Blog Post

Fourth of July — Welcome to Summer!

It's the Fourth of July — Welcome to Summer!  This definitely won't be the most thought-provoking post I've ever made, but it's not about you!  It's about me clearing out the thoughts that have been in my mind since I wrote this post about my Summer Plans two months ago back on May 4.

I definitely could not have predicted any of what has happened to me this summer since I wrote that post.  I've completed only a fraction of what was on that list and the majority of the list has since been abandoned since I found out in late May that effective Fall 2011, I will be a full-time instructor of mathematics at this community college.

So, here's a summary of what's happened this summer:

1.  Conferences:
  • MAA Conference, May 6 – 7, Kalamazoo, MI — This conference went really well.  I enjoyed the fact that somehow I ended up sitting at the speaker's table during nearly every meal!  I got to meet a lot of great and interesting people, including a math tourist. The only complaint I have about this conference is that it did not provide free WiFi for its participants.  Live and Learn!
  • ACMS Conference, June 1 – 4, Santa Barbara, CA — This conference went really well, too.  If you haven't yet checked out my pictures from Sunny California, feel free to do so!  This conference was great because it was small, so I got to meet all of the speakers and the participants.  I also got to meet Arthur Benjamin, one of my mathematical heroes.  Really, do you know any other mathemagicians?  He even gave away a few of his secrets!
  • MCC Math and Technology Workshop, August 8 – 12, Muskegon, MI — This conference is still coming up.  Although, with my new position starting in the fall, it's going to be rough to be away for an entire week right before game time on August 15, but I'm going anyway!  I'm especially excited about this conference, though, because I have tickets to see the Grand Rapids WhiteCaps on August 7 before the conference starts!
2.  Teaching:  Thankfully, in preparation for my August 15 start in my new position, I've reduced my summer teaching load to three classes:
  • Preparation for Algebra
  • Introduction to Math Systems (Online)
  • Intermediate Algebra
My Preparation for Algebra class is a 4-hour class in which I am using MyMathLab and creating some 'real-world' activities for the students to complete.  You should be seeing more of them posted here as July and August progresses.

My Intermediate Algebra class is a 2-hour class in which I am trying a new teaching format.  My general format has been as follows:
  • 1st 30 minutes:  Answer homework and other questions.  Only the first 3 homework problems asked get answered during class, so students need to be on time for class, otherwise their question will need to be asked outside of class.  Since I've never tried this before, I wasn't sure how it would work out.  It's been wonderful!  The students seem to be fairly receptive and even for an 8 AM class, this seems to be getting most of the students to class on time.
  • 60 minutes:  Lecture.  I highly dislike lecturing at the chalkboard, but this classroom is technology-free, so my options seem to be very limited.
  • Last 15 minutes:  Pass back previous day's graded homework and take attendance while students are working on an assigned problem that I've written on the board.  What I have found is that attendance seems to be higher since I have been personally walking around to every student and checking their name off the list each day.  And having a problem right up until the end seems to be keeping most of the students in class until the end.
  • And yes, I have been grading daily homework.  We'll see if this trend continues into the fall, but given what I think are great results this summer, I plan to continue.  Honestly, I don't necessarily see a major shift in grades as much as I do student attitudes toward the class.  And helping students to have a positive attitude about a class is a major stumbling block sometimes.
3.  Local Events and Community Involvement:  I really have done none of the things on my original list except for volunteer at the Friends of the Library Ice Cream Social.  I have set-up a twitter account, but I suddenly became overwhelmed and haven't had time to update it nearly as much as I would like to!

I have, however, gained a new affection for the city of Detroit!  I spent an entire Saturday downtown racing in the Gorilla Challenge, I've seen the Mosaic Youth Theater perform at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and later in the summer I plan to spend a lot of time at Eastern Market and Comerica Park.  Let me tell you, though, that I want to go see baseball all the time now for some reason.  I have also spent a lot of my summer in Downtown Royal Oak as well, going to StageCrafters and to Comet Burgers.  I hate to steal this catchphrase, but really, 'we should hang out sometime!'

4.  Celebrate the Summer Holidays with Family:

After a couple of rain delays, I finally made it to Ohio with my mom to see the African Safari Wildlife Park.  On Father's Day, we got to try out the grill that I bought my dad for Father's Day (I bought it for him several months ago in advance of Father's Day when it was on sale).  My birthday, my mom's birthday, and a couple of family reunions are still coming up.  I'm feeling quite old this year simply because everyone else around me seems to be falling apart!

5.  Ohhh… and did I forget to mention that I'm taking a class, too?

I didn't do nearly as well in the class as I would have like to have done because I was distracted nearly the whole time by going away to the ACMS Conference in California, as well as by having to attend the Board of Trustees Meeting where I was officially appointed to my new position.
I'm almost embarrassed to share my papers that I wrote for the class with you because they aren't up to my usual standard of work.  I like to be as close to a 4.0 student as I possibly can.  I know I was not the worst student in the class, but you can definitely tell in my writing that my mind was elsewhere.

My instructor thought I did a decent job in the course, and I enjoyed taking his course, but I think that school ended up being put on the back burner to work.  This is why I've decided to put taking future classes on hold for about a year while I get settled into my duties at my new position.

And in a nutshell, that's been my summer so far.
By Jon Oaks

College Math Instructor. Tech Enthusiast. Visionary. Creative Genius. But above all, I enjoy what I do. That is why I am a teacher. Because I like to teach.

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