Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First Day of School

Today was the first day of classes. I think my calculus class went OK, but they were a bit overwhelmed by the complications of WebAssign. Also, I have more of a small-class teaching style than a large-class teaching style. As such, I think the gen-ed class went really well. One thing that helped was that I assigned homework due on the first day of the gen-ed class, so the slackiest of the slackers switched out. Now I have normal freshmen, which is the best that you can hope for. Second semester freshmen are one of my preferred demographics to teach. They've had a semester in which to figure out that college is harder than high school, but they haven't checked out yet.

Because of the logistics of WebAssign, I couldn't assign anything to be due on the first day of calculus, so I assigned work due Saturday morning at 6am. All the questions on the assignment are from basic math and intermediate algebra, so it should not be too challenging. Unfortunately, there appears to be a language issue because a student from another country with a really high placement score has sent me an incomprehensible email asking about one of the problems. I wouldn't be surprised if the email was composed in the student's native language and then run through Google Translate. I'm going to suggest that the student come to my office, as I suspect that writing algebraic symbols on paper is going to be a more effective means of communication than written words in English sent via email.

Another one of my foreign students has only one name. Sort of like Madonna or Sting or Bono. But this is causing problems for the registration database, as it can not handle someone with only one name. The student's (one and only) name is recorded in the "last name" field, and the first name field has "FNU" (for "First Name Unknown"). Additionally, my student has two student ID numbers for reasons relating to this name situation. So if you are coming to my university, you should be prepared to have both a first and a last name or else you will end up confusing our enrollment management system. Maybe when we move to Banner we'll be able to handle students with just one name.

Today's latest find in placement enforcement was a student who had attended several decades ago and failed a wide variety of introductory classes. Unless this student can provide some transcripts from elsewhere demonstrating some mathematical success, calculus is not in Stu's near future.

And fortunately, the stupid cold weather has broken around here, and it was over freezing today, so I have put on hold my plans to secure a position in California and leave mid-year.