Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The last of our visitors has left. For the past two weeks we have had a constant stream of relatives staying. First my mother, then my parents-in-law, and yesterday and today my father and his new wife. When they finally went, Geekman and I did a little Happy Dance of Freedom (TM) and now our lives can return to normal.

A particular highlight of the past week has been my father-in-law's complete obliviousness to everything going on around him. He has a very stereotypical Swedish name, so for the purposes of this post, I'll refer to him as Lars.

Special mention goes to the following moments:

We are walking through a mall, trying to find a particular type of sieve that my mother-in-law wants and can't find in NZ. After 20 minutes of this, Lars remarks in a puzzled tone, "This looks a little bit like a mall."

All week my mother-in-law has been longing to go to a walk-in aviary that we took her to last time she visited. We decide (within Lars's hearing) to go on Saturday. Saturday comes. We exclaim that the weather is nice, so we can definitely go to the aviary. We get in the car, Lars asks for directions, and we tell him to drive until he sees a sign saying, "[Generic Village Name] Aviary". We turn off at the aviary. Park. Walk across the road, and Lars points and exclaims, "Look! It's an aviary! Shall we go look in there?"

We are in the car and Lars is driving (it's a rental that they hired while they are here, since ours is still dead). Geekman says, "You'll need to turn left soon, so move into the left lane."
"Ja ha," says Lars. Doesn't change lanes.
"The left lane," repeats Geekman. "Change lanes."
"Ja ha."
"Before these lights! You are going to turn left at the lights."
"Oh! LEFT!" says Lars, and turns into the right-hand lane.

It must be nice on Planet Lars this time of year.

But now we are free, and there's going to be a sleeping, healthy eating, and plenty of computer games in our future.

In other news, I am apparently teaching a course to one student this semester. Two-and-a-half hours contact time a week. One-on-one. This struck me as a spectacularly good deal, both for me and the student. In fact, I was so dazzled by the fact that they are paying me around half of last semester's pay in order to teach 1/140th of the class size, that it wasn't until now that it struck me that I don't know HOW to teach a course one-on-one. At least, I don't know how to fill up 2.5 hours a week. He has readings and homework and interactive online exercises. And he presumably will have some questions. But I doubt he has 2.5 hours worth of questions. And did I mention this is one-on-one? One-on-one??? There's nowhere to hide! I don't even know how to start adapting the materials I usually use for this class for one student. I usually have two hours of lecture, and one hour of the students doing exercises or discussions in groups while I wander round and see how they are going. None of that is going to work AT ALL.

Any suggestions?


Jana said...

Are you concerned about Lars? (Those are quite vague things he's saying - has he always been like this?)

StyleyGeek said...

No, he's pretty much always been like this. I think it's partly that he tunes everything out and lives in his head a lot, and partly that he's mostly deaf and doesn't always have his hearing aids set to the right volume.

canuck_grad said...

I think to some extent you can still plan to use your lectures, and with one student they will naturally turn more into a discussion. I took a class a few years ago with only 3 people in it, and another with only 4 or 5. And that was basically what the course consisted of - we sat around a table, and some of the time the prof would "lecture", but in a really relaxed way so we interrupted and discussed a lot. And then we'd have readings and we'd take turns leading the discussion about them - which obviously you can't do, but maybe some of the time you can get him to "lecture" to you or something?

biograd said...

in my coursework, professors have embraced small class size to discuss with students recent publications in the area and how they bear on the material we're going over in class.

Grace Dalley said...

Lars is adorable! It obviously runs in the family :-D

Tom said...

The smallest class I've ever experienced has been as a student, and there were two of us. This has happened to me quite a lot, but it's probably just normal in Latin classes.

You are definitely right that you will need to work harder (in some ways) to stay ahead of things than if you had a class of 150, but it should also be very rewarding. Give your student loads of readings, and spend lots of time discussing them. Biograd makes a good point: take papers from recent journals and chew through them together. This will be an enjoyable experience for both you and the student. Even if you both have to work at it.

The smallest class I've ever taught was 5 students. Which is just the easiest number. You get to know them all quite well, and you can make them present work to each other. It was like falling off a log, even in a subject area that I was unfamiliar with.

StyleyGeek said...

I don't know if I can do the journal readings thing. This is an intro class. He has never done anything in our discipline before.

The other ideas are good though. I like the idea of him lecturing to me :)

Weekend_Viking said...

Most of my honours year was quite small classes - the best were where the lecturer alternated between giving admittedly much less formal lectures than normal, and then for various classes, he'd give us each a paper to review and criticize, which was stressful (in making sure you had and read the paper in the time before the class) but good in that the discussion sessions at which we presented our reviews were very edifying.

liz said...

If you find that you are moving faster than you expected, ask HIM to relate what you are talking about in your discussions with him to something he's doing in another class. Bonus points if the other class is in something completely totally different.

Sarah said...

I took a class that wound up being one-on-one most of the time. Apart from a usually brief weekly meeting, what I thought was so great about my 'lecturer' (there were no lectures, as such) was that she'd dig up all sorts of interesting things for me to read. Even if it's an intro class, maybe there are journal articles you can find that will spark his interest in some area.

And if he's anything like me or any other student, he'll be happy to leave after an hour of contact per week anyway, giving you an earlymark :)