People At My School

I went to the Dean of Students today, because my adviser is out of town and I needed someone to sign a small yellow paperwork. The Dean has gone a bit loopy from a prolonged lack of meaningful feedback on his natterings. He humbled and hooed over my schedule for a little bit, signed the card, and told me to take three aspirin with a glass of water and call him in the morning. I think I got off lightly.

One of my professors lectures in a style which demands close attention, and expects us to take an active role and ask lots of questions so we don’t get swamped in the math. When we do ask questions, he’s perfectly accomodating, and never appears irritated that we’re interrupting with such a trivial concern, which is something that I’ve seen from various other people on this campus who shall remain anonymous (coughcoughthephysicsdepartmentcough). Alas, his class is right after lunch, so with full stomachs and drowsy digestive brains we’re not always up to the task. Today, though, I think I finally managed, and came out feeling all enthused and energized and other nice e-words because of it.

Of course, it might have been that a week-long slog of background math finally bore fruit – we got to see the first glimmerings of how Rayleigh waves and other things can fall out of diagrams with poles and kinky contour integrals. It means I’ll be able to have pictures that solve wave equations, instead of just letters, and I’m a huge fan of math pictures even if I can’t manipulate complex 3-D objects in my head.

But there was a greater point I was trying to make, before all that fun. I’ve been thinking about teaching, and what makes the difference between the good, bad, and simply mediocre profs out there – and I’ve been thinking of it all in the context of efficient spoon feeding. Which is all well and good if you have a life full of patient, dedicated mentors, but as every college student knows, all profs at all schools are irascible, incoherent, and hate anything that keeps them from churning out impressive publications.

Have you ever been taught how to learn under adverse circumstances?

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