Last Day Of Classes

Thank g-d. It’s been an amazing quarter … I did a Calc III class—where I hadn’t systematically looked at the material since I was an undergrad—and took over an Elementary-Math-For-Elementary-Teachers class—having never even taken such a class. Both groups were a lot of fun to work with: a reasonable number of hard workers with a grasp of the prerequisite material (anyhow by comparison to the highschool-for-college-students Algebra classes that pay the rent around here).

I had to do a heck of a lot of exercises to stay a day ahead of the Calc guys (and they were all guys … my remark the first day was “Hmmm, no women. Are you guys sure you want to study advanced mathematics?”); the Ed majors submitted weekly “Discussion Reflection” papers that I took considerable care in responding to—a sort of ongoing conversation-in-print with each student (I probably put in about as much time on this project as all of the [nine] students put together … if the zines and blogs didn’t prove it already, this would cinch it: I need to believe somebody’s reading words written by me like I need air and water). I haven’t worked so hard since I was an actual college professor; I loved it.

But I’m quitting. The main motive is to cash in my retirement: I don’t trust the money to be there for me in fifteen years and anyhow need it now. But, if and when I get back in the saddle, I don’t think I can stand to go back to the Math 101 stuff—this quarter (wherein the median student in each class made actual progress in learning worthwhile material) seems to have spoiled me for the “disappointment machine” that is Math 102-103-104. I just can’t look at those people anymore and pretend I believe that this project we’re engaged in is actually going to do them any good.

There are lots of colleges around here and I’ve got a pretty good track record (having turned in grades on time for over twenty years in five different departments). Only one of those colleges has a math department led by my sworn enemy. So maybe there’s a chance that I’ll be able to work out some deals that’ll let me keep teaching for the rest of my natural life without having to participate in the Great “Remediation” Con Game. But I sure as hell oughtn’t to count on it … it’d help to have a Plan B. Hell, it’d help if I could even think about applying for a job without getting sick to my stomach. But there it is. Anybody want to give me a big fat advance on a textbook?


  1. No kidding. Wow. And good luck.

  2. dean horton

    Owen. This is dean horton…we were in graduate school at IU together. My story is similar to yours; I made enemies the very first year in my tenure track position and after 5 of the most miserable years of my life I was canned. I floundered for a number of years and then found a job at a very good private school called Raleigh Latin in Raleigh, NC. It is the best job I’ve ever had! I teach AP calculus, precalculus(Swokowski), AP physics, Python programming, and best of all a year long course in informal and symbolic logic. We cover the formal and informal fallacies,syllogisms, propostional logic, and predicate logic from a college level text(The power of logic by Stephen Layman). The students are superb–better than any college students I’ve taught by
    far. My advice would be to look for jobs in good private high schools. Its the best thing I’ve found since leaving IU.
    Good Luck!!
    Dean Horton

  3. wow. dean horton. it’s been a *long* time!
    you were still in the midst of your job-from-hell
    when last i ran into you, whenever that was
    (the joint meetings in cinci, circa ’93?).
    good to know you finally landed on your feet.
    sounds like pretty good advice, too.
    (superb students, eh? where do i sign?)

    it’s good to hear from jd, too, of course:
    my first and very likely most frequent commenter.

  4. And Dean, I teach a one-term high school course, logic, but with Hurley. The full-year would let us get to predicate logic and induction. I’m jealous. (Bright kids, public high school in the Bronx)


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