March 27 Day 1114: Fresh Start

It’s the first day of Spring quarter 2023. So long Spring Break— I hardly knew you.

All of the faculty colleagues I saw today looked exhausted. With less than a week between Winter grade submission and the start of this quarter, there really was no rest for the weary. I had an impressive To-Do list that only kept getting longer.

Do-To list at the start of last week.

I am grateful that all but one item has since been checked off. The “prepare spring class” items were a near thing. I am teaching Trigonometry again (last quarter was my first time teaching it in 15 years at this institution) but I was not completely satisfied with the outcome. Rather than making minor tweaks, I’m challenging myself to revamp the whole thing using mastery-based assessments and even more active learning.

The cover image is of 6 vinyl sheets thumbtacked to the back wall —giving me a total of 10 vertical nonPermanent surface (VNPS) stations (including the white boards in front) for groups of students to work together. Each station had a fine point dry erase marker, an erasing cloth, and a playing card to indicate group number.

Station 6.

It was lovely wandering around the room, hearing questions being asked for information that was exactly the review material I thought they might need. When I brought the group back for discussion, they preferred to participate from their stations rather than return to their seats. Overall, I’m pleased with the start although apprehensive about the work required in the overhaul—not just creating and grading mountains of repeatable assessments but also putting up and taking down the VNPSs each day. It took me 8 minutes today. There are only 10 minutes to transition between classes. Hopefully as we establish new norms in the classroom, I can depend on the students to help putting up and taking down the temporary VNPSs.

Tomorrow is the first day for my second section. It’s in a different room but the setup will be similar. I hope it goes equally as well.

For my friends and colleagues on the quarter system, good luck on your journey through Spring. You have 10 weeks to find a way to positively impact your students’ learning, teaching your signature course in your signature style. Your time starts…


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 2021-2022. Past-President of MAA 2023.

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