Today was my first day back to teaching. Even though I have been working for a few weeks now, yesterday was my first official day back in the office. We should've gone back Monday, but with the snow, campus was closed. While I wasn't looking forward to working Monday, there is a reason we start back two days early: starting Monday gives you Tuesday for any last minute crop-ups to be beaten back down. We didn't have that, and so the brain-bleed inducing problems arose today.
First, none of the textbooks for math classes level 300 and up were ordered by the bookstore. That's dandy. Freakin' brilliant. You've got one job: to have the books people need for their classes. It isn't like the math department waited and placed their order late. No. In fact, the bookstore gave us free breakfast one day last fall to thank us for how quickly and thoroughly we sent in complete orders.
Math teachers ask for so precious little...a large board, some chalk (or a marker), and textbooks. Correct textbooks, which brings me to the next snag.
As educators, we try to ensure that once a student begins a sequence of courses, say Calculus 1, 2, and 3, he can use the same textbook for the whole sequence. The elementary ed math classes I teach are the same way. The book went to a new edition last fall, and due to a clerical error at the bookstore (surprise!), the new editions weren't ordered. After many, many emails (I cannot stress how many times I emailed the department head and office assistants), we decided that, since the students didn't have access to the new book in Fall 2010, everyone would stick with the old edition and use it to finish out their sequence in that book. The people taking the first course this spring would start with the new edition so that when we switch to it for all three next fall, they wouldn't have to buy a new book.
Right. So much for that.
I went into class today to do my first-day stuff, and at the end of class, ten students came up to me and said, "We have the purple book with the zebra. Is that not right?"
Ten years ago, I would've gone ape, but having mellowed a bit with age, I said, "I'll look into it and email you."
Sure enough, after talking it over with the office staff, re-explaining the whys and so forth, the head assistant said, "I thought we had that all figured out and explained too, but the verdict came down for no changes in textbooks in spring."
Okay, fine, fine, EXCEPT YOU DIDN'T TELL THE PEOPLE TEACHING IT THAT YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND!! It's not that they waited until the last second to tell us; they just didn't. So here, my co-instructor and I have spent Christmas break making new notes, new activities, writing new homework solutions, and we aren't even using the new book. The syllabi and assignments are wrong, and we looked like freakin' idiots.
I would say that it isn't time or energy wasted, that when we switch books next fall, all my work will be worth it. That would be true if I knew for sure that I would be teaching the courses again. That is never guaranteed. So, if I don't teach the course next fall, I've just done half the work for the person who does get to teach it. I'm a giving, generous person. I'll share, to a point. But after rebuilding this course three times, by God I better get to teach it!
I spent my afternoon helping my co-instructor remake all the legally binding documents for the class. I' was in a fabulous mood (heavy sarcasm here). I needed a laugh, and I needed it bad.
As I debated whether or not to rewrite my notes again, my next-door-office neighbor came by to tell me about her morning. Her first class was in the Physics and Astronomy building (long story short: they want math classes at 50 and above capacity and the math building only has 4 rooms that large). So, she went over a bit early to check that it had all the necessary equipment.
Of course, it doesn't. Many instructors use doc cams instead of the boards. It's like an overhead projector, but it has a camera and projects onto a screen or a white board. This room didn't appear to have one. "I use the doc cam all the time," she said and waved her hands to indicate how it flustered her. Mathematicians may not need much, but we're a picky bunch. So, she and the office assistant poked around until she noticed three ceiling-mounted Elmo cameras. Ba-da-bing. The assistant turned on camera 1 and what does it see? Straight down the front of her shirt, her ample cleavage and more projected clear as day on the board behind her.
Yeah, that made me feel much better.