Monday, May 26, 2008

Phoenix is in Tucson

It's been bothering me for a few years that the Mars Phoenix mission is based in Tucson. It's already hard enough to get people to keep UofA and ASU straight in their heads. However, this image from MRO of Phoenix descending can make me forgive just about anything.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Numbers

I woke up at 9:33 am. I ate four chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. This is Day One of summer vacation.

The commencement ceremony was last night. Last year, I had a discussion with a friend about community college students. From his experience with friends who have attended community colleges, his perception of the typical student was, um, slackers who didn't really have a focus in life. Whereas that does represent some community college students (and more than a few university students, I might add), I thought it would be interesting to share some of the statistics of those graduating this semester at my institution. There is a bias here, as many students never file for graduation but rather just transfer, but the statistics are not atypical for the general population of students.

Youngest graduate = 17 years old

Oldest graduate = 61 years old

Percentage of associates degrees awarded to females = 60%

Age group with the most students graduating = 35+,

Average age of graduates = 29

Number of students who stand when asked who is the first in their family to be awarded a college degree = over 50%

Number of photos taken by a fellow faculty member of a young student who had no family members present because they do not believe that females need an education = as many as could fill up the memory card to document this amazing accomplishment

Plus one hug from a very happy student for this very content professor

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Good Evening

Last night was the final meeting of my once-per-week, three-hour long night-time astronomy class. As an attempt at something different, I gave their final quiz last week and told them to show up this week to talk about the fate of the universe with cookies provided. They were also told that there'd be no grade attached to this week's meeting, I just thought that teaching cosmology would be fun in sort of a laid-back format, letting their questions really drive the discussion. This, of course, would depend on participation, so my plan would fail horribly if people didn't show up.

All of the students showed up. Every single one.

Do you know how much fun it is to teach a class of interested students? This group had been great all semester (averaging almost 10 % above the scores of my day-time classes), so I had confidence that I'd get a good turnout, but all of them? I was really impressed, but not necessarily surprised. I've always enjoyed teaching evening classes at community colleges. The demographic leans towards older, full-time employed people. They may be tired when they show up to class, but they attend because they really want to be there. That's a good thing, because when I teach at night, it's usually the end of a long day; this semester's Tuesdays went from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm. If the students weren't as dedicated, it'd be difficult for me to keep up the level of energy required to teach a three-hour lecture. So thank you and good luck in the future to my evening students!

Friday, May 16, 2008

One more week

Next week is the last week of school. Yay! I love my students, but I'm as eager for the semester to be over as they are. This past week was difficult, and I'm glad it's the weekend. Of course, there's a pile of grading weighing upon my conscience, but I'll deal with that tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I had some interesting conversations with students the past few weeks. One student has been in my physics classes both semesters. He's really smart, but also... well, he describes himself as lazy. He is content with doing the minimum needed to earn a passing grade, but he could achieve so much more. And he knows it. But last week he started talking about sustainable architecture and went on and on and on. That's it... that's what makes him tick, and I wish I'd found that out during the first week of the fall semester.

One of my astronomy students mentioned that he wanted to be a teacher. Specifically, a special needs K-12 teacher for deaf students from Spanish language homes, a niche that is probably woefully unfilled hereabouts. He has some friends who are deaf, and he has been disturbed by the quality of education they receive in traditional special ed classes.

Another astronomy student started off the semester a little rough. You can tell that his educational background is not the best, yet I never doubt his desire to learn. And he's been bitten by the astronomy bug - ha! But what I found most interesting is why astronomy has started to appeal to him. He feels like he is at a crossroads in his life, open to new possibilities and new ideas, whether that be in regards to career or faith. He says he feels like he's searching for truth and that the astronomy class has become part of the journey.

I wish I had time to find out the things that make each student twitch, you know?

Should I be flattered?

Before an astronomy class today, one of my students told me that I seemed smarter than his other instructors and that he thought I should be doing research instead of teaching at a community college. He asked why I was an instructor. I told him the truth, because I enjoy teaching, specifically at the community college. He seemed confused by the notion of someone actually liking to teach, which saddens me with regards to his K-12 education.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Slip

New FREE Nine Inch Nails album - The Slip. You know, in case you're curious.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

View from here

View at breakfast:

View at dinner:

Can't complain!