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.