Monday, March 26, 2012

Teaching three-three

One of my motivations for blogging is that by reading the blogs of others I get a glimpse into what life might be like (for real) for people in very different situations than mine. This post, on teaching three-three, is one of those posts for other people.

Teaching: I teach every day of the week other than Saturday and Sunday. I teach calculus, of course, and another class. Two of these are MWF and one is TTh. At my school, it is expected that I learn every student's name and hopefully something about them as people. It is also expected that I teach excellently, using either lecture or more "reform"-style teaching methods.

Hours with students: It is requested/required that I have between 4 and 5 office hours a week, distributed over four different days. I do that. I also have meetings with students by appointment. Many weeks, I actually do spend up to nine hours with students outside of class. This does not count my independent study students (oh, did I mention that I'm overseeing some independent studies on topics not covered at my small college?) or my undergraduate research students.

In addition to math questions, I do have a few students who seek me out for conversation, relaxation, and life advice. Interestingly, most of them are not math majors :) This also takes some time, but is usually quite rewarding -- I think these are very interesting and talented people, and sometimes we go for coffee or ice cream rather than sitting in my office.

Research: I try to follow the advice of Robert Boice and work in small daily chunks. I have managed to maintain some research projects using this method. I also like to work with collaborators, as it is fun and they can sometimes keep a project going even if I have to stop for a week. I still don't have a lot of papers, though.

Service: Right now, the department is very busy with some administrative adventures. I attend between 2 and 4 hours a week of meetings. In general, the department does not waste much time or spend meeting time on stupid stuff. Meetings do take time though.

Grading: I have an undergraduate grader, but I do need to grade all exams. I love having an undergraduate grader.

Class prep: Fortunately, I have taught calculus for six or seven years before this. I think about how to present concepts for these classes -- these people -- but I do not have to spend much time relearning integration by parts. I spend time assigning homework problems, thinking about what students should get out of the class, thinking about how to deal with the poor preparation some students are coming in with, and figuring out pacing of the classes whether using worksheets or lecturing. I also spend time trying to come up with new examples or activities that relate directly to the interests students in these classes have. Last semester: chemists all over the place. Reaction rates. This semester: economists, dance majors, and social justice advocates. Different activities.

Service: I work on inviting speakers, scheduling and funding mathematical/cultural events, and organizing workshops on technology that the department would be interested in using. I'm also involved in some regional and national activities.

Undergraduate research: have two undergrads working on a project related to my research. Hopefully they spent all spring break revising the paper we are writing together! I have spent up to three hours a week with these students, although our arrangement is quite informal and some weeks we spend no time together at all.

I certainly did spend my 60 hours a week on this job for a long time. Now I'm not quite sure -- is it 55? Sixty certainly made me very tired, and I am not sure it's sustainable. Of course, last year was my first year, and this is only my second. I hear that some of these things get easier to do -- but then you get more responsibilities.

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