Published: Oct. 1, 2020

Jason Lagapa, CTL Professional Development Lead, sat down virtually with Kelly Sears and Eric Stade to discuss what got them into teaching and what they love about it, tried-and-true classroom strategies they've learned over their careers, and how they've adapted recently to remote teaching in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen, or read through the transcript below. 

JASON LAGAPA: This is the CTL podcast for teaching and learning. I am Jason Lagapa, Professional Development Lead in the Center for Teaching and Learning at CU Boulder. I'm joined today by two CU faculty members, KELLY SEARS, who is an experimental animator and assistant professor in the Department of Cinema Studies and Moving Image Arts. She's also the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studio Arts. ERIC STADE is a professor of Mathematics, whose research interests include Number Theory and Special Functions. He's also director of First Year Academic Experience in the College of Arts and Sciences. So welcome, Kelly and Eric. I'm glad that you're here with us today to talk about teaching. 

KELLY SEARS: Thank you for having us.

ERIC STADE: Yeah, it's nice to be here. Thank you.

JASON LAGAPA: So, Kelly, I thought I'd begin with you. The first question that I want to ask is, when did you first start seriously thinking about the profession of teaching, or to ask the question, in a couple of other ways: how did you discover teaching was important to you? What drew you towards teaching?

KELLY SEARS: I think I have a succinct answer for this and it's twofold. I really blossomed when I went to college, I went to more experimental college, no grades. Everything was project based learning. And that, for me, was really successful model for engagement. I went to graduate school after that, at a large more traditional state school and as part of my funding, I was teaching classes, and it was never something I had considered before. But it was something that I was thrown into with no training, and it turns out I liked it. The students had good responses to it. And that's when I started considering teaching is something I'd want to do with my life after leaving graduate school.

JASON LAGAPA: Eric, the same question for you. What drew you towards teaching. How did you start off your teaching career?

ERIC STADE: Yeah, thank you, Jason. Um, it's really interesting to hear Kelly's answer because mine is very similar in some ways. Um, I love math, you know. There I've said it and I admit it! You know, I've always loved math and my father taught English actually at Columbia for years and years. Even so, I never really thought of teaching math or teaching in general as a career. I was a little bit at loose ends at the end of my college career but because I liked math so much I decided that, among other things, I would apply to graduate school in math. And I did and I got accepted at Columbia, which is where I did my graduate training. In the first summer after my first year of graduate school, I was given the opportunity to teach a section of Calculus. As Kelly - same as Kelly - no training, no sort of heads up or warning, or even really advanced knowledge that this was something that that was going to be possible, you know, but in the spring semester they said, “do you want to teach this summer.” And I said, “yes!” And I just loved it, you know. It was such an exhilarating opportunity to me. It was energizing although at the same time draining, but I kind of knew that summer that this is what I wanted to do.

JASON LAGAPA: So, Eric, I'll just follow up on that, since there is some connection between your and Kelly's background, being thrown into the classroom with no training, what was that experience like and what was that maybe that that first day of stepping in the classroom like?

ERIC STADE: Yeah. Well, I was a while ago. It's a little hard to remember. But, but, um, I think it was shocking enough that I do recall how terrifying it was, but I would say was terrifying for maybe 15 to 20 minutes, to be honest, and I really felt – fell into a groove after that. It was, like Kelly, I had no training. However, I did have some good examples, you know, and I guess I kind of did what I had seen my favorite professors do and that seemed to work. And, you know, looking back, I suppose it would have been nice to have a little more guidance. And I know that they do things very differently now at Columbia and probably everywhere. You know, there's a lot more emphasis being placed on teacher training, but it was a - yeah it was definitely, I had to fend for myself. I was sort of thrown to the wolves and it was frightening and I think most teachers will agree with this. It's still terrifying the start of every semester. There's still a lot of that stage fright. Getting to know your students and all that kind of stuff. Um, but, again, at the same time that it was terrifying, it was also it was exhilarating. I just, I just loved it.

JASON LAGAPA: Kelly, I was going to follow up to ask you a little bit more about how you were trained, if at all. I think I guess you said that there was no training, really. And then the other thing that you mentioned was that you had a background in Project Based Learning and so did that filter into the way that you first stepped into the classroom?

KELLY SEARS: I wish! I know it took me a couple of years to sort things out and figure out what my specific teaching voice was, and I think in the process, it really became about less of a hierarchy and me at the top of it, and figuring out ways to build a community across my students and thinking about what it was. I was trying to communicate and how is the best way for each individual student to engage with that through what they were creating, through reflecting each reading back onto themselves, and thinking about building a kind of peer-based community in the room. So over the years, something that I started using more and more in class is when a student asks me a question, I turn to the class and I say, “what do you think?,” instead of me being the one - and if that if the discussion does not, you know, get to a point where that question is satisfied, I’ll  jump in at that point or build on are amplify things that are mentioned in the classroom. For project based learning, I think in studio art production courses - that is where you are actually synthesizing all the theory you’re reading; that's where you're synthesizing your ideas when they're questioned and you're having to refine them. So, bringing everything that we're watching, everything that we're reading all the “crit” conversations back to the project as a space that you are resolving - the problems. Making art, I always tell students, is a problem. It's a creative problem! And there's going -  it's going to fall apart many times, and we will collectively, but mostly, “you” will resolve that problem, and it might need to be resolved a few times but kind of bringing the goal back to this practice that you are building in the class and having it be very individual-centric yet in a larger community is how I've been trying to run my classes more.

JASON LAGAPA: Great, Kelly! That idea of student centered learning - we hear that phrase quite a bit, but that strategy of, if a question gets asked of you as a professor, to turn that around and ask the students to [answer], just models that behavior, just reconfigures the classroom so that there's not just one person at the front of the room that has all the answers. It seems to share that process and that investigation and exploration of ideas.

Eric, You hinted at this in your last response, and so this follow up with you this question. You said that you learn from professors that you would work with, but I wanted to ask, maybe a little bit more specifically: who was one of your mentors when it came to teaching? Did you model your approach to teaching after any one particular person? And finally, how would you characterize his or her teaching and why was this person so influential?

ERIC STADE: Oh, those are great questions. Um, again, I had role models, more than mentors. In my entire time as a graduate student at Columbia. I can't remember anyone actually ever coming to observe my class. And then I was a postdoc at Dartmouth for two years, and I was observed once. And the sum total of the advice I was given was: “Eric, get yourself some colored chalk.” 

This is great advice, by the way! I love my colored chalk! But, but that was it. So, so it's more a matter of role models and the one professor who stands out in my mind more than anyone, his name was Harold Boas, and he taught me analysis, which is like 14 semester calculus as an undergraduate at Columbia, I did my undergraduate there as well. And there were a couple things I really liked about his presentation style, and the first was that, you know, like me, he was a math nerd. You know, he just - it was his enthusiasm for the material was just so evident and so transparent and he was unabashed about it. You know he was a - he celebrated and embraced the fact that he was a math nerd. Um, the other thing I liked about him is that he was very, very well organized. He came prepared. He knew exactly what he wanted to say, but at the same time, you know, he could go off on a tangent, if the classroom conversation merited that.

Harold Boas gave a really, really beautiful lecture. Now, Kelly was just talking about more student centered approaches to learning, and in my last ten, fifteen years here at CU I've really come to understand and appreciate inquiry-based, student-centered active learning myself, but I would say the first ten, fifteen years of my life as a teacher, I lectured, that's what I did. And I do think I give a bad ass lecture, I really do! You know where I am now is that it's a little bit of both. I would say my classes are sort of 50/50 active learning and lecturing and some people would argue that you know math lends itself more to lecturing than other disciplines, because there's a certain amount of just core material you have to get across.

You know, you could argue that point ad infinitum, and people do. But personally, you know, I like the mix. I still love to lecture; I love to hear myself talk to be honest. But, but I love to see also students taking agency over their own learning, you know, really taking possession of their own - of their own understanding of the material. But, but my initial role model was that he was a pure lecturer and, man, did he have it down. So that was how I modeled myself at the outset.

JASON LAGAPA: That’s great. Kelly, the same question for you. It seems like there are often mentors or as Eric said, role models, in our past that are a guiding force. Was there someone like that for you, and perhaps, what are the characteristics of that person that really stand out to you?

KELLY SEARS: I'm going to do kind of an amalgamation of various professors I had during undergraduate and graduate school, but I look back in the classes that I was the most engaged in were the ones I use my voice in. So I do stress participation as part of a grade but I put in my syllabi - Some people while it's a great experience to talk in a classroom, some students are really terrified, and I say that “if you did not feel comfortable speaking up in class today, email me and we'll have a conversation that way.” And after a couple of emails, I've noticed that students then start to think, “that didn't go so bad: sharing their thoughts.” I had much more participation from students on Zoom in conversations. And I asked them why that was, and they said they didn't feel all the eyes of the classroom on them because the gaze was distributed over the big grid. 

And they felt more comfortable sharing what their thoughts on a matter without feeling like they were going to be judged, which I thought was interesting, but I do try to draw from previous professors [like] how we were broken into groups. What was generated in the group and then how does it actually tie back to the larger backbone of not only that class, but of the entire course in general. Something I'm reading right now, this was obviously not my professor, but a graduate student recommended this text. It's a book by Bell Hooks called Teaching to Transgress. And I'm really thinking about what it means to be going back into the classroom, during a pandemic after the summer of racial injustice and demonstrations. Thinking about - that our students from foreign countries were almost not let back into the country if we were being remote and really trying to synthesize what are these creative, technical, and conceptual questions and practices that I'm trying to teach. How to anchor them in 2020 and have really productive conversations about how we bring together, creating art in this moment in time?

JASON LAGAPA: So, you're talking about a real specific time as a context, our historical moment. What's happening for us now as really being [or] providing that backdrop for the classes and how you think through issues, and I think that's an important thing that we do as teachers is to not teach in a vacuum, but instead to think through what's going on around us. I think it's also a way for students to feel placed in the classroom and situated with not only the material that they're learning, but then also the outer world that stretches beyond the classroom and the university. Kelly, I will follow up on something [with you]. I'm going a little off script from the questions I had a bit. You mentioned voice a couple of times. First, when you were talking about first teaching and that you had to develop your teaching voice and then you're very mindful of how students use their voice in the classroom or maybe via email to find their way into the class. And so, I just wanted to ask you about how you honed that voice when you're first starting and what you think your voice might be in the classroom?

KELLY SEARS: I think when I first started, I did not notice even distribution of students participating in my classes, and there was some who would always participate and some that wouldn't be. So, instead of saying, “Why aren't some students participating. Why aren't they getting it together?” I said, “Maybe I need to be grading myself on how I'm holding the classroom?” And there's ways that I have participation built into the class, where, as we go around the room and before we look at someone's work, I'll ask one student to respond to what was successful or engaging in [a work]. I will then ask the student who made the work to express their intentions with what they were working on and then another student will respond, [regarding] what might be a gap between what is succeeding and what the intentions are.

I do a lot of group presentations as well. But I model one first, to look at what one could be and encourage each student to figure out, you know, what would be a group dynamic that they would like to present on. To be honest, I'm still learning, and I think it is especially [in] this new, largely remote setup is how to build engagement and what are these frameworks that we can structure that a student will engage with a community dialogue, will engage with readings, not just as a rote form of knowledge, but as something that they can embody themselves. And I always encourage them to come to class with a question about the reading that relates directly to the project that they are working on, so that it's not something that's outside of what they're making. But there is a synthesis between them. 

I also try to relate to them as artists. I try to break down the hierarchy of me being a professor and them being students. This semester I'm teaching the capstone filmmaking class, and it's the - you have to apply and be accepted into the BFA program, and at that point, this is the one class a year-long filmmaking class. I address them as fellow filmmakers. I talk about what problems I'm running into on the films that I'm making. [I] invite them [to think] that we're all working through films and we're all running into challenges and we are all going to collectively listen and support each other and provide very needed critical feedback, which is not negative and it's not personal, but this is how we work through problems we're having so in that point, I try to insert myself in more as a peer, even though I'm still holding the class, facilitating the class as a professor, but trying to say that we are on this longer continuum of creative practices, but we can still meet up somewhere in the middle. Right, that idea of connecting and meeting students where they are is a, I think a key trait of a very strong teacher.

JASON LAGAPA: Eric, I was going to ask you also about voice. You said that you love the sound of your own voice [laughing]! So, it's a little bit different from what Kelly had said about, you know, developing her voice, but I do have a question that might be related. So, I first want to hear more about how much you love your voice. I think that's a nice phenomenon to investigate and look into, and then the other thing I was thinking about: there might be some graduate students who are teaching for the first time this semester, and maybe some early career faculty who have done research, but haven’t taught before. If one of those individuals didn't love their own voice, would there be a way of cultivating that that love? And so that might be hard for you to address but I'd love to hear whatever response that you have for those questions.

ERIC STADE: Yeah, well, there's a there's a lot to unpack there. Um, you know, when I say I love the sound of my own voice. I mean you know that that's true but a little bit facetious. But what I really do love is being able to share my love of mathematics with others. You know, I think that's what draws a lot of us to teaching. We have so much to say. We have so much that we appreciate, and that appreciation is so much more rich, if you can share it with others. So, I'm, you know, in that sense, I love the sound of my own voice, because it gives me the ability to communicate my love for mathematics, but I also love the sound of my student’s voice because my student’s voice because that's part of a conversation, right? It's not just one person in spite of the fact that I do a fair amount of lecture, I like to think that my classes are also conversational and that will we're all adding to it. And another thing that I think draws a lot of us to teaching, or certainly keeps a lot of us in teaching, is that we're always learning from our students. Right? I mean, that's huge! And, you know, to be doing something for 30 years and still learning something new. You know, if not every day, then pretty darn often, that's special, right? That's such a privilege! That's such a beautiful thing! So, you know, I love this. Let me put it this way, I love the sound of people talking about math. It can be my voice; [it] can be my student’s voice. It can be a collective voice. You know, I love that sound. It's a beautiful sound.

JASON LAGAPA: Yeah, that's great. Yeah, I think I appreciate the clarification on that answer about your voice. Because it makes a lot of sense: it's not just the frequency, the sort of decibel, [or timbre]. It's not just the sound of your voice. You're right that there's something behind that, which is the idea of enthusiasm, and it's wedded to voice, and I think you're right that you can't have that that love [of] teaching without loving your subject matter and importantly, as you said, one should be able to share that with others.

Kelly, it seems like you might have something that you want to say to jump in on this idea. Yes?

KELLY SEARS: Well, I think Eric, that's all so beautiful. I wanted to respond to the people who don't love their voice, which might have been me, you know, not when I started teaching, not the first class. Not the first year, not the first three years, but you know, I was terrified. And I think I didn't understand what I was doing, and I did not have the confidence. I was even - I was terrible at public speaking, which is a huge part of teaching, and I kept having these doubts, like maybe I shouldn't be a teacher, you know, maybe I should not be in front of an audience. I just started changing these terms and for people who are graduate students who are just starting out. It was really helpful as I was just going through this year after year, with no training and figuring out who - there is an idea of what I thought a professor should be, and it took me years and years to figure out what is the professor I need to be, which instead of the one I should be or had this vision of and so for anyone who was just listening with that, that I do love my voice in the classroom because it's not just me talking. 

It's actually how a class or course is structured and I really had to think about each class and I'm doing it now. My planning is going glacially because, due to scheduling, I'm going to pretty much be on Zoom this semester and just thinking about what is every two hour block going to look like, and where do I need to come in and then where do I need the students to come in? And once I started mapping things out in two-hour increments instead of semester- long increments. It became so much more manageable to identify what I needed to have happen over the course of a semester or reverse engineer that: what do I need to have happen over the course of the semester? And then start to break it down into these bites that you know you can really organize two hours in terms of what part is going to be lecture, what part is going to be discussion? How do you set up discussion, so it's successful? How do you even break it down more? So, it was a long road to get here. I mean, if I started teaching. I started TA-ing - teaching, I guess, you know, it’s considered TA-ing, but I was teaching in graduate school, starting in 2002, and so it's almost 20 years and it took me a long time with no mentorship. It's incredible how much mentorship institutions now provide and actually look!: a little plug for the Center for Teaching and Learning’s website. I looked at the resources for in class activities and breakout rooms and those would have been tools that would have been so helpful in terms of how to figure out where my voice comes into the class.

JASON LAGAPA: Just to follow up on that, Kelly. How did you persist if those first two or three years even were a somewhat frightening experience or scary experience being in the classroom until you found your voice? How did you persist?

KELLY SEARS: I think similar to Eric - I loved [teaching]. It was terrifying and exhilarating, and I identified that this was something that I wanted to get better at - I have a lot of insecurity, I have a lot of anxiety, but I want to overcome that. And so, over years of not only teaching, but being in part of my field giving lectures, being at festivals and speaking about my work, moving up to doing job interviews. It was a lot of practice to get to where I wasn't terrified in front of an audience, but I also think the classrooms, a very specific audience. It was just so rewarding to see
a student get excited about a film and say, “I would like to make something like that.” Or getting excited about an idea and figure out what are the ways to enable that to be made, seeing students work together. That part was all really rewarding. So, it mitigated a lot of the fear that I was coming to class with and hopefully hiding from students

JASON LAGAPA: Yeah, I think maybe that both of you have touched on something that's often overlooked with teaching. Of course, teachers are there for students; professors are there for students, but the interactivity is so dynamic and so rewarding that even it can power you through difficult times. It can power you through maybe some moments of doubt even and so that dynamic is a really powerful when released and is transformative, not just for students, but for professors as well. 

Eric, I was going to ask you, after Kelly's very generous and nice plug of the Center for Teaching and Learning, if you had to do it over again, would you rather have had some advice, some more practical mentoring and active mentoring? It is hard, maybe, to look in hindsight, and really think what would be better, but you certainly survived. What would it have been like had you received a bit more guidance as you were just starting out?

ERIC STADE: Yeah, I would have loved to have all those things, and I'll give my own plug. I mean, I think one thing that CTL provides that I wish I had had besides the practical advice and “nuts and bolts” and all that is a real sense of community of teachers, and you know, I never felt I had that, hardly ever, I guess. Certainly, as a graduate student or as a postdoc, maybe more, so when I got to CU, but even then, and again, you know, this is my 30th year here. So, this was back in 1990, there wasn't a lot [of support]. There wasn't a lot of practical advice, but there certainly wasn't a lot of community. It's really nice that that CTL cultivates that and gives more of a community. I'm trying to think of the right words from this, but the sense that teaching is not just a job, but a profession, you know. We talk about this a lot in K [through] 12 [grades,] but I think we need to talk about it in in higher education as well: the community of teachers and learners. I think that's essential towards job satisfaction, towards developing, towards not burning out, let's say. The sense of community that CTL provides I think is just as important as the nuts and bolts to me, but the nuts and bolts are great too. Yeah, I think that's all very valuable. 

JASON LAGAPA: You also implied, too, that teaching can be a calling, and maybe my first questions about how you got drawn to teaching are also [a way of] understanding that, but
you're right about the community. And it's nice to hear you say that about the center, providing that space. And I think that is something that we’ll try to do as much as we can on the graduate level and also on the tenured and tenure-track level as well. 

Eric, you talked about community, and we're in a pandemic that is maybe bringing a lot of anxiety and a sense of [uncomfortable] solitude. So, my transition to my pandemic question is this: Have you thought - having taught in one semester interrupted by a global pandemic and also prepared for the upcoming semester, - have you discovered a new way to go about what you've done in the past? What room is there for innovation or experimentation under the present COVID-19 precautions?

ERIC STADE: Wow. Yeah. Well, we, we had to learn how to teach remotely by force in March with very little lead up time, and I think, to be honest, I think we all really impressed ourselves and each other with how well we did that, when you think about what it what a shock to the system that was. But, you know, and then you compare that to the to the outcomes, which I think we're pretty good, if not perfect. I think we did a great job. And I think that's encouraging to all of us. I know it's encouraging to me as I plan for. I mean, I do intend to teach in person. But, you know, it's going to be different. And it may only last a few weeks, right? And at any rate, we're all going remote after Thanksgiving break so even though I intend to teach in person, I'm going to have to be much more up to snuff on my remote teaching strategies and protocols, as we all will. I think we learned a lot about ourselves and about how we're up to the task, and I think some of us, I can certainly say this about myself, have actually become excited about some of the opportunities and the potential for remote learning. 

I'm just to give an example: It turns out that I teach a class in Calculus for Life Sciences and one of the main topics we discussed is the spread of disease. So, you know, talk about a fortuitous [opportunity]. I do an activity at the beginning of the semester where I have students shake hands with each other. And this is a way that they get to know each other, but it also models, the spread of disease. So, each handshake is - counts as a sort of a day in the evolution. Each round of handshakes counts as a day in the evolution of a disease. Well, you know, all heck broke loose last March, and I was teaching a different course where I don't usually do this model. But I thought, well, since I normally teach this course that covers epidemiology, and since now I’m teaching a course that's covers related calculus topics, what an opportunity! Right? And so, what I learned, which I had to learn very quickly, was that you could use breakout rooms on Zoom - in Zoom - as handshakes, right? You just have breakout rooms of size two. And Zoom will do will randomize that for you and everything, and it turned out it worked, even better than doing it in person, you know, and that kind of made me realize that there's so much opportunity here. And it also made me realize that, you know, again, this is scary. And it's a whole new vista of teaching and learning. But, I mean, it's something all of us are able to do and something all of us maybe should embrace you know because it's probably here to stay in some form or another.

JASON LAGAPA: Yeah, I think your response, Eric, is so nice because it highlights the amount of innovation that goes into good teaching. Rarely do I think active and invested teachers stay the same. I think there's so much exploration, and I'm glad to use the word opportunity as well. I think amidst all the anxiety, one thing that gets overlooked is the possibility for introducing change to look at your own teaching from a different angle. I think that's so important to how we think about not only this present moment. But how our teaching can change and evolve over time.

Kelly, I'll ask you the same question. I think that you have, from what I know of you, and what you said in the past, that there have been some other things that you've done in response to teaching remotely and the COVID pandemic. What kind of things have you changed or altered in your approach now that we're living in these new circumstances?

KELLY SEARS: Well, I thought it would be done by this meeting and in my morning meetings, but I realized after a meeting on Zoom is that when I'm teaching I'm usually standing and moving around and [I thought,] “why? Why wouldn’t I try that [for Zoom]?” That's where I feel more comfortable. So, I've gotten a standing shelf unit and I'd have to drill the anchors into the wall because the worst thing that would happen is that it would fall over with a computer on top of it. So, let's secure that. 

I'm going to try to that teaching this the semester: on the first day [I] really asked my students: “Are you really in your body, in your mind, if you're sitting on your bed or sitting at your kitchen table?” “Is there a place that you can really actively think about in your living space where you can put a chair in the desk that that would be a place where you can focus? And I came off of an hour and a half Zoom meeting the second before this started, and I was like, “Oh God, I just been sitting, and I drank too much coffee and I need a minute just to walk around.” So, I think after every hour a mandatory “turn-your-cameras-off” and stretch, come back on because I think Zoom fatigue. I, I feel it. They definitely feel it. So how do I have not my students just like zoning out after an hour “bite.” We can all do that! A two hour “bite”? -  I'm fatigued by the end of that! 

At the end of last semester, I asked my students, “what was successful in some of your other classes that I did not, you know, that would have worked in this class?” And I had students really pushing the idea of breakout rooms. I hadn't used any breakout rooms. We had done this kind of really “ping-ponging” back between conversations on canvas and conversations in the room. So that's something I'm looking into to modify how I went about this, and I feel like I'll actually be dropping into the Open Office Hours on Friday [at the CTL], because I would love to hear some suggestions, but I've been really just working on ways like, “don't just put them in a breakout room with a question.” Maybe give them some frameworks to work through those questions and the idea of questions is how I'm running the whole semester, you know, where someone's going to come with an idea and we're going to ask questions about it, and the filmmaker is going to answer those questions, as a way for you know you to be digging deeper at what's at the core of what you want to do instead of it being a prescriptive model of what you should do.

JASON LAGAPA: Yeah, I love that idea of questioning being the thematic for the semester, I think that's such a nice way to introduce inquiry into the semester. And it seems like that is our present moment as well. How do we get through this situation that we're in?

We're closing in on the end of our time. I wanted to ask a couple more questions and the last one I'll ask is a bit more open ended. And it might be even a little bit vague, but we'll see where our minds take us, and it might be a good thing. 

Kelly I’ll ask you first. What do you think gets overlooked when it comes to teaching? I mean that in the broadest sense, whether from what other people looking in on the profession of teaching might think, or maybe students what gets overlooked or maybe fellow teachers. What do you think is overlooked? And so, again, it's a vague enough question, hopefully to prompt something good. 

What do you think it's overlooked when it comes to teaching?

KELLY SEARS: I think for the students, you know, really thinking about how we're going forward. We've been sending out - we don't only have Zoom fatigue, [but] we have information fatigue. I think from the amount of emails from the university, [and] we've been sending out surveys, just to understand what resources.

Our mail is coming and our dog is barking. Josie. [Josie barks]. This happens every day! [To Josie]. You know it happens!

JASON LAGAPA: I think Josie just wants to be part of the podcast!

KELLY SEARS: That's right! Josie has made appearances. My husband also teaches for CU so Josie has joined both of our classes and the students like love to see that their professor has a dog, you know, and then they hold up their pets, too. 

And it's kind of nice, but just understanding that there's not one - that there needs to be flexibility because our students are coming from such different places and, like, how do you build a trajectory that all of them can plug into but in terms of a teacher, and this is something that I've been thinking about is especially just feeling, you know, going through - I just put my tenure portfolio in in May, and taking a step back and wondering if I'm having fun teaching. And I think that that is really important. [I’ll ask]: “am I thriving? Am I growing, am I excited?” - And those are the questions I had in mind this semester to design this class. Like, how can I be growing as a teacher, instead of just like taking on the tasks? And the term job versus - Professional calling came up earlier, and now that I can like, take a breath now that all that's in, I really want to expand, [asking myself] how to enhance the enrichment and the thrill for me? And I think that prioritizing that while designing the courses is something I'm hoping to do this year. And that does not get enough attention: we should be thrilled, you know, when we're in the room each day, and it should be exciting for us to be in there. And that is, I think, with all the pandemic anxiety that's gotten overshadowed a lot which is: how do you maintain what you're doing? It's like, how can we actually radically shift, what we're doing to use the circumstances to make this really engaging for everyone?

JASON LAGAPA: Really like that idea: find growth with fun! Some people don't make that association, but I think it's a very important one, and it's nice to hear that that's guiding your teaching and guiding your perspective on the upcoming semester. 

Eric. It's a vague question, but what do you think gets overlooked about teaching?

ERIC STADE: Yeah, I should probably just say every time you asked me a question I should just say: “what Kelly said” - because one of the things in particular that Kelly just mentioned really, really resonates with me and that's the fact that students are coming at their classes, their subjects from so many different places, and I think that does get overlooked, and I'm actually really glad you asked me this question because I wanted to somehow work in today a quote by Peter March, who's the Dean of Rutgers University and is in fact a mathematician. 

Now I'm going to misquote him, but I think I'm getting the gist of it. He said something to the effect of “mathematicians love math, and they want others to love math, too, but some people need a different hook into it.” We're not all - I truly believe that just about everyone can love math, but they have to be - they have to be drawn to it from a different perspective. And I'm always looking for that hook. One of the things I mentioned [that] I teach this Calculus for Life Sciences course and it starts out with I guess what you'd call an application, which is application to epidemiology, but I mean, there's - I have a not so hidden agenda, which is to get the students to just love the math itself. And there's nothing wrong with doing that through means of a very practical application. There's never – [or] nothing wrong with doing that through whatever means are necessary, um. You know, people talk a lot about the connection between art and math. You know, you can you can get people interested in math, who might not be otherwise interested in it. Through appealing to their artistic sensibilities. Mathematics is a creative subject. Many people might not know that. You can get people interested in mathematics, if you appeal to their creative side. So, I think what's often overlooked is that: Yes, there may be very, very different avenues that you have to lead people down to get them interested in math. But the ultimate goal I to me. We're all headed to the same place, which is to just love this subject itself. So, I think that's one thing that's often overlooked that plurality of or plethora of different ways of getting enthusiastic about math that we have to be aware of.

JASON LAGAPA: That's a great note to end on. Eric, Kelly: Thank you so much for the conversation. I know that I've enjoyed it. I know that there are going to be other people listening and reading your thoughts about teaching, and just really enjoying as well: what you have to say. So, thank you so much for joining the podcast today.

KELLY SEARS: Thank you for having us, Jason. 

ERIC STADE: Thanks, Jason. It's been fun. Good to meet you, Kelly.

KELLY SEARS: Nice to meet you, Eric. Good luck with the semester.

ERIC STADE: Yeah, you too. Thanks.

KELLY SEARS: Thank you.