Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Monday, February 12, 2007

Stop that train

It's something that I'd never expected, always surprises me, haven't yet been able to understand, and am not sure will ever be able to explain: how physically tiring the act of teaching is. It dumbfounds and nonplusses me. It's not as if it isn't enjoyable -- on the first day of class I tell the students that I'll make the class fun for them if they make it fun for me; we strike a deal; and till date I've had a great time every year every single time. The ratings are fantastic, the feedback is highly flattering, they appear to learn a lot of the material, and all in all everyone has a good time.

Except for the fact that come evening, on a teaching day, I find myself
E M P T Y .

No other word for it.

And yet I never learn. I plan things to do after dinner. I think -- a couple of hours to come down, a drink to relax with, a shower, and I'll be fine to work on that project. Or maybe I'll review this other paper. Or put down a few thoughts on how to progress on this thing that's been stuck. Or design the outline of an experiment. Or comment on that grad student's idea. Or email that other friend with whom I'd discussed that other cool idea back in October. So many fronts to push forward on -- once the teaching is done for the day.

And today was no different, either. The morning went in prepping and priming. Class at 2. Three sections back to back -- went off as well as possible. Finished right on time each time, covered everything thoroughly, the in-class exercise went off perfectly, had them eating out of my hand with the moral of the story. I was buzzing when I walked out of the room at 6:30. Bounced down to the bay-side bar for a sweet little tipple. Sat by the railing, stretched the old legs, inhaled a soothing scotch as dusk settled over the distant fishing boats.

Thought calming, philosophical thoughts.

Strolled homewards. En route, less than two minutes later, crossing the road in front of my apartment, I felt it hit me. The life force suddenly ebbed out; my steps abruptly slowed, I had to lift my heavy feet one - by one - by one.

Once inside, I collapsed on my bed. Lay senseless for a few minutes, then rose, changed. Didn't have the strength to eat yet, although the cook had left food piping hot on the kitchen counter. For over an hour dinner cooled while I watched a rerun of some early-80s Ashes Test with the sound off. Finally, I got myself to move my ass and heat the cold dinner. Ate. The Ashes had ended, now it was a rerun of a 90s one-dayer from Sharjah. India beat Pakistan. So I watched. Azharuddin hit three sixes. Venkatesh Prasad has a funny accent. Then I remembered my dreamland wishlist of things to do, fairytales painted on a long-ago morning less than twelve hours ago. Fire under butt, turn the TV off, start moving. Thought about working. New email from grad student - list of thoughts for tomorrow's meeting. Crikey, I hadn't even remembered tomorrow's meeting. So much for my thought of pushing tonight's schedule to tomorrow. Somehow, the brain was functioning (if at all) orthogonal to the body. My legs felt like lead. How did it get to be eleven already? I found myself sliding an Ozu into the player. A Story of Floating Weeds. Turned out to be a silent film. Of course, I had known that. Ten minutes in, I realized I was tuning out between captions. Popped the disk back out. Needed succour.

Popped in the JGB, Live at Shoreline. Desperate situations, etc. etc. Finally, something penetrated.
Stop that train: I'm leavin
Stop that train: I'm leavin.
And it won't be too long whether I'm right or wrong;
I said, won't be too long whether I'm right or wrong.
Bob Marley for saint, please. Now.

And here's a String Cheese Incident cover (mp3 stream)
2/16/2002 (full show).

Stop that train, I'm getting off.


Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

It's not just teaching. Pushing files has much the same effect on me.


2/13/2007 3:03 AM  
Blogger km said...

Bruce Wayne is a industrialist by day, fights crime at night and *still* gets to spend time with Robin. Hey now.

I've noticed another curious aspect to end-of-the-day fatigue. Excessive multi-tasking makes it worse. As does too much talking. I am not kidding.

How's the quality of sleep? That's usually a reliable indicator of the work-day.

(I love Ozu to death, but his films are not meant for casual consumption. That's why God invented television.)

Bob for sainthood NOW!

P.S.: Instead of making it fun for the students, have you tried making fun OF the students?

2/13/2007 4:04 AM  
Blogger MockTurtle said...

I found college so stressful that I never spared a thought for the bugger on the other side of the podium. But come to think of it, I could never do what you do... or have we had this conversation before?

2/13/2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger Rahul said...

How big is your class? I've only taught two courses, class sizes of 6 and 5. I didn't find it exhausting -- partly because I found that, though they had supposedly taken prior courses in the subjects, their basics were quite weak and I had to slow down and backtrack a lot. So initially I found the preparation tiring, but after a while I had too much backlog of material I needed to cover, so didn't need to prepare any more. I never found the teaching itself tiring. But I wasn't very satisfied with the result.

I'm planning to teach a course in the next semester; I will assume no background beyond high school (and some undergraduate) mathematics, but want to cover a *lot* of material. Though it's a "standard" first-year course, I found a very interesting textbook to base it on, which promises to teach me a lot -- in fact I plan to work through it in the summer before teaching. Lets see how that goes.

2/13/2007 1:32 PM  
Blogger gaddeswarup said...

My experience with teaching is similar. But I am not a natural teacher, consideredteaching as one of those things that I had to do for a living. Only towars the end of my teaching career, I probably became a reasonable teacher. I saw Bush and Howard and started feeling sorry for the students. They were no longer a nuisance and some of them still come to see me. But I saw some natural teachers. Walter Neumann used to discuss whatever until a minute before class and still go and give clear lectures. I had to prepare even things I knew well. He never seemed to. May be some are natural story tellers.

2/13/2007 6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, nobody spares a thought for the bugger on the other side of the podium. when my students tell me my class starts too early in the morning, i glare at them and say "yes, i'm a night person too!".

hello? do you realize that you can cut class whenever you please, but that i *never* can?

2/13/2007 9:47 PM  
Blogger MockTurtle said...

What is this? Professors anonymous?

2/13/2007 10:54 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

hmm. not sure whether that's good to hear or not. the only thing i can think of that has a comparable effect on me is squash - after a long lay-off. and even that is only in passing.

me no bruce wayne.
me multi-tasker but not talker.
me quality of sleep always good once it comes.
me love ozu too. me hate tv, only tolerate as carrier of cricket.
me for saint bob, always.
me make fun of students too hahaha :-D

and i couldn't do what you do (be in office by a fixed time, that too as early as 9, *every* day! no way!) and yes, we have.

and hahahahaha for the profs anon observation. nail + head.

three sections of 36 each this year, 2 x 54 + phd class of 5 last year. hope class size does make a difference and you don't end up as cleaned out as i do. subject area also probably does make a difference.

sure, a degree of natural-ness does enter into the picture, but i wonder whether the naturals also don't feel exhausted afterwards.

i feel your pain. i'm forever glad that i get to schedule my classes after lunch. however, a good friend always schedlues his *electives* at 8 am -- his argument being it drives out all the disinterested folks. unfortunately, that strategy would almost certainly backfire for a required course.

2/14/2007 12:23 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home