March 1 Day 723: What’s Your Battery Charge Level?

What a difference 24 hours can make. Yesterday, to answer the title question, I wrote:

Battery needs charging. I’m at the end of my winter quarter so I’m looking at a massive amount of grading. Teaching is draining when only half the students are present and the rest are black boxes on Zoom. I am getting physical therapy for my knee and am starting to slowly walk more. I’m not even close to hitting my daily step goal. Strength first. Distance later. I’m over committed for the next two weeks and fretting about four presentations I am giving next week. My current mantra “I don’t have to be perfect. This will be good enough.”

In this morning’s class there were only five people in person and three remote. That’s 50% attendance. I know this is crunch-time and students have competing priorities. I try not to take it personally.

So why is it that today after class, I felt recharged. What made the difference?

I stopped trying to prepare for every eventuality and simply dealt with the people in the room. I accepted that this would be good enough. And it was.

In particular, I had the students up at the whiteboard finding eigenvalues for the first time. Vertical Non-permanent Surfaces (AKA whiteboards on the wall or chalkboards if you are old school) are magic. They get the students moving and talking and thinking. (See research by Peter Liljedahl). This is what I wanted to happen in every class. I did a better job reproducing it on shared virtual whiteboards in fully remote quarters when I took the time to set expectations. But this crazy quarter with Omicron-induced pivots wasn’t planned. It has taken until week 9 of 10 to finally see the classroom interactions that I wanted from the beginning. And that replenished my energy and enthusiasm.

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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