austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

It's all part of my autumn almanac

Almost the moment I got in today a student came to my office seeking help. (This has happened multiple times. Since I don't do any online activity that gives away when I'm in the office except read Usenet from a remote server, and there's no benches or anything like that where my students hang out near my office. I'm curious how they find me. Do they just send a representative up every five minutes until I appear?) The tiring part is that he had missed he last two lectures and was baffled on some of the more important points of the late season. The good part is I happened to mention the 2:30 pm exam time, which came as a surprise: he'd thought it was 5:00. We double-checked and found it was 2:30, and he was very glad he visited.

One of my students looked at the first aid kit, provided by the Dean's office and kept next to the phone, and asked, ``What's that for?'' What could I say? ``In case a student needs first aid.'' He thought about it a minute and then nodded and said that made sense. I suspect he's had maybe one too many exams this week.

I overheard on an elevator a couple of students. One said, ``That exam was my second ... now I'm just stressed.'' The other said, ``You have to be hopeful, man.'' Good advice whatever the time of year is.

In the good-sized shared venue I had today's exam in, my students made up just under a third of one and a bit over half of the next column of desks. After a good number of times I walked along the aisle between my two partial columns, and then to the one side of the left column and moving over to the other side of the right column, I cracked up one of the other instructors when I said, ``The problem with having a small class in a large venue like this is you run out of different ways to pace.'' Maybe you had to be there.

The other odd little adjustment was that since the venue was so large, they had a microphone system set up. We found just the one typo in my exam, and when three students asked about it in short order I knew I had to make a general announcement. I tried to be gentle about it, but over the microphone my voice made the whole hundred and change people flinch simultaneously. Maybe it would've been easier to tell all my students directly. As it was I had to give them a fair amount of reassurance that they were doing better than they thought they were doing; my students looked surprisingly disheartened, possibly because this was the first time they couldn't use a computer to do the tedious calculations, which in hindsight may have been a mistake.

Trivia: Only one elephant -- a gift from Harun al-Rashid of Baghdad sent to Charlemagne in 797 -- is known to have reached Europe between the fall of Rome and the Crusades. Source: Seeing the Elephant, Eric Scigliano.

Currently Reading: The Story of P&O, David Howarth, Stephen Howarth.


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