last class ever

This semester I’ve got just one class I’m taking on solid modeling. The class is fun, and while not a blow off is not as difficult as your average graduate CS course. I’ve got a final project I’m working on, which I was having a lot of trouble getting revved up for until I realized that it was my last assignment for my last class, ever. One the one hand, this is cause for celebration–no more homework assignments, ever. No more exams, ever. But, then I think about who I am. For almost a decade I’ve been living on a steady diet of college coursework. There’s clearly a few crossed wires up there that have somehow convinced me that working harder than I did at my full time job for drastically less pay was a good idea, and that part of me sheds a tear. In case you’re interested, he’s a picture of a prototype result of my project, which is basically to fill space with a 3D cloth made of knots (I call it SpaceKnit, with bumpy capitalization for added irony):

space knit knot lattice I’m not sure why this is useful, but heck, at least I can make pictures.

A corollary to my class coming to an end is that my duties as a TA are winding down. I sort of busted my ass being a TA, partly because I was new at it and partly because it was so obvious how to suck less than most TAs do–spend time on it! My last discussion section was on Tuesday, and it included a moment that made the entire semester worth it. As I was closing up, it occurred to someone that there would be no more discussions, which triggered a flurry of thanks, which included statements such as:

  • You bathe!
  • You sure do speak English well!
  • You’re explanations are so clear! (see above)
  • You’re the best GSI ever! (GSI = graduate student instructor; I guess TA is too demeaning here in grand Cali)

Up until this point I had suspected (but hadn’t been sure) that the TAs at Berkeley were just as bad in general as the ones at UT. And you can’t really blame them: they’re TAing because their advisor can’t or doesn’t want to support them with grant money, they are taking classes themselves and trying to get research done in there somewhere. Still, I’m glad they force every grad student to do it at least once. It’s scary to imagine people taking teaching jobs with their shiny new Ph.D.s having never faced a room of glazed-eyed undergrads.
Disclaimer: please do not confuse my task this semester (aiding the transfer of knowledge to interested, well-mannered humans) to the task of teaching “pre-college” individuals. That task includes as a subpart everything I had to do this semester, as well as the job of herdsman, psychologist, self-defense artist, animal trainer, among many others. And get this: it pays only slightly better. I’m sure glad no one I know would think about taking such a thing on.

School’s out for winter. School’s out forever.

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