Math Geek Mom: Fall Orientation

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Mama PhD

In some of our classes that fulfill the math requirement for the core curriculum, we occasionally teach sections involving logic, asking questions such as, “;if we say ‘if A, then B’, does that mean that ‘if B, then A’?” I found myself thinking of these questions as I was delighted at the signs that sprung up on campus this week directing new students to various events on campus.

This is the week of fall orientation on our campus, and the folks running the programming came up with a great theme for this year. They noted that “;Ursuline Fall Orientation” could be abbreviated as “;U.F.O.”, and this led to the arrival of a large number of signs across campus with cute drawings of flying saucers with adorable Martian-like creatures in them. I laughed at them, and then found myself back to the problem of asking if something that is identified as a UFO is still able to be classified as “;unidentified.” I suppose it does not matter, as long as students follow the signs to get to the next meeting or lecture they need to find. In the mean time, those of us on the faculty are scrambling to finish the preparation for classes that started when the summer seemed to end incredibly abruptly, leaving us teaching classes in lecture rooms that were still uncomfortably hot.

But it is not just Ursuline’s school that seemed to start very early this year. My daughter’s school started early, too, leading to a dilemma as I needed to figure out how to handle attending orientation for her school and teach my already running classes. Her school scheduled her orientation day on a day when I teach all day, bringing me back to the paradox of teaching in a college.

May people who are not professors view us as having very flexible schedules, which we do, to a degree. While our schedules are very flexible in some ways, as we can take work home and do it on the weekends, they are incredible inflexible in other ways, as we cannot take a “;day off” once classes have started, as those in many in jobs outside of academia can do. Indeed, if we absolutely cannot make it to class one day, we need to find a substitute for that class. As you can guess, for those of us teaching subjects like Calculus and Statistics, or worse yet, the major-level mathematical theory classes, finding a substitute at the last minute is often impossible, and so we need to find other options.

As it worked out this year, my daughter’s fall orientation left me in the position of having a Calculus class to teach at a time when there was no one who could substitute for me that day. As my husband was not available at that time to handle orientation, I had to do some creative work in trying to be in two places at one time.

I created a worksheet for my students to do during the start of the class, and had a proctor come in to give it to them during that time. I planned to make it to class as quickly as possible, as soon as I met my daughter’s teachers and helped my daughter set up her locker. It worked out fine, but it once again left me with the question of how one juggles the demands of a job in the marketplace in the midst of society’s common expectations that such demands do not exist, or at least not for both parents.  Such expectations are common in this part of the country, where it is common for one of the parents to parent full time.

Of course, I realize that such a commitment to my daughter’s education could have been just as difficult even if I did not work in the marketplace, as it could have been possible that I had duties to care for another child or a parent during that time. However, as I do work as a professor (a fact that I am thankful for each day), I would like thoughts from my readers about how to handle matters when our jobs conflict with our duties as a parent. And I am also curious as to how, when necessary, to talk to her school about perhaps revising their expectations of when I am available.

I hope to figure this out soon, but for now, I stumble along. Someday, I realized, will look back on this struggle with nostalgia. For, I realized, as I helped my daughter find places for everything in her locker, that the days are numbered when she will even want me involved in such aspects of her life.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and productive new school year!

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