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Keep Holy the Month of IAP For It Is a Time of Rest by Evan B. '10

(title taken from The Cathedral of Our Lady of the All-Night Tool)

I keep a list in my head of what topics I want to blog about. But I think of it as a stack, as opposed to a queue – so I cover things that happened more recently first.

So obviously, I need to cover what I did over IAP, and then maybe I can make it as far back as last semester.

Fortunately for me (and those of you who want to hear about 6.111 and my other adventures in EE), I didn’t do much this IAP, so I should be able to just knock this out and move on. Last IAP I spent almost all of the month working on 6.270. It was fun – the robots are really cool. But it was also stresful. I didn’t get much sleep during the last week of IAP (or during the rest of IAP, for that matter).

So I decided that this year I was going to be on campus, but not have any formalized activities taking up all of IAP. I was going to rest and recuperate so that I could go into the spring term well rested and just generally enjoy myself.

I think I more or less accomplished that, with a few exceptions. So, “what I did for IAP” is a fairly short list.

One of the bigger things I did was teaching an introductory class in Python for SIPB. SIPB (the Student Information Processing Board) is a student group that focuses on improving computing, both in general and specifically at MIT. They’re responsible for things like debathena, which is forming the basis for the new release of the Athena system, and scripts.mit.edu, a web hosting service for the MIT community.

Additionally, they run a series of IAP classes, covering everything from how to hack Facebook Javascript to the “Caffeinated Crash Courses,” which attempt to cover everything you really need to know about a topic (usually a programming language) in 3 hours. They also have a series of decaffeinated introductory courses in a whole host of languages. I taught the one in Python. It was 4 classes that were 3 hours each, and covered both the basics of the Python language and some applications such as web development.

It was a good experience, and I had 40-50 students. That being said, I learned some very valuable lessons:

  1. Teaching is hard
  2. Teaching for 3 hours straight is really hard
  3. It’s hard to prepare enough material to teach for 3 hours straight
  4. If you do have enough material, it probably took you at least 6 hours to get it together

I certainly have a lot more respect for the work that good teachers must put into their preparations, because I know that I’m certainly not a great teacher, and the preparation took me a really long time. On the other hand, it was a really good experience, and I really hope that I get a chance to teach this again next year.

Other than that, I basically spent all of IAP doing unimportant things – cleaning my room (although not too much), setting up a better backup solution (although it’s still not there yet), and lots and lots of sleeping.

Anyway, that’s all for now, but Monday is the Ring Premiere, when all of the sophomores get to see what our Brass Rat looks like for the first time. Lots of people think that Ring Premiere isn’t that interesting, but I’m personally excited.

9 responses to “Keep Holy the Month of IAP For It Is a Time of Rest”

  1. Tanmay says:

    I can’t believe this. Really! Third opportunity for – – – – -. Okay, leave all that stuff…

    And hey, I taught some grade 6 school kids (just for fun) in my holidays last year. And I had a pretty mixed experience. Bad, they never listened to me when I told them not to talk. Good, they asked some wonderful questions, which I appreciated. Children often ask very fundamental questions, such as “Are electrons like a football?”. I enjoyed it.

  2. :D says:

    Amazing hack reference.

  3. Sam R. '12 says:

    Ohhh, caffeinated crash courses….sounds like a very interesting experience, especially that how to hack Facebook javascript. can’t wait for IAP next year.
    -Sam r.

  4. Nihar says:

    I once thought that teaching would be a real piece of cake…understanding a learners needs and communication, what else was there to it?

    I was teaching web development using Frontpage to a bunch of grade 7’s and it turned into a nightmare!!…I mean, first lesson, they just didnt understand concepts as easily as I expected them to! I was helpless because I didnt know how to put the matter in a better way, and so I had to prepare a whole lot more meticulously before I called them next…

    Hats off Teachers!

    Sometimes I do marvel at the patience with which you’ve tolerated me all these years… wink

  5. Anion says:

    haha..stack and not queue!..yes FIFO all the way!

  6. bunny says:

    Wait… teach python? I’da just put this on an overhead and walked out of the room :D

  7. baggy says:

    Anion
    man Stack-LIFO,Queue-FIFO

  8. Hawkins says:

    Sounds like a great IAP! Yes, teaching is hard. I’m a horrible teacher!