# Dan Garcia's First Discussion Section Thoughts

## Overview

This is a letter I wrote to my advisor
after teaching my very first discussion section, 9/5/92. It was
through this experience, and others like these, that I been convinced
that teaching is my true calling. The course I was teaching
was Computer Graphics (cs184) at the University of
California at Berkeley.
## Letter to my advisor, 9/5/92

Hi.

I am so bubbling with this that I just had to tell you.

On Friday at 4pm I began my first discussion section *ever*, which was
scheduled to run until 5pm. It was optional, and the students were supposed to
bring questions from the first homework so that I could help them with it.
Well, 5 people showed up, and I had them sit in the front so the class
wouldn't seem so empty. I proceeded to give them hints about the homework, how
to approach the questions, and the like. I ran a bit late -- 15 minutes past the
official end of class. So, at 5:15pm (on a Friday, mind you) I announced that
the class was 'officially' over and that anyone who wanted to leave could if
they wished.

Nobody moved.

I began to segue into fractals and fractal geometry and how that related to
computer graphics. Most of them didn't know a lot about fractals, so I
basically gave a short history of them, taking most of the information from
two lectures that Dr. Benoit Mandelbrot had given in the Spring. I
interjected little snippets about my early MIT scheme course in which we wrote
a fractal generator for our first assignment. I looked at my watch just to get
a sense of how late I was running.

It was 6pm. I had been teaching for 2 hours.

I was having a *blast*, and didn't want to stop. I very easily could have
ended class then, but I was really feeling a connection and they appeared to
be having as much fun as I was. I continued to discuss fractals and why they
were so cool and how simple they were. I mentioned Sierpinski's triangle and
we talked about why it's impossible to find an absolute perimeter of England.
They would ask questions; I would ask questions; it was totally fun. I looked
at my watch, to get a sense of when I should begin wrapping things up.

It was 6:45.

I spent 10 minutes summarizing and then thanked the class. I'd had a great
time. I figured they'd walk away and get something to eat. Not a chance.

They *all* came to the board and continued to ask questions for another 20 minutes.

I arrived home, exhilarated but truly exhausted after teaching for 3 1/2
hours. After dinner I realized that this had been an almost spiritual
experience, one of those rare times when the students' and teacher's interests
are perfectly aligned. I intend to remember that day for the rest of my life.

I cannot wait until next Friday.

Dan Garcia

Saturday afternoon, 9/5/92

WWW Maven: Dan Garcia (ddgarcia@cs.berkeley.edu) Send me feedback