one day in CS173 section

by mo on 12/10/2008

Yesterday was my last day as a TA (for the time being, at least). After two semesters teaching discrete math, I have to say the thing I will most miss (other than free whiteboard markers, of course) is having office hours, which have unreasonably fun this semester, mostly due to the size and regularity of the attending group. Teaching in front of a group is much higher risk and you end up feeling either really great or really terrible afterwards.

Anyway, yesterday’s class was an abnormal situation — normally I teach 17 students, but since the other TA who splits the section with me was out of town, I ended up having to teach the whole group of ~30 students. So class was going fine, we were about 25, 30 minutes in, talking about chromatic numbers of graphs, fun times… and then suddenly, this guy who I’ve never seen before walks into class. I don’t know all of the students I don’t normally teach, so I just assumed he was a latecomer who is normally in the other section. Except, this guy is totally and completely confused, and is like, “WAIT?! WHERE AM I?” Um… So we all informed him that he was in CS173 discussion. And then this apparently is even more confusing to him, and escalates to, “Wait, what time is it?? What DAY is it??”

At which point, I was pretty convinced that this kid was from the future. I mean, when else do people you’ve never seen before walk into the room and ask you where and WHEN it is? (And no, drugs were not involved here).

So we start asking, “what YEAR is it?”, “Who ARE you?….and WHY ARE YOU HERE??” and this guy continues to be completely perplexed and we’re totally not helping.

Eventually we concluded that he’s actually a CS173 student himself! So he sat down, and decided to roll with it, and learn with the everyone else (why not, a little extra discussion section never hurt anyone…)

So class continues… planar graphs, mappings, yadayadayada,… and about ten minutes later, when we’re in the middle of some problem, the guy exclaims, “I figured it out!” Like, his existential dilemma has been miraculously resolved! We all wait, expectantly, and he tells us that his previous class (linguistics) must have gotten out early and he didn’t realize it, so he accidentally arrived at CS173 about half an hour early. Things would surely become familiar in another fifteen minutes when the 2:00 section started and all of my students would be replaced by his classmates.

But really, I’ve never been so convinced I had just met a time traveler before. Maybe next time.