We're a little crazy, about science!

The first lecture

The thing is today?! What, how did that even happen? Yes, I know the linear nature of time, but wow does time have no meaning these days. What am I talking about you ask? Well today is my first lecture, hence the title of the post. Unfortunately I’m not exactly ready, but I am going to be recycling a lot of the stuff I used last year when I taught this class, so that shouldn’t be a huge problem…. or will it?

Teaching isn’t for me. I mean I like the IDEA of teaching and I do enjoy teaching to small groups of people, but big lecture style courses don’t appeal to me. I can’t watch the people I’m working with progress, so it’s a disconnect that I don’t particularly like. Instead I prefer mentoring, in fact one of the people I’ve been mentoring for a long time now just graduated (yay for Kay!), but that’s beside the point. The point is I am not a teacher, teacher. I prefer mentoring.

Which I guess is part of the reason I don’t really mind teaching summer classes. It’s not a huge time commitment and I can pass on a lot of information in a small amount of time, but I also only have a handful of students I’m working with. Unlike the lecture hall style courses some of you may be familiar with. The ones that have so many students in them that it’s a surprise that you could all be enrolled in the same course at the same time? Those types of classes are a nightmare to me because I don’t see the benefit of teaching them.

I guess what I mean is that it’s hard to gauge how much someone actually took away from the class when it’s that size. You can grade students, but grades don’t always mean understanding or ability to use the information. Tests and homework are a good measure of how much someone is willing to do or how well someone can take a test, but in my experience that’s about all they are good for.

So back to the summer classes I’m teaching. So far there are a small handful of classes I’m going to be covering this summer. Normally I take on quite a lot, one year I taught a 10 week solid modeling course (which I re-did and made available here). Last year I taught a four class MATLAB course (also re-done and added here). I also taught a splattering of other topics last year (and the year prior frankly), but no multipart classes like the examples I just listed.

Thankfully this year it’s one and done style lectures. Which you would think means that I can’t see how well someone has done, so you would expect me to complain about getting nothing out of it like I’ve basically been doing this entire post, but that’s not the case. Teaching courses over the summer for our interns means I will be able to see how well people have learned the material by how they apply what they’ve learned as the summer progresses. Which is also why I’m first up in our summer lecture series for our undergrad (and some high school) students.

For that reason, and because I don’t like doing things halfway, I tend to put a lot of effort into making sure that I teach a good course. I want people to get a lot out of what I do. That’s part of the reason I put all that effort into translating it for my blog and making my classes publicly available for anyone wanting to learn. None of what I teach will make you an expert, but it is a good way to get a handle on the basics and learning how to do the harder and fancier stuff isn’t that big of a leap once you understand how to do the beginner stuff really well.

All that to say, while I have most/all of the lecture for today worked out (code and all) from last year, I also want to review what I’ll be teaching. Really I’m condensing two of my MATLAB courses last year into one course this year anyway so it makes sense to go over the material and not duplicate some of the stuff I covered previously for the sake of review. While I don’t have a ton of time to do it today (when do I ever?) I should be able to polish some of the stuff I did last year and hopefully make it a little better.

Last years classes were done spur of the moment anyway, school-PI asked me to do the classes as a surprise the week before they started (if I recall correctly). So there was a bit of a rush to put it all together anyway. I’m somewhat frustrated that I don’t have more time to rework the class, but from what I recall of last years course, everyone seemed to get a lot out of it, from the feedback I got anyway.

The next few lectures should happen later this month, so with a little luck (and a bit more planning), I should be able to revise those classes, should I think anything needs revising, before they actually start. I imagine this is a lot like teaching regular classes, there’s always a bit of a rush and you never get enough time to make the course how you want, but somehow it still comes together enough that people have no clue how close to pure chaos the class was just prior to teaching it.

Today is the first lecture and I’m okay with that.


2 responses

  1. Those classes in big lecture halls didn’t feel useless to me when I was in them as a student. But I guess they didn’t exactly need to be live lectures. Replace the professor with a pre-recorded video, plus the option to visit office hours with any questions, and the result would have been about the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    June 2, 2022 at 6:20 pm

    • Oh that’s fair. I just mean that as a teacher you don’t really get any sort of feedback with how well people are learning so you can’t exactly adjust. I don’t mind large classes as a student, but I do agree that videos of the lecture would be just as useful (if not more so frankly because I can revisit). We had some online classes back when people cared about covid and I got the chance to rewatch the lectures, total game changer for my learning.

      Liked by 1 person

      June 3, 2022 at 4:02 pm

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