Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grad School Life

With my face constantly buried in my books in an attempt to bring back all those mathematical ideas that have floated away from the center (or left side) in the past eight years, Joo has been forced to take initiative and create her own social endeavors in Athens. In the above picture however, we did go together to an Indian celebration (Diwali) where the math grad students (and even professors) broke all stereotypes and dominated the dancefloor. I've been fortunate to enter with a fun-loving social group of new grad students, and we've formed a supportive community that has embraced Joo as well.

On the other hand, Joo has circles which I have scarcely even met, the best example being her English/citizenship training classes. Her teacher does an excellent job of making the interactions personal and interesting, and Joo took first prize the other night in some word game contest...

The Halloween decorations were already going up when Joo and I moved here in June, so we had an idea of just how important the holiday was for Athenites. Apparently the town of 30,000 swells to 100,000 for Halloween weekend and some of the events which transpire are legendary. We had to at least catch a glimpse of the wild festivities, so we strolled down the main street around 7:00 pm, at which time, the craziness was already starting to build.

Being surrounded by forests here on the outskirts of Appalachia, (and with it being our first real "autumn" in four years), Joo and I took several delightful walks amidst the changing leaves.

We also dug the first holes of our garden at this house in order to plant some cloves of organic garlic we had picked up at the weekly farmer's market. Having had such a wonderful experience with our first garden this past year at my parent's house, it was exciting to start mapping out our ideas for the upcoming spring on our new property.

We took another refreshing break from studying/translating a few weekends ago when the Ramers came out to Ohio for a college visit for Kathryn, and we met them up in Cambridge. The entire town was decorated in mannequins from Dickens' time in Victorian England. We spent most of the time catching up, sharing hilarious YouTube videos, swimming, and playing Taboo in the hotel room. It was a wonderful time and made me reminisce about the year when I lived with them before travelling to Korea.

One night, walking home, we were followed by a kitten who kept running out in front of us and then laying down in our path and inviting us to play. We eventually got home and went inside for dinner. About an hour later, I heard a knock at our door (yes, it was actually a knock) and opened it up to find the cat waiting on us...

I called his owner and discovered that his name was Philip and that he must be lonely because his owners had taken a trip to Columbus. Joo took the opportunity to play with him and said that it somehow made her feel ready for us to have children. Hmmm....

But the vast majority of my time has continued to be focused on my studies (and studying-related activites as shown below)...

I've taken all but one of my finals now, so after the last one on Tuesday, we'll have a movie night celebration with some of the math grad students and then head to my parents for Thanksgiving. It's been a mentally and emotionally exhausting quarter, but it's also been highly rewarding and I anticipate this next quarter (and hopefully all the following ones) as one in which I can dedicate myself to the learning process more than feeling burdened or anxious about grades. One thing I will say about some of my experiences from this past quarter is that I reflected a lot on my own teaching philosophy and the role that evaluation plays. In other words, if the ultimate purpose of education is to increase the awareness of a student about a subject (or perhaps even better their overall quality of life), how can grading be used beyond mere assessment to encourage students to learn more/find enjoyment in a subject?

1 comment:

  1. I think I'd take the latter as the purpose of teaching. For me, it seems that when I think of teaching I am truly thinking of trying enrich the lives of students in a number of ways. One of these is by increasing their awareness of the subject, but the more driving reason is to attempt to get them to examine life itself. I know my life has become more satisfying the more I come to know myself, and I suppose this is what I want to bring to others--the joy of an introspective life. How Socratic.