Thursday, January 21, 2010

First Day

Well, my Financial Math class started today. I am not convinced it went particularly well. I'm trying to remind myself that the real test will come Tuesday (our next class meeting), after they've done some reading and their first assignment. Today I just wanted to talk about my goals for the course, and how it was structured.

I guess that's not all I wanted. I wanted to start the class off with lots of discussion, since that's what I want the class to look like for the rest of the semester. Not just me talking. I remember this happening last semester, and thinking it was a great thing. Perhaps it helps that I started with content on the first day last semester.

Today, besides people saying "Here" or so as I read their names from the roster, I think approximately 3 people said something during class. That might include me, I can't quite remember. Not quite all I'd hoped.

When I wrote my last post about this class, just two days ago, I was, for whatever reason, working under the assumption that a majority of the class would be first year students or so. It is, after all, a 100 level course. It turns out that nearly my entire class consists of seniors. I'm trying to remind myself not to expect them to be lazy before giving them the opportunity to prove otherwise. I'm having a hard time of it, to be honest.

I wanted students to to tell me why they were taking this class, and what they'd heard about it (since I knew little about it). One student said it filled a general math/science credit. Another said that he had heard it was a good intro to finance and things. I should have pressed the issue... I'm starting to think this course is looked at as any easy way to fill one last graduation requirement. And I sort of hate that.

On my run after class, trying to clear my head a bit, I realized that perhaps I was being too idealistic about this (I thought that's what ivory towers were for!). Looking back, I know that as an undergrad I cared very little about anything besides my math and computer science classes. I took whatever else I had to, but have no memory of enjoying learning any of it.

Since starting grad school, I seem to have really grown into loving learning. I basically cannot stop reading things online. And they aren't all math and computers and teaching. Well, mostly they are. But I also feel like I would actually be excited to maybe learn some history (which I always hated), more science, more literature... anything. My friend got my a gift card for a book store, and I wondered at some point if there was a convenient way to pick a "nice" random collection of books from scattered topics to read (feel free to leave a comment!). Broaden my horizons and all that.

Even learning financial math has been not bad. I've always shied away from applications. Today I went to the library and got a few popular-level books on finance. I felt a little dirty, honestly. But I was also excited to learn about things I know nothing about.

Surely my students will share this enthusiasm, right? I'm reminding myself who I was years ago, and realizing that probably many wont. But I'm also trying to remind myself that if I go to class thinking that, things will turn bad (worse?) quickly.

I did, in class today, get a nice chuckle out of the class when I told them I know nothing about finance. I expect many were a bit shocked when I told them that while I'd read the first chapter a few times, and skimmed the next two, I had no idea about the other three we'll be covering. I'm hoping they appreciate my honesty, and don't lose respect for the course. I'm wondering if a pop quiz is in order for Tuesday, to make sure they know I'm taking this class seriously.

I'll keep you posted.

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