Biology Below The Gnat Line

Biy'allogy - (n) the scientific discipline otherwise known as biology, as taught below the Gnat Line. This blog is for educators who teach science in the deep south, where social and political conservatism reign supreme and "evolution" is a cuss word.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Study is Hard

Ashley L., BIOL 1107
Ashley's husband took this picture of her at 1:30am this morning. When woken, Ashley sleepily claimed, "I had to get closer to highlight..."

That's the textbook for my course underneath her head. She was preparing for my lecture on transcription and translation this morning.

If she wasn't already an excellent student, I'd totally give her an A just for sleeping in the "ready to highlight" position.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Registration Gives Me Nightmares

Back in the day, when we rode dinosaurs to school and turned in our homework on stone tablets, registering for classes was simple. We picked out our dream schedules, and then our back-up dream schedules, and then our reserve okay schedules ahead of time. We scoured the catalog and ran back and forth between rooms asking, "Which comp class are you taking?" trying to figure out who was the easiest professor and where our best friends would be and when was the latest we could possibly get up in the morning.

Those who majored in math were screwed, as our math professors tended to be early birds.

We took our schedules to the registrar's office and stood in line for ages to get into classes. The further back in line you were, the worse your schedule would be. Freshman registered last, and never got what they wanted. Upperclassmen registered first, and always knew what the best classes were. If a class was closed, you had to have a backup choice or be forced to the end of the line. I remember being sprawled out across the hallway floor in the dorm while my RA gave us tips on how to pick out classes. We had all the catalogs spread out, and we generated layers of eraser shavings as we changed and changed and changed our minds.

Some of my colleagues describe waiting in long lines for each class, only to be turned away once they got to the front. How frustrating! In any case, picking out classes and planning for the future was exciting, and the students practically buzzed with energy the closer it came to Registration Day. I remember discussing my classes with my adviser. I remember changing advisers. I remember changing majors. I remember asking the folks in the financial aid office if I could audit classes without paying for them because we could only take 18 credits. I remember enrolling in 17 credits and having 4 jobs (three on campus, one off-campus) and playing 2 sports (swimming and track) and still having time to be involved in Earth Club (hug a tree!) and Alpha Lambda Epsilon (Bear Well the Torch, my brothers and sisters!).

I'm an adviser. Students can register themselves electronically if they have over 30 credits. If they have less than that or are in a learning support class, they have to be registered by an adviser. I'm registering students right now who have no idea what classes they want, no idea how many they need to take, and no idea what is required by their major. They come into my office and they want to take the minimum number of credits to be considered full time but they don't want to be here at 8am and they don't want night classes and they don't want to come to campus every day and they don't want to take two "hard" classes at the same time.

They want Fitness Walking. They want Public Speaking. They want the guy who teaches College Algebra that everyone says is super easy and gives everyone an A. They want those classes to total 12 hours instead of 7 hours and they want them to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11am to 2pm but they want to be able to drive into town for lunch because our campus cafe isn't good enough. And they want me to put together a schedule for them that meets these criteria while they text their friends and chat on their cell phones.

That's when I throw them out of my office.

If your mother didn't teach you better than that, get out. If you can't be bothered to put a little effort into your own future, get out. If you don't know why you're in college, get out. If you're too stupid to understand that Weight Training and Introduction to Statistics are not interchangeable, get out. I'm not going to help you. Get out of my office.

I suspect I'm one of only a few people here on campus who throw people out of the office on a regular basis. I hear horror stories from my fellow faculty members about behavior inside and outside the classroom, and I think, "Why? Why would you put up with that?" Then it makes me nervous. I'm new here. What if I'm not supposed to be asking these students to be responsible and respectful? What if I'm supposed to baby them? What if I'm supposed to be a maternal figure? A mother hen?

As my own mother would say, "What the Hell is wrong with you?"

I was raised by one of the least sympathetic mothers of all time. And she raised one of the most histrionic children of all time. But that's irrelevant. These students are not my children. They are adults, and I'm sick and tired of people not treating them that way. I have high expectations of my students, and they can expect the same of me. They are young, that's true, but they've been waiting a long time to be treated like adults, so just do it already. Hold them accountable. Force them to be involved in their own education. And for heaven's sake, tell them the truth.

I advise a lot of nursing students, and a lot of them are not going to be nurses. Ever. I'm constantly stuck in a conversation that starts with, "Is there anyone else I can take for Anatomy and Physiology? Because I heard [insert ANYONE here] is too hard." Listen, these are introductory courses. If you're not getting it now, you're in trouble. They hate math, they're afraid of chemistry, they complain about lab assignments, but they want to be nurses. Who is telling you that nurses get paid big bucks to sit around all day? They're lying to you! Stop believing them! What do you WANT to do with your life? You don't know? Then take a lot of different courses and find out, or take a semester off and figure it out. It's your education. It's your life.

I understand that many of our students are under special circumstances. Many are first generation high school graduates. Many come from families where they don't have proper role models. Many have deficiencies in their core curricula because they were on the "wrong" track in high school. Many have learning disabilities. But that doesn't excuse them from taking responsibility for their education.

So until they get a clue, I'm going to keep throwing them out of my office. And hope I get tenure anyway.