, and are not in the habit of getting students to work at expressing their own generalisations, then mathematical thinking is not taking place’’ John Mason (1996)
Here’s a disclaimer: I am here as a substitute for your ma’am, who is on leave today. I will be speaking subject, but not what you have to study this semester. That also means, if you are planning to disturb the class – I do not mean little chats in between – but the ones which may upset me – you must walk out of the class now.
I waited for a minute, to assure that I have silence, and their complete attention on me.
I don’t exactly remember if I came to your class before – I vaguely remember coming here. Anyway, hope you know me – I am Jesse, and I teach here.
I had their attention, and all eyes were on me, wondering what I am going to speak about. A bunch of students walked in, claiming that their French class finished late.
Have you ever heard about the exciting bit of mathematics? I am not talking about the kind that you do now – and that you did in your school. I believe you have to wait for a year more to get a picture of it – the exciting bit of mathematics, called “pure” or “abstract” mathematics.
To begin with, let’s do some addition. We all know 2+2 is 4. Let’s take a look at this so called “+”, which we have been studying since standard 1. Easily, we notice that a+b, where a and b are numbers, is another number.
I cannot go dry like this – I must interact with them more – I was happy to see those eyes curiously running all over the board, waiting to see where I am taking this to.
Now, what can you say about a+b and b+a? (shouts here and there that they are equal) You are right! Similarly, we can see that (a+b)+c = a+(b+c). Also, we know that if a+b = c, we can write b = c – a; and turns out there will be a unique number which satisfy this, that is, for two numbers “a” and “b”, only one number “c” will satisfy this condition.
Interesting! Did you ever notice that our little “+” sign had so many beautiful properties? Wait! There is one more familiar “operation” that has these nice properties – multiplication!
Clearly, a x b is a number again – and a x b = b x a! That’s not it – (a x b) x c = a x (b x c)! “x” also has the nice properties of “+” we have been talking about! Does it have all those properties?
Tell me, if a x b = c, what is b = ?
I waited for the automatic response – that b = c/a.
But turns out this fails for one magical number – the number we mathematicians are very scared about – 0! If 0 x b = 0; can you say b = 0/0? I must admit – we mathematicians may be fearless about quite a lot of things in this world – but we are very scared of 0/0 – I will tell you a little secret, if you will not tell anyone – it’s because we don’t know what it is!
There were little growls here and there – they knew 0/0 is troubled waters – but many of them confessed, with their eyes that they never knew that the matter was this deeply disturbing, having joined the league to be a mathematician.
Back to b = 0/0 – it is absurd! Notice that in this case, our “x” doesn’t hold the last magical property our “+” holds, for the special number “0” – but it holds all of the others. Are there any other operations that holds these beautiful properties? Turns out there are many!
That’s why we study them separately, in a subject called “Group theory”. We will define a world, where we will see how each operator that follows these nice properties of “+” fare, given a set of numbers. In a group, we associate one operation to a set, and study it’s properties.
In other words, we will be “generalising” the properties of “+” using the groups, for many operations.
When it comes to group theory, I am tempted to talk about one man, who made enormous contributions to this field – his name goes this way: I write “Galois” on board. Any guesses on how it is pronounced?
They were in the league – I could hear “Galoee” and “Galoees” et al in backdrop.
It’s pronounced “Gal-wa”! These weird French people, I tell you. (The French students who walked in late, now looked up). Our man, contrary to popular belief that we mathematicians are “nerds” and do not have a life – had an exciting, adventurous, short time here on Earth – while he wrote a tiny theory – which no one were able to comprehend when he had written it – may be because his handwriting was bad – just like mine (I do some scribbling on board which they tried to read and failed) – turns out it was one of the greatest theorems ever written in mathematics!
Well, he only did tiny things – like walking into king’s palace, and threatening to kill the king – something like shouting “I’ve got a gun!” When Prime Minister is in same room as yours – and he was arrested for it! He was a revolutionary, who died at the age of 21 – in a “duel”. There are multiple reasons quoted for that duel – like cowboys where they point gun at each other and start shooting, but one of those reasons is interesting – and I would leave that to your further research online.
Talking about the little theorem he wrote – it was “decoded” only after he passed away – and in fact, today, it is one of the most celebrated theorems in maths world. You will, if you continue in mathematics, have the fortune to read and study it, by the time you are in MSc.
He was a “child prodigy” – just like Akshay Venkatesh, who won the Fields medal recently.
Well, I went on to gossip about Nobel, and why we needed a “mathematician’s Nobel” called Field’s Medal, then a little introduction to life of Euler, and how his evening walk lead to start of two new fields in mathematics, called graph theory and topology, how he said “Now I can focus more on mathematics” when he got completely blind. We touched up a bit on a few puzzles, and observed that we have mathematics in them too – then to a beautiful subject, called “real analysis”, where we generalise the concepts in puzzles we just did – another pure paper they will come across by 4th semester. We indulged ourselves in history of mathematics department in MCC and why it is in Arts block, instead of science, few great names like Gift Siromoney who saw mathematics in everything, including music, archeology, zoology, botany (and the list goes on), Rani Siromoney, a world famous Formal Language researcher, V. Rajkumar Dare who made many of us fall in love with mathematics etc. and their mathematical contributions, all of which I will not elaborate here – because that’s another few pages I am talking about. For now, Auf Weidersehen.
This is a random thought, exclusively for absolute math nerds:
The blame is on me. I taught him topology, he deformed my favourite coffee mug. What better gift can a topology lecturer expect?
Couldn’t help but post this. Sorry, muggles who are randomly reading this post!