Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dammit, Feynman!

I've just realized that in my style of lecturing, I'm turning into my high school chemistry/physics teacher, Mr. Koz. This is actually pretty awesome.

I hope that everybody's had at least one clever and enthusiastic science teacher. I hope that a few of you have had the added bonus of a teacher with awful puns ("What's nu?" "C over lambda!") and self-deprecating humor about his personal life1. And trebuchet-building contests.

What really occasioned this wasn't my spate of awful jokes and cheesy references (though I have realized that the best mental image for teaching determinants involves the game Super Bomberman), but the experience of dealing with students who start to remind me of myself in high school. You know, the student who already knows a lot and is blithely unaware of social norms, so he asks a bunch of questions which either aim to impress the teacher, or draw the class off on a tangent that doesn't help the other 29 students.

It's my responses to these students that start to remind me of Mr. Koz, all those times of "We don't have time to go into this, Patrick!" and "Anybody but Patrick have a question?". Now the shoe's on the other foot. I've evaded, I've swept under the rug, I've answered a "Does this have anything to do with the Gram-Schmidt process?" with a brusque "No!"

It's not that these students make me angry, but it's just going to be tough to teach to the greater number and leave Those Kids' enthusiasm intact at the same time. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

Perhaps these students fall into everybody's class. Perhaps it's just sweet justice for my own tormenting ways. Either way, I'm going to be very careful that I don't pick up other Koz tics and start ranting hilariously about Valentine's Day (Mr. Koz's advice was, "Only get girlfriends after Valentine's Day, and break up with them before Christmas and New Years- you'll save yourselves a world of trouble") or cubic zirconium ("a guy's best friend").

1. Great Googly Moogly, how did I not realize this at the time? I have heard two different and uproarious tales of romance ruined by rampaging raccoons, and there's no way that either was the source for the other. Maybe they really do know too much...

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