# Tip Of The Day: Wednesday Is Not Friday

Or in my case, Wednesday. Sigh.

For whatever reason I woke up today thinking it was Friday. You’ll understand when I say that I was rather sad when I learned that it was, in fact, only Wednesday.

My sadness grew when I glanced at my calendar. One look and I knew that I had to head to campus. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like heading to campus, because I do; my office is awesome, I love my job, and there’s always someone around who might want to grab a coffee should I need one. The problem is that I went to bed with very little in the way of a voice. On waking I learned that my voice was back, albeit raspy in a sexy I drank a bottle of bourbon and smoked eleventy billion cigars kind of way. I really would have preferred staying home, wrapping myself in a warm blanket, and reading several articles related to some of my research.

Boo. Just boo.

Fortunately, despite my raspy sexy voice, I felt fine1. Also fortunate, once I got up and going I lost the it’s only Wednesday attitude. While my schedule for the day was full, it was full of presentations by students.

First up – a PhD qualifying exam in the Department of Biomedical Sciences of the Ontario Veterinary College. The presentation portion – the only portion I attended – was fantastic, even though the student was very sick. Normally I don’t make a habit of going to a QE unless I’m on the student’s committee, but in this case I made an exception as I’m helping her with her study design and subsequent statistical analysis. Her goal, if I have a general understanding of the biology, is to better identify the viability of eggs by measuring certain chemicals associated with egg production and release in humans and cows2.

My second meeting involved a presentation by several of the grad students in the School of Computer Science. I just so happen to be on the committee of one of the students presenting. In this case, I was rather stoked because I had not yet had a chance to see her research. Turns out she’s working with a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process to improve how a computer system might respond to a particular user’s state. In a nutshell, she’s working on building a system that will learn how good you are at something in order to help you improve. Cool, and perhaps a little Skynet-like, except without the machines becoming both sentient and kill-bots at the same moment.

Last, but definitely not least, I had a meeting with a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology. He is studying the dynamics of an Individual Based Model from the point of view of variables which most alter the system. To put this another way, imagine creating a population of fish where each individual has a unique set of characteristics governing how quickly it grows, when it is mature enough to reproduce, how successful it is at reproducing, how fast and big it grows, and how successful it is at avoiding predators. Some of these characteristics may be fixed for an individual, but others – such as how fast and big it grows – will depend on resources or environmental conditions. One of his goals is to figure out which environmental conditions might drastically alter the population. It’s very cool work. The best part is that I was asked to join his committee because I apparently know some stuff about things. The decision was a very easy hells ya.

So there you have it folks – three great meetings, three different departments. This is probably one of the reasons I love my job so much: while my training is in mathematics and statistics, I get to play with so many other types of scientists – each with their own unique studies and data sources.

Hmmm, I almost sound like some sort of academic escort.

1 Maybe a little tired as I apparently only slept for 4.5 hours last night.

2 It’s actually way more technical and advanced and wickedly cool than that. Several billion acronyms for hormones and proteins were used quite frequently.

# Smile Worthy

This was not my students.

And just like that the semester is over. Okay, maybe not completely over but pretty much over. The students still have to write their exam, and I have to grade said exam, but otherwise everything that the students needed to do, they have done.

Today was their final lab demo. That is, today they put everything on the line to show off and sell what they have been working on the entire semester. I’m sure they were nervous and worried about their presentations, but they were awesome.

Truth be told, when I woke up this morning I was rather nervous. I had no idea how the students would respond to the task at hand, nor did I really know what to expect in terms of their overall final project. Don’t get me wrong – I knew what they had to do, and I knew that they had been working hard – but I didn’t know how their final project would function nor how it would look.

Given that I was slightly in the dark in terms of what exactly they had produced, you’ll understand when I write that I was terribly excited to see the final versions of the projects they had completed, and even more excited to watch as they explained what they had done to the client. It took all my energy not to peek at their projects until the presentations formally began.

After the presentations began I walked around the class observing the students, listening to them explain to the client representatives how they translated the goals of the project into a tangible, usable, web-based solution. They were pretty impressive. Of course, being my students you might think that I’m biased in my estimation of their skills. Trust me when I say that their ability to impress was noted not just by me, but by the six client representatives that came to judge what they had completed. So yes, I was rather happy and proud with how things played out.

Through all of this I tried unsuccessfully not to smile. I really couldn’t help myself. It’s hard not to smile when what I saw was so totally smile worthy.

# Winding Down

Fall 2012 is almost over.

So apparently today was the last formal day of class – well, at least for the course I teach. Tomorrow is the last day I will meet with my students this semester in a non-exam setting. Crazy. I honestly can’t believe how fast the semester has gone. It seems like only yesterday that I was meeting them for the first time, wondering how they might react to the course, their semester long project, me.

As with any course we’ve had our ups and downs, but I can honestly say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching this class. Was it a lot of work? Hells ya – more so than any other course I’ve taught over the past 6 or so years. But was it fun? Double hells ya. That’s not to say that there weren’t frustrating moments, because there were, but the awesome moments far outweighed the not so awesome moments.

One of my favourite moments came when I had to be late for class due to meetings in Waterloo. As I wrote here, I was more than impressed when, on arriving to class 30 minutes late, I found the students in a very active conversation about their major project – everyone actively engaged and involved. It was amazing and inspiring, and one of the moments that I’ll keep with me long after the course is over.

As I mentioned earlier, tomorrow the students will present their final projects. I’m pretty sure that at this very moment they are all still madly working, perfecting their presentations and organizing their reports. I say this confidently because they have already demonstrated their work ethic, and their commitment to the final project over the course of the semester.

I honestly can’t wait to see their final projects tomorrow. In a way, it feels a little like Christmas eve.

# Mon-Tues-Wed-Mon-Fri-Sat-Sun

One more class to go!

Holy hell the semester is almost over.

On one side of the coin I’m stoked because it has been a long semester filled with late nights, early mornings, sleep deprivation, and probably far too much coffee and beer.

On the other side of the coin I’m a bit sad because, while the semester has been long it has been a lot of fun. Yes there were moments where I may have wanted to stab myself repeatedly in the eye instead of deal with whatever mountain of work was in front of me, but on the whole it was a fun-filled semester. My class has been awesome, the students fantastic, and I’m super excited about the project they have been working on1.

Indeed, as busy as this semester has been, I think I’m going to miss teaching my class more than I would have initially thought. I realized this today when I learned that next Thursday will actually be a Monday – at least scheduling wise. The idea is that classes that were cancelled during the Thanksgiving Monday holiday will be made up this coming Thursday. This means that the last class for my course will be held Tuesday, and not Thursday like I had originally thought.

1 Which will be revealed – at least in a prototype form – at the end of the semester. I can’t wait!

# A Proud, Beaming, Smiling Kind Of Silence

Words to live by.

Today was awesome.

What’s amazing is that I can confidently write that the day was awesome knowing full well that I didn’t accomplish almost anything that I wanted to accomplish today.

I woke up feeling less than 100% my usual self this morning1, forced myself through the motions of making breakfast, showering, and getting dressed (all the while wishing nothing more than the luxury of curling back up in bed with the wee fuzzball and sleeping for another 30 years or so), and trudged off to my first meeting of the day.

The meeting was schedule to run from 9:00 to 11:00, and amazingly it was on schedule. Following the meeting several of us remained behind to chat. By the time I left it was 11:20; plenty of time to get to my class at 11:30 if – and this is a big if – I were on campus. But, dear readers, my first meeting was actually at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo. This meant that I had exactly 10 minutes to travel from Waterloo to Guelph, get to campus, and race to my class.

Worst professor ever2!

My students – ya, they kicked ass today.

Clearly I was late to class; arriving on campus at 12:00 (30 minutes after I was scheduled to begin my lecture for those of you who are keeping score). As I quickly walked down the hall to my classroom, I took a deep breath expecting, well, I’m not sure what I was expecting – chaos; half the class missing because they were tired of waiting; students goofing off; students sleeping; students doing anything but scholarly activities. What I saw left me gobsmacked.

At the front of the class – four students. On the projector – notes related to the topics we had been covering, and a Google Doc that they were actively editing. The class was attentive and engaged in an active discussion related to the class project they are all tasked with completing by semester end. No one was goofing off. No one was sleeping.

This was the moment when my day was officially upgraded from good to awesome.

Exactly.

I stepped into class and took a seat, letting the students finish up their discussion and enjoying the moments completely. One of the leaders asked if I wanted my classroom back. I smiled, thought about it for about half a millisecond, and replied No, carry on – don’t let me stop you. And I couldn’t have been more serious. I was so enjoying the situation that I couldn’t help but smile.

It took me half a moment or so to realize that I wasn’t just smiling; I was beaming. I was so incredibly impressed and proud of my students that I couldn’t help myself. Any doubts I had prior to this class about how involved my students were in relation to their course project melted away.

What I witnessed today was incredible; an act of self-learning that far exceeded anything I could ever offer the students by simply lecturing to them. They were immersed in the project; actively debating its major characteristics and even its subtle nuances. I figured the best thing that I could do was to do nothing at all. And so that is what I did; sitting there observing, sometimes offering an opinion, but mostly in silence. A proud, beaming, smiling kind of silence.

Today was awesome.

1 I’m trying to determine if I’m getting sick, or if it’s allergies, or if I’m just tired. Either way, I feel blurgh.

2 Okay, maybe I’m not the worst ever. I did message them about 20 minutes before I left to remind them I would be late – as I had already informed them yesterday that chances were likely that I would be late today.

# All It Takes Is Pie

Poor Sponge Bob.

Today I headed to Cape Croker – just north of Wiarton, Ontario – with two undergraduate students, two graduate students, and one Post Doctoral Fellow. This band of misfits included 3 biology students (1 who is transitioning from biology to statistics), 1 computer science student, and 1 engineer. Oh, and me – a card-carrying PhD and Assistant Professor of all things nerd-tacular1.

To say the car was full of nerds would have been an understatement2.

The purpose of our trip was to visit Cape Croker, meet some people, attend some meetings, and tour the facilities and the area, all with the intention of informing or supporting the research that we do. While not all of these goals were met – some meetings were cancelled – the day was still successful for several reasons.

First, I learned that where I thought we had little biological data on a particular species of fish, we actually have a lot – it’s just not in a form that I can work with – yet. Even better, my newest URA – Stephen – is working with me this summer to create a database for storing such information. Seeing how the data are currently recorded makes designing a better system that much easier.

Mmm, pie.

Second, it’s always awesome to get to know one’s students better. Being in close quarters – such as a van – for several hours (6+) really helps. What did I learn? Not only are these students nerdy, they are also great people, and quite hilarious. We spent most of the day laughing and enjoying ourselves. So much so, that it seemed a lot less like work and a lot more like awesome-sauce.

Third, we found Sponge Bob Square Pants. Except he was nailed to a tree. On second thought, I’m not sure that this actually is a reason to consider the day a success. It’s definitely a reason to consider the day weird.

Fourth, even great days can be made better with the addition of pie. Especially if that pie is homemade. And filled with blueberries. Wild blueberries. Oh, and served warm. Perhaps with coconut milk ice cream3.

Okay, let’s be honest. Today would have been more than successful if nothing other than pie happened. True story.

Anyway, having recapped my day and relived the joy of buying a pie, I’m feeling a bit peckish – almost as if there is a spot in my belly specifically reserved for pie. Weird.

I wonder wherever I shall find pie at this hour?

1 Okay, maybe not all things nerd-tacular, but a lot of things nerd-tacular. Also, I don’t really carry a card. Perhaps I should.

2 It would also have been incorrect, because we had room for at least 2.75 more nerds.

Dan was almost Sad Dan because he was out of coconut milk ice cream, and then Almost Sad Dan realized that he still had pie, and thus Almost Sad Dan chose not to be sad.

# True Lies

Okay, remember how I said a few weeks ago that the semester had come to a close? Well, I think I specifically wrote that classes had ended.

Regardless of what I wrote, I lied.

Gasp.

True story. Of course, having just admitted I had lied, you might be wondering how you can trust the statement true story. Excellent point. Let’s just look past this little conundrum.

Anyway – the semester is almost over. What’s left? Grading. Sweet, sweet grading.

Today, thankfully, I took a huge bite out of my grading. Specifically, I managed to finish grading the exams for my undergraduate class. While I can’t talk about the grades (of course) I had to laugh at some of what the students wrote.

Let me be clear – I’m talking about the notes that the students wrote to me – not in response to the questions on the exam, but in response to the course itself.

Again – I can’t actually tell you what they wrote, but I can say they made me laugh and they made me smile. And that is one of the best rewards I get from teaching – connecting to students and knowing that they fully enjoyed the time we spent together – that they got something, anything from the course.

What a great way to almost end the semester.

# Brain Whoring

Rule #1 of Grant Writing: Check your ego at the door. At the end of the day, you're just a brain-whore. Ha! I kill me.

ZOMG I am freaking tired!

FREAKING TIRED I SAYS.

I’m currently sitting in my office finishing a reference letter for a student. That’s right, it’s 9:48 and I’m in my office. I’m cool like that.

Actually, if I’m being completely honest I’m not finishing a reference letter. That is, I’ve just finished the letter and am listening to it print. As soon as it has finished printing, and as soon as I finish writing this post, I shall be putting together the final touches on a grant (whereby final touches mean printing, signing, enveloping, sealing, signing again, and submitting to the peeps that process said grant bric-a-brac) that I need to submit before I head to Calgary.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I’m leaving for Calgary in about 10 hours? W00t!

Anyway, given my barely conscious state, and given that I still have to make sure everything is signed where it needs to be, and given that it’s getting more and more difficult to think in a linear fashion, I’m going to go. I probably should devote all the energy I have to this letter and to the grant. And then to getting my sorry ass home so that I can pack. Because I’m going to Calgary. Have I mentioned that?

W00t!

Best to-do list ever!

And just like that, half of the winter semester is over.

That’s right folks, it is officially reading week. Although if you were to judge by the size of my 2nd year class, you would have thought that reading week started yesterday. I digress.

Honestly, I can’t believe 6 weeks have already come and gone.

I’d like to say that the rest of the semester will be easy, but I know that isn’t likely to be the case. My list when the semester resumes includes:

• completing edits on 2 papers,
• completing at least 4 more draft papers for submission,
• preparing 2 presentations (1 for a conference, the other an invited talk),
• helping prepare 3 conference posters,
• finishing 2 more grant applications,
• prepping course notes, as well as marking assignments, quizzes, and exams,
• acting as examiner for a Ph.D. qualifying exam and an M.Sc. defence,
• evaluating scholarship applications for the province,
• and writing a major report.

Whew. I’m tired already. Ha! Not really. As much effort as these things demand, I’m excited to work on them.

Thankfully I’m not facing all of this on my own. That dear friends, is why I have minions – er, students.

Minions!

To accomplish this list I really must rely on the hard work of several students. For example, one of the draft papers will require the assistance of one of my Masters students. Another draft will require the assistance of my undergraduate research assistant (URA) Justin who just so happens to make his own beer.

There’s also a chance that a fifth paper might be added to the list – but this assumes that another URA who is being supervised by one of my colleagues manages to finish a huge list of things before the semester ends. I’m not betting on that, but stranger things have happened. It’s not that the URA can’t do it, it’s just that getting all the work completed by the end of the semester might be a long shot.

Additionally the three conference posters are going to be put together by my students, so my role there will be simplified to advisor. Of course, I’m excited about all three projects so I’ll likely be more involved than just saying “sure, looks good.”

My URA and this dish - both Awesome Pie

Since my current URA is a giant slice of 100% Grade A Awesome pie, I might get him to help me out with the major report as well. But that will depend on how involved our current study gets. He’s been working like a mad man on it, and I’m stoked with our preliminary results. I’ll have to assess the benefits of stealing his time from the current study to help me out with another one.

Anyway, for now I’m going to put all thoughts of this list aside. You see, while I have 3 days of presentations lined up next week, I am officially on vacation as of today. Yes, I’m technically going to be working Monday through Wednesday, but it’s going to be more fun than work – especially since Rick has helped me out by preparing some of the material that I’m going to be presenting. And as I mentioned yesterday, I’m heading to Calgary on Thursday to continue my adventuring.

So with that I proclaim here and now, for all the blog-o-sphere to read, that even though my list be long, it shall remain as such for the duration of reading week because I have far more important non-academic pursuits and adventuring to do; such as climbing walls of shear ice, and throwing my body down an ice track to the mercy of gravity.

Next week is going to be AWESOME.

# The Ultra-Nerdtastic Version Of Me

Today was the first class of the first semester of 2012, which means that today was exhausting but in a completely awesome way. I love teaching, so it felt amazing to be back in class in front of a room full of 60+ students.

To be honest, I was a little nervous before I arrived because I’ve never taught a Computer Science course before. Yes, I taught that grad course in the School of Computer Science last summer, but it was all statistics, all the time. This course – User Interface Design - is different. No statistics. Ever. Gasp.

But stay calm folks because I think it went well. I started the class by talking about the idea of good and bad design being pretty much inherent. On some level, we can all look at something and determine pretty quickly if it was designed well. And then I presented several images (below). Part of this was for entertainment value, part was to get the students thinking about what the course might mean to them.

After showing the students the pictures, I then took some time and outlined the requirements of the course (i.e., grading structure, lab/class/assignment rules, etc.), and then we watched a couple of videos about design – TED talks specifically – because who doesn’t like watching movies and calling it learning? No one, that’s who. And because I like sharing with you dear readers, I’ve painstakingly linked the talks below. You are welcome.

In all seriousness though, this course is going to be a lot of work. But I know that it’s also going to be a lot of fun as well. I love the science behind design, and the iterative process of developing something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. It allows me to merge my math and stats side, with my more creative artistic side. I can only assume that the combination of these two sides forms a more complete ultra-nerdtastic version of myself. And that’s just good times.

Anyway, day 1 is complete. Twenty three more classes remain. I’m pretty excited to see how they turn out.

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# It’s All About The Passion

It's World Teachers' Day all y'all

For those not in the know, today is World Teachers’ Day, a day set aside to honour and celebrate teachers. And while I’m not up on all of the official World Teachers’ Day rules (are there rules?), my guess is that a teacher is used to describe not only the profession of the same name, but also anyone in our lives that has taught us something. It could be your grade 8 teacher who taught you a new-found appreciation of books by introducing you to the Lord of the Rings series (thanks Miss Gillies), or perhaps the grade 6 teacher who insisted that you use the word yes and not yeah because yeah sounds like something a donkey would say (so were you actually calling me a jack-ass Mrs. Lewin? Well played. Well played indeed.)

Anyway, I’ve been rather fortunate over the years to have some rather excellent teachers. Perhaps this was some form of luck, or the planets aligning just-so, but in reality it’s probably related to having been in school for so damn long, and maybe, just maybe, there really are a lot of good teachers out there. Regardless the reason, my extended/ongoing education, and experience both as a student and as an assistant professor have provided me a bit of insight into what makes a good teacher. It’s clearly not just a mastery of the subject. Anyone can get up in front of an audience and throw facts and figures at them. No, it’s so much more than that. Teaching requires passion.

Honestly, passion plays such an important role in the learning process. I mean, how am I supposed to get excited or care about a particular topic if the person presenting doesn’t seem to give a rats-ass themselves? Unless the topic being presented is something that I’ve been passionate about a priori, a dull performance isn’t going to make me want to know/understand/integrate the information being dropped in my lap. A lack of passion is often a deal breaker in relationships and the student-teacher relationship is no exception. If one is passionate about what they are studying, that passion becomes contagious. The student opens to the ideas, and true learning can occur. Ideas start flying, and the next thing you know a course becomes more than just facts and figures; it becomes something tangible and exciting; a set of connections and ideas that stoke the imagination and leave the students wanting to know more.

Say what now?

I think this is as true within the profession of teaching as it is outside. Take a minute to think of some of the people in your life that have positively influenced you; those that have taught you something that you now hold dear to your heart. Ask yourself, why did that particular person leave a mark? Was it a collection of bullet points that left you thinking about their words? Or was it how they passed on their knowledge; how they engaged you; how they made their experience a living, tangible lesson? I’m going to bet it was the latter.

Anyway, as I wrote earlier in this post, I’ve been fortunate to have some most excellent teachers in my life. Some have been more influential than others. Some I have strived to emulate in my current position because I know how amazing they really are; how many lives they’ve touched; the difference their work makes. While I’ll offer a blanket thank you to all of them, I really feel the need to point out a few names in particular.

First and foremost, I have to mention my Grade 6 teacher – Mrs. Annette Lewin. When I first met her, I did not think that I would like her. She was stern, and demanding, and she insisted that I not say anything that sounds like something a donkey would say. I’ve never forgotten that, and while I probably sound like a bigger donkey now than I did when I was in Grade 6, she pushed me to succeed in ways that very few other people have ever done. Where other teachers might just give me a great mark, she’d give me a good mark, and then ask me for extra. I probably have her to thank for my workaholism.

When I headed to university, I met several amazing professors. While I won’t mention every awesome prof that I have had, I feel the need to mention Pal Fischer, Gerarda Darlington, Herb Kunze, and Jack Weiner. These four professors have taught me so much, I can’t even begin to explain it. What I can say, is that I am the man I am today because of what these people have taught me, and continue to teach me. Thank you all for being passionate about your work, and for demanding the best of me. I am forever in your debts.

Anyway, if you can, take the time today to think about the people who have influenced you. If possible, let them know.

Happy Teachers’ Day all y’all.

# What’s In A Name?

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

You might want to grab a tissue before reading this, because what I’m about to write is sure to bring tears to your eyes.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Anyway, last Wednesday marked the official end to one of the courses I was teaching this semester.  Specifically, it was the end of Calculus for the Biological Sciences II.  *Sniff*.  I’ll give you a moment to compose yourself.

Anyway, the exam went off without any major hitch, except for the roof construction that was occurring directly overhead.  Seriously, who books an exam in a room where construction is occurring overhead?  Regardless, after running around the building to find someone who might know anything about the construction, the Physical Resources department was called and the construction was halted for the duration of the exam.

For the most part, the students rocked the exam.  I was very happy with the results, and I’m sure they will be too.  There were a few not-so-stellar results as well, but that is to be expected.

Now, during the course of the exam I was required as Invigilator to have my students fill out a form to indicate they were present.  At that point, I was also to check their identity against their student cards, so as to prevent someone sitting in on the exam for someone else.  Given that my class had about 80 students, I recognized most of all of my students which significantly sped up the process.  Of course, there were a few randoms in attendance; that is, students that I did not recognize – most likely because they never came to class.  These were the students that I paid the closest attention to.  The good news is that they all checked out.

But I have to wonder, why would someone pay for, but not attend a single lecture?  I understand missing a lecture from time to time, but an entire semester of lectures?  That’s just ridiculous.  Especially  since I told the students at the beginning of the semester that some of the material we were going to cover was not in the text.  I mean, I’m a bit confused as to how they expected to understand the material without ever showing up1.  Ultimately, however, that is really not my concern.  If the randoms want to risk a course because they can’t, for whatever reason, make it to class, so be it.  I have to assume they are adults, capable of making sound decisions.

You see, my job is to teach the material, not to take attendance.  I am tasked with presenting the material in a manner that brings about understanding, presenting ideas that stimulate thought and question, develop problem solving skills, and ultimately allow the students to speak the language of mathematics.  The students are responsible for taking part, studying, learning, absorbing and integrating the material.  So when I am asked to ‘not fail’ a student (which happens almost every semester by someone who hasn’t put in the work), I am left wondering why they think that I’m responsible for them failing.  And I will and do fail students almost every semester, but that is a reflection of their work, not representative of some personal vendetta that I have against them.  Failing students is a part of my job, and one that I take seriously.  I will not let the gravity of the situation or puppy dog eyes prevent me from failing a student that deserves to fail.  It is in their best interest to repeat the course if it is necessary.

Anyway, back to the identification forms that the students were required to fill out.  I had to chuckle as I was reviewing them.  The students not only have to identify themselves, they need to identify the course number, and the name of the instructor.  Anyway, I provide to you now a list of all of my names as indicated by my students:

• Dr. Daniel Gillis (Formal name, proper title, and correct spelling.  A+)
• Dr. Dan Gillis (Less formal name, proper title, and correct spelling.  A)
• Dr. Gillis (Proper title and correct spelling.  A)
• Dan Gillis (Less formal, but I’m not one to stick to formalities.  A)
• D. Gillis (Perfectly acceptable.  A)
• Gillis (A few buddies refer to me in this manner.  A)
• D. Gilis (um, what?  At least Gilis would sound correct.  D+)
• Daniel Gills (started off strong but lost me at the Gills.  Gills does not sound like Gilis or Gillis.  D-)
• [empty] (Not knowing your instructors name = super fail in my books.  F–)

Additionally, one of the students wrote that their seat was located in row goats.  I’m really not sure what that means, but I found it funny.  After the exam, when the students were handing in their papers, I had one student bow to me.  I really didn’t know how to handle that.  Another student was wearing an Apple $\pi$ t-shirt.  AWESOME!

Finally – and this was by far the best part of marking – after I had finished grading the exams, I was counting up the scores when I came across 2 notes on the backs of 2 separate exams.  They both made me smile:

1. Dr. Gillis, Thanks for all the calc fun! (Esp Pi Day!) =)  I heartily enjoyed the class as my elective this semester and am contemplating taking the Advanced Calculus I for the furthering of my calc knowledge =)
2. “Dear Prof. Dan, thank you for being the coolest teacher I’ve ever known.  I’m sorry I messed up the exam.  Please, at least let me pass :)”  Sincerely Cheers, Your awesome student.
I love, love, love that one of the Bio students wants to take a more advanced Calculus class.  AWESOME.  Also, I love, love, love that one of my students signed their note with ‘Your awesome student’.
Anyway, I’m a little sad that the class is finished.  The students were amazing and we had a lot of fun in class.  I just hope that they got as much out of it as I did.

1 In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I have done this. That is, in second year I took a particular math course. The instructor was not healthy, and basically placed overhead photocopies of the text onto the projector. The instructor did not explain the material (at least, not in the first week of class), instead we were to copy the information in silence. After reviewing the course outline and the material provided in the text, I opted to not go to lecture and instead teach myself the course2 . Which I did, because I’m a huge math nerd. And in my case, it worked out. I ended up with a 95 in the course So what I’m saying is that it is possible to get away with this, but it’s probably not the standard.

2 This almost bit me in the ass during the midterm.  I knew when the midterm was to be written, but the instructor had changed rooms about 3 weeks into the course.  This I didn’t know.  When I arrived at the original classroom to write, no one was there.  It was then that I discovered the Math & Stats main office, and thankfully they were able to direct me to the new classroom.  I arrived to my 50 minute midterm 20 minutes late.  I think the instructor was surprised when I arrived (because I would have been if I were the instructor), but I have to believe they were even more surprised when I was one of the first to leave, 10 minutes before the end of the exam.  w00t!