March 19 Day 376: The End of Winter

I know it’s a few days until the equinox and the official start to the Spring, but I feel like tonight I am putting Winter (or at the very least winter quarter) to bed.

Yesterday I administered the final oral interviews for Abstract Algebra. After struggling through teaching for three remote quarters (Spring 2020, Autumn 2020, and Winter 2021), I have converged on an interview process that seems to work well for me and my students. It hasn’t changed since the last iteration so I won’t bore you with the details. Today I graded late assignments and assigned final grades. I will wait to hit submit for a few more days so students can double check my accounting. Otherwise, I am DONE!

This completes three full quarters (and entire academic year’s worth) of teaching remotely. What have I learned?

  • I have lousy powers of predication. If someone told me that I would still be teaching remotely a full year after the emergency shut-down, I would not have believed them. Yet here were are.
  • There will be gaps in learning that will persist for years to come at all levels from K-20+. Think about it. Science majors have persisted for an entire year without learning standard laboratory skills. Musicians, both emerging and experienced, have practiced and performed only individually. The wonder of collaborating to create a joyful noise was lost. If they were lucky, their concerts were engineered by merging individual performance tracks. Finally instructors, especially instructors in sequential courses, will need to work harder than ever to meet students where they are without adopting a deficit approach. We must be flexible and make no assumptions about prior learning or retention of understanding moving forward.
  • I wear anti-blue light glasses but my eyes are still strained. What about you?
  • I have never been more ready for a sabbatical in my life. I am grateful that I will be starting mine tomorrow. And I feel guilty that my colleagues will be gearing up for another pandemic spring.

I hope we are nearing the end of our global health emergency. I long for face-to-face classes, traveling to conferences, and visiting my family out-of-state. For now, I will enjoy the beautiful blooms, new leaves, and the positivity that grows with the lengthening of the days and the changing of seasons.

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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