the days on which i would love to teach

There are days on which I would love to teach, but on which I don’t at present.  Alas.  There’s no particular reason why these days are different, better or worse, than other days, but I just think it would be fun.

Given my current mix and balance of responsibilities, I only teach 1 class (or module, or unit, or whatever term is used at your home institution) a year, and that in our first semester.  So I teach from late September/early October (depending on how the start of term falls in the year) through early-ish January. In particular, I don’t teach on 4 May, and so I don’t have the opportunity to work any egregious Star Wars puns into what I teach.

Admittedly there aren’t that many Star Wars puns to work into a Graph Theory lecture, it being the class I lecture on at present.  There are some standard things we could do.  Build a graph where the vertices are the main characters in the movie, or at least the ones with speaking parts, or whatever definition of significant or relevant we wish to use.  We then draw an edge between 2 characters if they appear on screen at the same time.

This gives us a graph, one that requires careful attention to the movie to construct.  (And it’s always good to have a reason beyond mere desire to watch Episodes IV or V again.)  And then we can unleash the full power of our graph theoretic knowledge to calculate some graph invariants of these graphs.   It doesn’t address though the issue of appropriately painful puns.

Not teaching on 19 September, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, always strikes me with a sense of deep and abiding sadness.  Of all the days in the year, after all, 19 September would be the perfect day to talk about circles.  Circles of radius arrrr.  The area π arrrr arrrr of the disc inside a circle of radius arrrr.  The possibilities are endless.  Makes my timbers positively shiver.

And there is a serious side to this, believe it or don’t.  Because the most basic thing we must do as teachers is to somehow claim, and if necessary to steal from them, the attention of those in our audience.  This is the positive side, the useful side, of attention theft.  If I am standing in front of the room, nothing I do there matters if I don’t have the attention of those in the room.

OK – I’ll admit that cheap tricks and bad jokes aren’t necessarily the best means of capturing that attention.  But I see no reason for not making use of all the tools I have available to me.  And for me, puns involving pirates and circles tickle me and make me enthusiastic in my approach and my delivery, and I would like to think that that enthusiasm comes through when I’m teaching.


~ by Jim Anderson on 2 July 2016.

One Response to “the days on which i would love to teach”

  1. Another great blog from multijimbo!
    I was fortunate enough to teach (statistics) on 14th Feb this year and relished the opportunity to add in some cheesy romantic stats puns, which were received with the due eye rolling amusement for which they were intended. Fun!

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