Ten years

On the 23rd of July 2008, I started my first day as coordinator of the Maths Learning Centre at the University of Adelaide. Today is the 23rd of July 2018 — the ten year anniversary of that first day. (Well, it was the 23rd of July when I started writing this post!)

So much has happened in that time. I have given hundreds of hours of revision seminars, I have written/drawn on tonnes of paper, and used miles of sticky tape and chalk in mathematical artwork, and I have talked individually to over ten thousand students. I can’t possibly distill it all into one blog post, but I can talk about why I believe I am meant to be in this job and still meant to be in this job.

When I went to the interview for the MLC coordinator position, I thought it would be a pretty cool job to have. At the interview, I had the epiphany that it was not just a cool job but it was in fact the perfect job for me, the job I really needed to have. Travelling home from the interview, the thought that I might possibly not get the job made me cry almost the whole train journey. I remember praying to God that I would find out soon. They called me that very night to say I had won the position!

I still believe that this is the job I was destined to have. In no other job could I have been able to indulge my dual interest in both university pure maths concepts and fundamental maths concepts you meet in primary school. In no other job could I simultaneously help students overcome their crippling fear of mathematics and (sometimes the same students) become research mathematicians. In no other job could I make mathematical art and play an actual legitimate part of my work. Admittedly, I may have made some of those things part of my job when they weren’t part of it before, but it was being here in this role at this university that has allowed me to do so.

There are parts of the job that are annoying — interminable meetings, lecturers who take my offer of support as an affront, constant requirements to convince the establishment that what I do is important, semesterly reminders that we just don’t have enough funding to provide the level of support I think is necessary — but overall it is a most wonderful and amazing job.

When I started ten years ago, I already knew the pleasure in helping students learn, but since then I have learned the even greater pleasure of letting students help me learn. I have barely scraped the surface of learning first hand about how people think about maths and how they learn maths, and I don’t think I never get to the end of the wonder of it.

Thank you to the other MLC lecturer Nicholas and all my casual tutors for coming along for this ride of teaching at the MLC, for listening to me as I talk through my crazy ideas and plans, and for pushing me to be a better teacher and leader. Thank you to all the other staff of the university that have worked so graciously with me, especially those nearest in the other student development and support roles. Thank you to my new colleagues I have met through Twitter, who make me better as a teacher and a mathematician in so many ways. Most of all thank you to my wonderful wife and daughters for always believing in me, and tolerating my mind ticking over on work things most of the time – I could never do this without your love and encouragement.

It’s been a wonderful ten years at the MLC. I hope the next decade is just as wonderful.

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