Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grade grousing...

I'm not the kind of person, or student, who is going to go grubbing for a grade. I suspect if I really don't understand why I scored poorly on something I'd go talk to the professor, and clear it up for myself. In general, I'm going to assume that my professors know more about the subject matter, and about, not only test-giving in general, but any content in particular usual pitfalls associated with it. Ideally, their exams will be designed with all of this in mind. In this realm my attitude remains like that of a major league pitcher: I may have lost some I think I should have won, but I eked out a few I really didn't expect, too. By the end of the season, er, semester, it probably comes out about right.

That being said, I'm not above complaining. Golly, no. And here's one where I'm not seeing both sides of the story, I'm siding squarely with the students. Here goes: if there's a question on an exam and, upon review, the prof says something like "Here's one that nobody seemed to get right," or "I wasn't expecting so many of you to miss this one," well, maybe there was a failure of communication before exam day. If, say, the same number of people got it wrong that should have gotten in right, maybe they followed some information or concept correctly to a conclusion, but it was bad intel to begin with. Maybe the folks who had NO idea and guessed, guessed wrong off of bad info, or no info, and onto the correct answer. Make sense? Just a thought.

For the record, I did fine on the exam, no need to raise a stink. Still, if a point here or there was going to make a difference in my final grade--or, you know, my overall sense of self-worth--I might reconsider.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Learning to learn about learning...

Besides geology, I am also finding that I'm learning a lot about my own learning style this time around. I've found that to feel comfortable with the subject matter, I have been asking myself (and quite often my professors) questions related to the subject at hand, but not necessarily related to the required material for the course.

I think this started because I realized, if I do someday succeed at becoming a science teacher, unless I teach the same exact courses that I'm taking now, I'll need to understand molecules, igneous rocks, plate tectonics, or whatever on their own, and not just how they fit in with one particular course's narrative. I want to cover all the bases, "build a fence around" the material, so to speak.

Then I realized that I was asking extra questions really to feel confident in my own knowledge of the material.  I'd like to know, for example, not just that magma plutons form, or even how, but also WHY. On the one hand, I am giving myself more work, digging deeper like this, but on the other, this way it's less about memorizing the shapes and names of random, otherwise unrelated things, and more about thinking through the systems and processes we're talking about. I have found that for me, a subject is actually easier to recall given a foundation of knowledge beneath it. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saunter for your lives...

I was going to mention the fire drill we had about a week ago, and then things got busy (two tests and two sick kids this week alone!) before I had a chance. So here goes:

First of all, I think all those false alarm fire drills we had as kids have really helped. They always say in the event of a fire not to panic, stay calm, and head for the exit in an orderly fashion. I can't say how orderly we all were, but there was no panic, that's for sure. Mostly just groans and sighs followed by a slow exit. I felt very safe.

Also, the groans of disbelief definitely had different timbres to them. For the professor, it was like, "Oy, I am never going to finish this material by the end of the week," and for my fellow students it was more like "Seriously, I have to get up? Hnnngh."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Location, location, location...

So far I haven't been interacting much with my fellow students. There haven't been any group projects or study groups, and in these large intro lecture classes, I suspect there won't be.

I usually sit in the front, so I don't get much of a chance to interact there either. In my 10AM class we enter from the back of the room, so there's not even really a chance to give a nod hello, or perhaps recognize someone for future reference around campus. Coupled with the fact that I'm getting to class at the last possible minute (especially the 8AMer, after feeding the kids breakfast and getting them as ready as I can for school/daycare), and I'm beginning to feel even a little bit more of a disconnect than I had expected. Not that I need to be hitting the social scene, but a little camaraderie would go a long way, at least towards making me seem less like weird-dude-that-sits-in-the-front-why-is-he-here. To myself at least.

Anyway, I still haven't gotten up my nerve to just plop down in the middle of class (displacing some other student like, say, an iceberg displaces seawater after breaking off a glacier), but I did change things up and sit in the back on Friday. Oooh, wild and crazy, I know. I didn't like it. Too far from the board, too many heads in the way. I may give it another chance next week in a different spot. Or I may resign myself to being creepy guy up front.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Floor plan...

After today's morning classes I got home just before lunch to hang out with our 4 year old for the afternoon. While I was gone, she and mommy had covered the family room floor, pretty much wall-to-wall with two couches worth of cushions. Upon my arrival, she explained that she had built a house for her dolls. Here was a bedroom. Here was the kitchen. She's the mom, the dolls are the two sisters, and the stuffed dog is the baby brother. There was a whole back story to what had happened in the morning, and why one doll was in the stroller and one was not, and what their plans were for the rest of the day. It was very involved, and I got filled in.

Of course, on first blush, what had I seen in all the cushions placed together on the floor?

Plate tectonics.

It's only been two weeks, but so far I'd say the science classes are working.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A new sensation...

In the middle of lab last week I had a moment of clarity, and it wasn't about the box of minerals we were studying. No, instead I realized, for the first time in a long time, possibly the first time ever, that I was in absolutely

no . . . . . rush . . . . . at. . . . all.

It was a wonderful feeling. I already had the time for the lab blocked out in my day. I wasn't expecting to leave early, or to be able to leave early. I was able to relax and just focus on the task at hand. It was great. And it wasn't like I had achieved some inner peace or anything. No, I still knew that when I left I had all the same chores to take care of, but I also knew that everything would be fine while I was in class. And as a corollary, an extra few minutes wasn't going to suddenly make life outside of class any less hectic. Trusting that the time I had set aside to attend class was indeed best spent attending class was very calming.

It was quite a revelation, one that I hope I can tap into during my other classes, and in other facets of life. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's on the test...

My 8AM professor, let's call him Professor Daltrey, made it clear last week that he has no interest in failing his students in this intro-level, science requirement-fulfilling class. Fair enough. So, for example, he tells the class early on that he will highlight on the board everything that will appear on a future exam (or more correctly he has pre-highlighted it in his Power Point slides).

How this played out in the first week of classes: the lecture would be rolling along, with some material highlighted and other material not, and every once in a while Professor Daltrey would go on a tangent and explain that he didn't expect us to know these dates or these exact figures or that this story wouldn't be on a future exam. At that point everybody in the class lets out a deep breath, leans back, and puts down their pen.

How it played out today, the first day of week 2: the lecture is rolling along with no highlighted material, and then a slide pops up with a highlighted word or phrase. At this point everybody, not yet paying attention, sits up, takes a deep breath, picks up their pen, and jots down an important concept or two, then  relaxes again.

Now, I'm going back to school to become a science teacher. So I actually don't care that much about the test, you see. I actually just want to know as much as I can about these subjects so that I feel somewhat qualified, if not yet to teach, then at least to proceed with the next steps of my education education, so to speak.

I don't know what future students are going to ask me. I don't know what lesson plans I'll want to put together. I don't even know yet parts of this subject matter will interest me the most. For now, until it seems prudent to do it otherwise, I'm trying to get as much info in as I can. So I hope my fellow students don't mind me asking a lot of questions.