unsympathetic professor

As the last week of classes draws to a close, I have the same feelings toward finals week that I nearly always have. Bored apathy and calculated scheduling. This is not to say I don’t enjoy teaching, I do quite a bit. Nor that I’m burnt out, sometimes I am, but this isn’t the cause for my attitude towards finals.

This then reminds me of a sentiment most students, I suspect, have. That if I were a teacher, I would remember what it is like to be a student, and have some sympathy. And in my case, the divide between attitudes of my students and my own are greatest at this moment.

Objectively speaking, final exams are extremely important. Mine are worth 30% of the total grade, so if you miss it, then you are almost guaranteed to fail the course. It is a cumulation of everything you’re suppose to have learned from the class, from the foggy beginnings to that hellfire section even the teacher hated. Thinking it’s a big deal is not surprising.

It wasn’t long ago that I had final exams, so it’s not like I forgot the feeling. More, as instructor, I have a view from the top and the fact is for the most part, finals don’t affect the grade. We as people cannot change so suddenly that an eleventh hour decision will affect what precedence has been set. The studious student will study. The do-nothing students will do nothing. The panicky students will panic. The confused students will be confused. The intelligent students will be intelligent.

And even if this were not so, then what of it? If the studious student slacks, she will likely have the routine of the exercises to net her a solid grade, at least a not as damaging grade. If the do-nothing student does something, then the seeds of thought aren’t likely to bear fruit in a few days. Even if it does, it’s too little, too late. Perhaps most unfortunately, the confused student, no matter how studious, will not suddenly reach an epiphany and become cogent. If it didn’t happen before, it won’t happen now.

So it’s not that I don’t care. It’s just everything has been done and inertia will carry us out.

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raindrop in the ocean

So over the past week, I attended the Canadian Operator Symposium in the University of Victoria. It was my first time at this sort of event, and I enjoyed myself. The experience was exciting and invigorating. I felt inspired to hear from experienced mathematicians and to learn about what’s currently happening in this part of mathematics. Everything seemed to come alive and become fresh and new.

Before, I felt frustrated. I had done so little and the work I’m suppose to be doing seems aimless. I don’t have a good grasp of what’s going on and have no idea how I’m suppose to figure it out. Both mathematically and logistically.

I have no clearer idea of that now, but perhaps the best thing that I got out of the experience is that I’m part of something beyond myself. The things that I am doing, or rather, should be doing, are of interest and importance to a community of people. It might not be of enormous interest and others might be able to do what I’m suppose to do with far more ease, but I’m to do what I can and this makes me part of that community.