March 29th, 2007


A future rediscovered?

My Internet connection has been crappy today. Grah. Reading the friends list last night took forever because of this and because I got to ?skip=500 before I finally finished. (Hey, I didn't read in two days. You guys update a lot.) And of course, I kept getting kicked out of the wrimo chat room this afternoon while putting off more important productive things. Grah.

Anyway, moving on. I discovered something today. I actually enjoy explaining things to people. I enjoy spreading the contagiousness that is my enthusiasm to others, even if its bounces right off them. I volunteered to explain why the gamma distribution is a legitimate density function today in probability, and I felt so alive up there. Sure, I probably stumbled the entire time, and I noticed that. But I enjoyed it; I enjoyed being up there, explaining something I was familiar with to the rest of the class. When I stepped up to the rest of the class, this energy filled me, something I've felt only when pursuing something I love.

Tonight at work was similar. Annie and I were going over Taylor series, and she was starting to get it. Inside I was going, "Yes! Yes!" Not just because she was getting it, mind, but because I was part of this, because I was actually helping people with that final flash of inspiration that helps her understand.

And it was the same with the Calc I students who were in there tonight. Sure, there were some frustrations along the way, but the fact that I was actually involved in their learning and had such an influence in their learning invigorated me.

But it made me think. Should I teach? I mean, this hasn't been a one-time thing. I've been experiencing this all year, and even in high school when I hung out in Mrs. Potts's (my Algebra II teacher) room the year after I had her class and helped her current students. They knew I hung out there (I called it the Whinery because I went to ask questions about assignments all the time--I think this may have influenced my decision about Agnes Scott because I wanted to be able to talk to professors. By some weird coincidence, one of her daughters went to ASC too), and they'd ask me questions about the assignments if Mrs. Potts was helping someone else, and I'd help them. It was like this in all my classes for just about my entire life, but especially in math.

Then I remember my childhood days. Way back then, I wanted to teach. I even had a chalkboard and imaginary students (sometimes I'd revert to stuffed animals) and lesson plans. I promoted or held back my students when I moved on to a new year, introduced new students to my classes (I used old yearbooks to choose my students, and then made up a few names of my own for the new students based on my calculations of how many new students moved to the school and appeared in one typical class per year). I made up assignments for these students and even kept grade books for my "classes". I'm not sure if any of them are still around. But back then it was what I wanted to do; it was what I thought I should do in order to be happy in the world.

Every now and then, even when I dreamed (and still do) of being a writer, my mind flittered back to this childhood dream, but the plot of the story changed. When I was in high school and started taking my writing more seriously with NaNo, I realized that writing really is hard work and requires a lot of perseverance. It's something I love, definitely, but is it something I'm good enough to pursue full-time? This thought danced in the back of my mind as dreams of getting a Ph.D. in something danced to the front, just to know so much about a field. Sure, the field changed to English to French to math, but the idea of knowing so much about one field that I'm so passionate about didn't change. But what can I do with that knowledge?

I may have found out tonight. Only time will tell.