Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tales from Computer Science

Today was the first day of the CS class that I'm taking. Made for quite a busy day, as I also spent about six hours working in advising. I advised a student who was hoping to graduate with a degree in undecided. I'm not exaggerating. She used the web-based requirements checker and found that when she put in "undecided" as a major that she was only six courses away from completing the requirements. I had to explain that what this meant was that she was six courses away from fulfilling the gen-ed requirements.

In any event: computer science.

Typical CS crowd. Maybe about 15-20 students in the class. Mostly guys with laptops. I sat in the back, and I can assure you that every single student with a laptop was doing something completely unrelated to computer science. Instant messenger, Facebook, and online shopping, yes. Schoolwork, no. I have never, ever, ever sat in on or observed a class in which a single student was using a laptop to take notes. Maybe at some point I'll use my laptop to take notes. Once it's back from the shop (grrrrr....).

I am so jealous of the professor! He has two TAs. Yes, in a class with 15-20 students there are TWO TAs. In the fall, my calculus had a student:TA ratio of over 60:1. My gen-ed class always has a student:TA ratio of 35:0. I would find teaching much more rewarding if I had a staff of TAs to deal with my students and grade the papers.

Didn't get to meet the professor, as he is out of town and had his TAs teach the class. If I had a small army of TAs, I could have spent more time in San Diego and missed the first day of my classes, too.

I outed myself as math faculty. At the beginning of the class, one TA asked, "Is anyone here NOT a CS major?" I raised my hand because, well, I'm not. And he asked, suspiciously, "What's your major?" To which I said, "I'm faculty in the math department." I could have been coy and said, "I don't have a major," but that seemed silly. Besides, it's not like women in their mid-30s exactly blend in to an undergrad CS class (and we had to fill out those "first day" index cards, including responding to "educational background," so the TAs would have known who I was soon enough).

And some of the other students already know who I am: at the end of class one of them asked me, "Are you Becky Hirta?" After confirming my identity, he then asked me some advising questions about the math department. I told him to file a petition.