Term, again

Here at the University of Manitoba, classes officially start tomorrow. Summer’s when I get to bask in a gloriously irregular and nocturnal schedule; now that I’m regular classes, it’s time to resume regular hours.

This semester, I’ll be teaching two courses: one old and one new. The old one’s the first course I was handed upon my arrival at the U of M two years ago: 7.206 Introductory Geophysics. It’s mostly an applied course, covering the various geophysical methods used in oil and mining exploration, environmental studies, and engineering. What those methods do is characterize the subsurface — that is, provide information about what’s underground. For instance, a DC resistivity system puts electrical currents into the ground, and measures the resulting voltage; since V=RI, the result depends on the distribution of conductive regions in the ground (as well as on the placement of electrodes); a gravimeter measures variations in gravity from place to place (a fiddly business), which are caused by variations in density in the rock. The course is a grab bag of theory, case studies, practical exercises, and data analysis, and will for most of the geology students be the only geophysics course they ever take.

The new one’s a graduate course, with a probable enrollment of two; it’s a theoretical seismology course. I’ve never given such a course before, and I’m going to run it as a reading course with weekly meetings. I’m a bit apprehensive about this one, since I’ve never done this sort of thing before, but I think it can work; I know the material well enough to do a fair bit of improvising.

Now, the thing is, I’m still rather dubious about my own teaching abilities. As a Ph.D. student I had very limited teaching opportunities, and I’ve never really had any formal teaching instruction. I’ve mostly concentrated on structure and clarity, perhaps at the expense of liveliness — as a student there was nothing I hated more than a course too disorganized to follow. I think my courses may be a bit of a snooze as a result (though I haven’t caught too many people actually snoozing in class, something I used to do a lot of myself). If anyone actually in my courses is reading, feel free to let loose with suggestions or criticisms; the one universal in my course evaluations is “talk louder!”, so I’m forseeing a lot of lozenges in my future as I try to put that into effect.

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