March 16 Day 373: Finally Got It Figured

No teacher likes to wait in office hours for students to show up and ask questions. This quarter I instituted a rule that if no one arrived with questions in the first 15 minutes, I was not obligated to stay. Tonight was my last evening drop-in hour for Winter Quarter 2021. The oral final exam will be administered on Thursday. To my surprise and delight, half the class showed up to ask questions.

Don’t get too excited. Remember this is a particularly small class that had its own challenges. So half means two.

I know they are tired and worried about requirements for graduation. For math seniors, winter is the considered the most demanding quarter. Students are taking Abstract Algebra or Real Analysis (occasionally, against all rational advice, both) and completing their senior capstone project. Deadlines rule. In an effort to be accommodating, I used a token system to be more flexible with assignments. It worked well for me in the past. During the pandemic winter of 2021, late tokens enabled procrastination and made it easier for students to put Abstract Algebra assignments to the bottom of their to-do pile. Now they are scrambling to meet the hard deadline.

Nevertheless, it was a good session. I saw a few light bulbs (but no cameras) turn on. Students achieved comfort with technology, working collaboratively, admitting confusion, and being vulnerable. While I wish the bond of trust could have been developed earlier in the quarter, I am satisfied that it started before class ended.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

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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