Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Penne alla Vodka (Page 217)

  • Date: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


After several dinners in a row of Smart Start and microwave popcorn, I figured tonight I would make myself some real food. There are very few simple pasta recipes left in The Book (I love pasta so much that I made them two years ago!), but this one calls for an awful lot of cream, so I hadn't been too tempted to make it. I am much less tempted by creamy things than by non-creamy things. I acknowledge -- it's weird. Anyway, I hadn't made this one yet, so I chose it for dinner tonight. This dish was excellent comfort food. There was nothing classy or refined about it. It actually came out with a mysteriously processed quality to it. If you had served it to me and told me that it came from some sort of boxed mix, I wouldn't have been at all surprised. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- I love mac and cheese from a box. And I enjoyed this dish too. I have never gotten aboard the penne alla vodka bandwagon before, but eating this I could understand why so many people like it. It is very comforting -- lots of alcohol, cream, butter, cheese and ham thrown together with a little tomato, onion, and some pasta -- it's obviously not going to be bad. I wouldn't serve this to company as there is nothing terribly exciting about it, but I might make it again for myself sometime. I served myself a small bowlful and then found myself eating more of it out of the pan ten minutes later. That's a good sign!

This recipe isn't online.

Until this semester, I never really understood why people always complain about teaching the low-level math classes. I enjoy teaching, and although most of my experience teaching has been with undergraduates at Stanford and MIT, it seemed to me that teaching more basic math classes would be equally rewarding. The thing I foolishly neglected to consider is that it is inherently less rewarding to teach students who don't want to learn whatever you are teaching them. I like my business calculus students -- the ones that I have gotten to know are very enjoyable. But they just do not want to learn calculus. They hate the class, and by extension they seem to hate me. That's a hard thing. I have never before been that teacher that the students really hate. And maybe I'm not right now -- it's hard to tell -- but it does seem clear that they aren't enthusiastic about listening to me talk about calculus.

Today I taught for someone who is out of town. He is teaching the class I taught last semester (second semester regular calculus, not the applied version). Last semester I loved teaching, and this semester I have been wondering if my lack of enthusiasm for my class really reflects it being a different experience, or rather just my own fatigue. Today, though, I realized that it really is a different experience. The regular calculus students paid attention. They wanted to understand what I was saying. They seemed perfectly happy to be in class.

It's a new teaching challenge for me -- how do you instill enthusiasm in students for a subject that they don't want to learn? I am, in general, a very enthusiastic teacher, but I just can't seem to force that to rub off on my class. Their performance on exams reflects this lack of enthusiasm... Maybe it just takes a few years of experience to figure out the right way to communicate to reluctant students! I'm sure I'll get better at it eventually...

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