Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Doomed. Doomed, I Tell You!

I've been facing a dilemma (two conflicting lemmas!) for the past few weeks, and I have finally resolved it, though I have resolved it in the direction of ultimate doom. Pray for my sanity, friends.

The dilemma is this. Last semester, I took the first semester of a two-semester logic & set theory course. I sort of hated it a lot in the middle, but I look back at it very fondly, and the stuff to be covered this coming semester is stuff that seems to come up a whole lot and that I really want to understand. I'm extremely tempted to take the second semester, and normally one does take both semesters of such a thing.

However! I took four courses last semester, and, though it was originally planned for me to take four this semester as well, the graduate advisor asked both me and the other fellowship recipient to only take three courses this semester. One of the courses I need to take is an Intro to Topology class. I think that class will be relatively easy ("relatively" being the key word here), and I'm not that excited about it, but I have never taken a topology class and I am planning to take the topology core sequence next year, and that just won't work. So: topology ho!

But I still want to take logic, and I don't know when the course will even be offered again. Also, though this may sound silly, all of my favorite people from my cohort are in that class. They are the brightest and (especially) the hardest-working of us, and being around them is really great for me.

I had decided in favor of topology - we must be practical, after all. But then Ed let me know that the logic professor is worried the second half of the class won't even make. So I changed my mind and have now signed up for both courses. This means I'll have four classes again, except that, unlike last semester, none of my courses will be a total blow-off like the pedagogy one was.

There are two reasons this should be possible, and one fairly compelling reason that it shouldn't be. First, other students routinely take three classes and have a TAship that is supposed to be half time. Many don't work 20 hours a week at their TAships, but some do work many hours. Second, I did not, objectively speaking, work all that many actual hours last semester. There is theoretically enough room for the extra hours topology will add to my life, without compromising time to eat, sleep, relax, and so on.

However, last semester there were at least a few weeks (perhaps the middle half of the semester) when I was really and truly stressed, basically walking around like a zombie and fantasizing about going back to my old job and having an easier life. The stress subsided near the end, partly (perhaps) because the analysis prof stopped assigning homework, but also partly (I feel) because I figured out how to chill out a little bit. I think maybe--maybe--I can make that skill carry over to this new semester.

The following things are clear:
  • It's possible for me to drop a class if I need to, but I would feel bad about how it would look (not on my transcript, but in terms of how the professor teaching the course would view me).
  • I'll need better time management; I need to get better at working early and often.
  • If I succeed at this, I'll feel really good about it.
  • If I succeed at this, I'll have learned some extra math that I'll be really happy and excited about.
  • If I succeed at this, it will have made me stronger.
So that's that.


Sally said...

If the future expectation for you is that you will take 3 courses plus a TAship (bec. IIRC your fellowship only covers this year), you will need to up your game. Whether you need to do so to the point of taking 4 courses, I don't know, but it does seem clear that future semesters will be more demanding than the one you just finished. Good luck with this!

Tam said...

Right, the fellowship is for this year only, so the game will need to be upped. Now, Ed spent last time on his TA duties last semester than on any one of his classes, he says (not counting the pedagogy one, I assume), but he had an unusually light set of TA duties.

Tam said...

Er, less time, not last time.

Sally said...

I'm looking at moving from 3 courses per semester in my MA program to 4 courses per semester in my PhD program, so I'm dealing with similar questions right now from another angle (wanting to take 3 but required to take 4).