Tuesday, March 24, 2015

At loose ends

* Science-fair judging is this week; Friday I cancel my one class and drive a bit north to do it. I enjoy this, but at the same time I also find it challenging, walking the line between giving the necessary feedback so people can improve and maybe crushing a nascent spirit. (Then again, I've seen one or two spirits in my teaching career that could have done with a little crushing - once in a while you run into someone who thinks they're all that and a bag of chips, and it turns out, they just don't have the skill or ability or work ethic to back it up)

* I also judged a virtual science fair for one of the scientific societies I belonged to. I was kind of dreading it because I thought it would be haaaaard (a couple of the presentations were Ph.D. students) but it wasn't so bad. One person didn't have theirs done and posted so, I don't know. I'll check back tomorrow but if it's not up tomorrow I won't have time to do it, even though they're giving us through Sunday. (A lot of times people don't have presentations ready; I've seen that at the in-person science fair. I try to be good about giving benefit of the doubt - maybe they had a family emergency - but I also wonder a bit when I see three or four that are no-shows. I have enough experience with people who get enthusiastic and then flake out to kind of think that's the case. Oh, I know I get enthusiastic and flake out on lots of stuff myself but it's all stuff for me - knitting projects, quilts, stuff like painting my sewing room - that don't directly affect my career.)

* I have to go out and do my fieldwork for this spring Saturday. The weather should be good so I'm kind of looking forward to getting out - it'll be warm, but not as warm as today (the wasps are already out today. I like bees, I like pollinators, but I dislike the aggressive "red wasp" type of wasp and the yellow jackets.) I do have to look into getting specimen cups - can probably check on that tomorrow.

* Apparently CNN showed a graphic of Richard III's reburial and had it (at least briefly) captioned "Richard LLL" Roman numerals, how do they work? Heh.

Though I will say - this may be something not covered in school any more; I knew someone who remarked that "I grew up in the 80s so I didn't have to learn that" with the implication that it wasn't that important.

I don't know. I come from a background where the attitude was, every time you have the opportunity to learn something, take it, because you never know where it will come in handy. While I don't use Roman numerals much in my day to day life, I think the "I didn't have to learn that" attitude is something we do see sometimes - the idea that not knowing something is something to be maybe even a little proud of. My general response to finding out I don't know something is embarrassment, followed by a quick look-up (in the library, in the old days, on the Internet, now) to quick teach myself it.

(And I teach a class called Principles of Biology I and there is a Principles II that is the second semester class - so at least there is a use of Roman numerals)

I don't know. I see this from time to time in students and others I interact with - not just a certain pride in not knowing some thing that I kind of took for granted "everyone" knew, but also a lack of curiosity that baffles me a little. I've done stuff like post links to online textbooks or to Powerpoint presentations of material other faculty have put on-line with the suggestion, "If you need further help, you can try here" or "If you want more in-depth information, you can find it here." Occasionally when I get someone coming in asking for help in a class, I ask if they've looked at the additional resources I suggest and I get a blank look in return.

Good golly, people! The internet is there, free, right in front of you. It's a banquet (of information), and most poor suckers are (figuratively) starving to death! I've learned almost everything I know about clay mineralogy by going through the Powerpoint presentations various geologists teaching a class in it have put up online.

(And yeah, yeah - I know, you have to be good at judging what's fact and what's crap. But that's a skill you can develop, like any other. And even just asking the question, "What are they trying to sell me?" can help there)

* One thing I am happy about in my life is how I was always encouraged (as a kid, especially) to read more and learn more and pay attention to stuff. And I am blessed with a frighteningly good memory, so stuff like movie quotations float up unbidden into my consciousness.

Actually, that was probably part of what made me "weird" as a kid - I could be a little disconnected from the immediate reality of "OMG Billy D. and Sarah S. are going out!*" or "Did you hear about Jenny taking a bunch of diet pills and having to get her stomach pumped?" I was kind of a little egghead and was out of touch....

(*Heh. "going out" in the seventh grade sense: they declared it to be so but otherwise were never seen together. Junior high was WEIRD and it was hard on a literal-minded kid like me, because I thought "going out" meant you went somewhere, out, together, like to a movie or something. But in junior high that was not it at all)

I also cried easily (I was intellectually mature but emotionally immature - an egghead who cried easily, therefore it was like having a flashing sign on my forehead saying THIS ONE IS FUN TO TEASE).

But would I trade the thirteen year old I was for a different sort? Would I give up what I was to be more popular, or more in tune with how the other kids were? I don't know. If it meant I was a different sort of a person as an adult - if it meant I was less compassionate or less able to tolerate solitude or less able to entertain myself with my own brain - no, I wouldn't, not to be the most popular girl in school.

* Sometimes I wonder if the lack-of-curiosity I see and complain about is partly a lack of motivation or volition and a desire to be told what needs to be done or known rather than figuring it out for oneself. Or in some cases, it's a "don't bother me with information" - I've known people who, presented with a one-page sheet of instructions, proceed to ignore it and then cack up whatever it was the instructions were for, because they didn't want to take the time to read them.

I don't know. I'm not a lazy or incurious person so I admit it's hard for me to have a great deal of sympathy for people who want to be.

* Oh, and even though I answered Roger's question in a comment, I'll go ahead and post it here:

I was taught to pronounce "gyro" sort of like "Hee-ro," only slightly aspirating (I think I said glottalizing, which is probably not correct) the "H" sound. Years and years ago, my dad's office was within easy walking distance of the Greek Orthodox church in that community. The Ladies' Aid group (not sure what it was called in Orthodoxy but that's kind of what it was) used to do Thursday gyro lunches - a gyro, a salad, a drink, and a Greek pastry, all for a pretty cheap price. The university people loved it and his office group often went there; I did a few times when I worked in his office in the summers.

Anyway, that's how they pronounced it.

Also - my dad, when he became president of the local Sigma Xi chapter - Sigma Xi is a scientific society - he went to the priest and asked the priest how to correctly pronounce the Greek motto, which would Latinise to something like "Spoudon Xynones" - which means "Companions in Zealous Research". I think the priest was tickled someone would come to him and ask that.

(Now I think of it - that little anecdote is just indicative of the attitude in my family: "Don't know something? Go and find out by either asking someone who will know or finding a book." And I've picked that up myself)

1 comment:

purlewe said...

I was talking about this with a friend yesterday.. this lack of either learning, or remembering, but I like how you called it a lack of curiosity. I remember stuff I learned in school. Even if it was a long long time ago. And if I don't remember exactly, I look it up. And it pains me when others just say :I don't know" or even worse, make things up b'c they don't know assuming no one will notice.