January 2 Day 300: Getting Back To It

University of Washington winter quarter starts Monday, January 4 so it is time to get serious about teaching once again.

I switched teaching assignments at the last minute to help fill an unexpected gap. Originally, I was scheduled to teach TMATH 308 Matrix Algebra —a fully enrolled synchronous remote section at 8 am on Tuesdays and Thursday. Then we needed a new instructor for TMATH 403 Abstract Algebra II and since I taught it two years ago, it made sense to offer it to me. I’m pretty excited about the opportunity.

I have a few worries:

  • The class has a very small enrollment (only 5 students). If one or two students are absent (or late) it will affect the group dynamic. Do I create groups or do they always work together as a whole?
  • I am struggling to find a satisfactory alternative to active participation when someone misses class. I might ask students to post recordings of the problem they were assigned to present if they were not present. Any advice from those more experienced in remote IBL would be appreciated.
  • The first week of class coincides with the Joint Mathematics Meeting. Even though it is virtual this year, I have JMM commitments during class time. Only 3/5 of the students responded to my poll about selecting an alternate time for the first two classes. I’m not excited about moving a 10:10 am class to 5 pm but that seems to be a time that works for those that responded. Being the first two classes, its important for me to be there to set expectations. If this had been week two I would be perfectly happy to have someone else substitute.

Today, I stopped by my office to grab notes from the last time I taught this class. Everything was dark and quiet. I thought about visiting the mailroom but found a manila envelope on my desk containing much of my mail. A big thanks to the front office staff for doing that. I am now in possession of many MAA journals and magazines published during the COVID disruption. A few are missing; I can only assume they arrived after the special delivery to my office occurred.

I am not mentally prepared to start the next quarter in a few days. Winter break was too short to recover from the pandemic autumn. But its not like I have a choice. I am excited that grading will no longer dominate my weekends. Having only 5 students is a rare privilege. While my standard teaching load is two classes each quarter of roughly 25-30 students each, I am fortunate that MAA supports a reduced load during my presidency, which begins February 1. So truly, I am counting my blessings.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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