Thursday, November 29, 2007

The "Wednesday" of the lecture

The "Wednesday of the lecture" aka Doomsday

At 8:40am I crawled into the AT building, having only had four hours of sleep and very little breakfast. With me I had some milk for the refreshments, which I went and gave to DC. I was a zombie and DC even enquired about whether I was OK. I didn't say much (surprisingly) and rambled about nerves and lack of sleep. I was advised to take a nap - a nap!! In my zombie state I was also informed that the building was having water problems, but I didn't take much notice of this. I asked DC about the sound problem and was given directions to another person. Apologising before hand for missing the example class, I headed to G209 to practise. Unfortunately there was a lesson there so I went to the next empty class room. I practised for a bit and then followed the directions I had been given about the sound. Annoyingly I was directed elsewhere.

Now this is the weird part. In my weird state of mind, I sat down with my talk in wait of the person I had to see. The next thing you see is that I am down and out for the count! I wouldn't say that I had a nap, but after about 20 minutes my head shot up and I spotted the students in the example class. It was quite bizarre for I looked very startled and didn't know where I was for a minute. Thankfully only one person from the example class had seen me! I have never done that before - well not when I am not at home. (Rbt at the cafe had said he had seen my head flop like a fish, and thought that I had had a rough night!) As I try to recreate the zombie mood, let it be known that I was desperately waiting for my nerves to become excitement. I was waiting for the adrenaline to kick in the way it should.

DC is the staff coordinator of the group by the way (in case you were wondering)! I was mightily relieved when that decision had been made too. Anyway, I really did bug DC a lot on this day. On the way to the lecture I asked him if he could try to speak to the sounds guy, and if he could give me a paragraph about Galois Theory. I was worried that Dr. E would ask me a question to do with that! I was becoming more and more nervous, and another text book phrase was thrown at me - something about being here tomorrow... but I was also told that due to the water not being fixed the building could close DOWN! Rather perversely, relief didn't flood me but I became annoyed at this. I didn't want to go through this again and wanted it over with today!

Everything that could possibly go wrong before hand, was going wrong. The real analysis lecture was cool, but I had my excuse for snoring in it. I did pay attention but there were periods when my heart stopped beating and clenched into a fist: my mind was elsewhere. The same was true for the vector calculus lecture; I just couldn't concentrate.

At 12pm, with an hour to go, I walked back to the AT building talking to Dr. Ha. He was going to attend the lecture at 1:10pm, and we both discussed the art of talking fast! I had to force my lunch down, but tea helped. My mind was everywhere. Everyone was throwing different advice at me; people were telling me to relax! "You have got to be out of your mind," my heart replied. How can I relax, when I am walking to my demise?! The sound was still not working and DC told me that he hadn't spoken to CP. Instead he told to me to speak to Rb, which I did. Rb informed me that sound was not possible and I should have brought my own laptop. Despondently I informed DC of this, and he asked whether it was necessary. I did think it was, and so DC had a brainwave: ask Rb if I could borrow his laptop! The excitement was starting to appear now. After a heated debate: "You ask him." "No you ask him." "But you're staff and he'll listen to you." "It doesn't matter, just ask him and he will let you borrow it." "But...gah."

Yes, I had to ask Rb! But Rb is great and said that I could borrow his laptop. I was overjoyed at this and was to return at 1pm to take it.

Now another piece of advice which I had received was to spend the 20 minutes before the lecture, reading and rehearsing what I was going to say. So after the sound drama, I was back in an empty classroom rehearsing. The second half of the talk was still messed up! I had too much content, and kept on going over time and I became very nervous all of a sudden. (As I am typing this, my heart just clenched; remembering yesterday of course!) Having done my mock rehearsal I decided to accept the fact that it was too late to do anything about the second half. It was going to be messed up, and I had to live with that. The adrenaline was only half there, but 1pm signaled for me to get Rb's laptop.

Rb was in the staff common room, and so once again we have deja vu: "Please can you call Rb for me." "No, just go and remind him about the laptop." "But I can't go to the staff common room." "Just go and remind him - he will have forgotten." "But why can't you go, you are staff and you like walking!" "No, just ask him."

So much for DC being the staff coordinator!

I mustered the guts and managed to call Rb (and come out alive). He was great though, because he came down with me and set everything up in the room. But guess what?!!! PEOPLE WERE ALREADY SAT IN THE ROOM.... waiting. I lost it then and completely went crazy. Asking Rb to quickly press F5 when the power point had loaded, (I didn't want to spoil the first half of the lecture) I ran out of the room. My composure was going. I was panicking. My friends were concerned. I went back to G209 and Rb told me that he would come at 1:50pm to collect the laptop. I woodenly nodded and said I should be finished by then. Lecturers started entering the room and I didn't recognise a few. I couldn't run out again without reason and was relieved when Dr. Coleman entered with the milk! Taking the milk I ran out again, and gave it to Rbt. I can't really explain what I was going through, for it is not something I have ever experienced in my life before. This new feeling was strange and it was that of doom and dread.

Going back inside, all panicky, I noticed that Dr. Walker wasn't there and she was going to do the introductions. Hence I quickly decided to see if I could find her, giving me another excuse to escape the suffocating room. Outside I saw Dr. W walking towards G209. I was crouched against the wall, and my personal tutor had been stood next to me, reassuring me and telling me to go for it. Everyone was telling me that it will be fine and to calm down.

Like a boxer, I prepped myself up and entered the room for the final time to do my first ever lecture for 20 minutes. The audience consisted of lecturers, post grads and undergraduate (shockingly many second year students were present!) I wasn't scared of the audience. I wasn't scared of being in front of everyone. I wasn't even scared when during my introduction I had tried to escape, but couldn't. I was though, terrified that the second half of my lecture was going to be a total mess up. Yes - that was what had me nervous and on edge. Nothing but that and maybe it would have been a good thing if the building had closed and I had another day! Weird isn't it? I didn't mind my lecturers being there that much, but my own stupidity was causing me so much discomfort.

"... and thank you all for coming. Today I will firstly be giving you an account to the life of Galois. Then, rather perversely I will be giving another account to his life. "

So I began. Now I cannot give a recount of my lecture, for I was giving it! However, if anyone wants to write something about it (the way I wrote about Dr. Steele's, then you are most welcome to do so). Members of the audience did laugh which I take to be a good thing!

Because the first half of the lecture was my story, I was able to communicate it better. However, the second half was more factual and so I think I slightly messed the ordering up. As I first spoke, my voice actually shook and I could feel my heart shaking! That is the first time this has happened to me i.e. the shaking. I think in situations like that when you want the adrenaline to kick in, you always worry about there being too much of it. In my case I had an overflow of adrenaline. I think I didn't really put on a professional act, but behaved like "me", which did make me slightly calmer. (Although those who have never met or come across me before, probably thought I had gone mental.)

I am beating around the bush indeed, for my lecture seems like a blur now. A very clear blur, but I don't know what to write about it. During the lecture, the nice and friendly face in the audience had been my PT's. My friends, DC and PS had all sat at the back and to the left so I don't recall making eye contact with them (next time I will ask them to sit near the front!) Whenever I felt that I was looking at one person for too long, I quickly swept the room with a look. There were about 12 lecturers there (which I didn't know at the time!! :/ Unfortunately though, my eyes kept on diverting towards a lecturer at the front who had looked very bored indeed. What made it worse was that when I tried to look elsewhere, the first person I saw was a student on the left who was either yawning or who looked equally bored! This did make me think: "Damn, they are all getting bored." and maybe panic a little, but then my PT saved the day.

The first half went semi-smooth, but in the second half as expected I faced some problems. I realised that I was running out of time and slightly rushed things. And because I was rushing, I forget where I was at and repeated things (I feel). I stupidly didn't have a paper in my hand, and should have done so. At least then I could have been more calm and gone at my own pace, rather than the pace in my head.

When remembering proofs, one tries to learn the tricks so that the rest will follow. When rehearsing my lecture, I had certain key words which would trigger the next part. Some say that having said "an appademic of Cholera", I lost all my senses. Yes, after saying that stupid thing which didn't make sense I stopped before clicking the next slide and looked at the audience. Scratching my chin, I muttered "its not appademic: what's that word? Ah yes - epidemic of cholera!" That had people laughing, which was a relief for that meant the tomatoes stayed in everyones bags. So later when it then came to saying the word abdomen during my lecture, I had looked at my PT and checked with him whether I had said it correctly! (During the morning I had been discussing the pronunciation of the word abdomen with DC, which made me double check with my PT. It would help if I could spell the word!)

So because of this appademic, I forgot the key word that I needed for my conclusion. I skipped it and went to the next bit, only to slap my head in agony after realising this. Everyone was quiet. I stuttered and stumbled..."wait a minute, what is that word.... one minute." Everyone waited, and then bang I remembered it, and concluded my lecture. Not as composed as one would have liked, but I was just grateful for the word coming back to me. The final slide came as a welcome relief. [Apologies to the mathematician Noether, whose name I unfortunately didn't bother to pronounce, in case of mispronunciation. (But my PT told me the correct pronunciation later on so all is well.)]

My intention had been to talk about The Galois Group during my lecture, but after I had finished Galois' second account Dr. W sort of stood up and thanked me. So after this I then talked about The Galois Group. Now that is one thing that I don't need notes to talk about! I unfortunately did forget one more connecting word, but on this occasion it didn't matter. I think due to my excitement of having reached the end, I spoke rather fast during this time. Anyway, I just told everyone that I wanted this interaction between members of the department. I wanted a community to exist, and well, you have heard it all before!

I did try to embarrass DC (subtly, as he had semi-done embarrassed me during Dr. Steele's lecture!) but now DC won't be wasting his money on pesticides anymore. (They don't work I am afraid.) Dr. W told me to write my email address on the board, so that anyone wanting to volunteer for a student lecture could get in touch with me. As I wrote my email address, discussion happened in the audience. Arthur (my friend) narrated a funny discussion between two lecturers who I shall not name! (You can try guessing though).

Lecturer one: Ah, that is nice handwriting on the board.
Lecturer two: Yes, better than some of our colleagues.

Haha, that had me in tears for the obvious implication within that statement, especially since I was told who the lecturers were. (I think the blackboards were rather nice in that room).

And so concluded my first ever lecture, to an audience consisting of class mates, lecturers, friends and people who I didn't know! The twenty minutes flew, but I don't know whether or not I said this, but I have to agree with Dr. Coleman's statement about your first ever lecture being an exciting one indeed. I think the whole process, nerves included makes this so. And it is exciting because you feel eager to do more; well that seems to be the case at the moment!

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