Sunday, September 2, 2007

First week of grad school in review

I think my first week went well. I can do this grad school thing.

Classes: My professor for Population Ecology is great. From the amount of energy he puts out first thing in the morning I suspect he drinks a whole pot of coffee before class. Population Ecology requires a fair amount of math, so in addition to class there's an optional "Calculus Club" (say this while pushing your very large imaginary (or not?) glasses up on your face with your index finger). Even in the first two classes I've found my summer math/ecology program (aka Nerd Camp) incredibly useful. It feels good to be applying what I learned this summer so soon to my graduate education.

My other class is required for all new ecology & evolution grad students. The main assignment in this class is to write a review paper on a topic related to the research I intend to do for my thesis. This means that I'll be able to make progress on class and research at the same time.

Teaching: I was really nervous going into my first class. I walked into a room with 20 students staring at me with blank, disinterested faces. I didn't go to the first lecture, but I heard from another TA that did that it was pretty bad. With that in mind, I tried to be engaging and supportive. I took my time explaining things, paused when I need to, and watched their faces transform over the course of lab. My second lab of the week (with entirely new students) went well too. I encouraged them to ask other student for help and get to know each other and I think this really made a difference in their engagement. I seem to have had an easier time my first week than the other TAs I talked to and I think encouraging the students to work together might have been part of it.

Miscellaneous: I locked myself out of my office (keys, phone, and everything inside) but I was thankfully able to find one of the department secretaries to open the door for me. My student health insurance is now in effect so I canceled my crappier policy that I've had for the past few years. Next week I have an appointment FOR FREE at the student health center. No copay, no deductible. My student insurance is less than $100 per month.

Students get into the recreation center for free and they even have free group fitness classes! I went to a few last week and plan to go to them regularly. I can't believe they don't fill up completely. The recreation center is new and awesome. I'm loving the fringe benefits of being a student again.

Jon still doesn't have a job and I'm getting nervous about our financial situation but we'll figure it out. I think we're going to be even stricter on our spending until he gets his first paycheck. I'll write a different post about my advising situation.

I've had a few moments of stupidity and nervousness but overall I'm feeling really good about starting grad school.

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