Adventures in Teaching…

This post is dedicated to the misadventures of being a TA.  My most recent stories of the most obnoxious kid I’ve ever taught were getting ridiculous so, after Chris’s prompting, I’m going to include some of his gems here.

I’ll set up the context for ObnoxiousKid first. The guy is loud, he has befriended the other super loud guy in my class who we will call JovialFriend.  Not the jock type of obnoxious, and very much not self-aware. The others in the class roll their eyes when he opens his mouth because 90% of the time whatever comes out is deserving of the group eye roll. He misuses words in the style of Michael Scott from The Office100% without realizing it’s wrong.  You’ll still like him somewhat despite all that, I guess also like Michael Scott, but that doesn’t change the fact that he can make getting work done very difficult.

My tactic for beginning lecture if I say “okay we are going to get started” and students are still chattering away is to just start the lecture and, as the people in the front quiet down, everyone else realizes the background noise is dominated by my voice and gets quiet. Sure I’m only delivering information they care little if anything about, but this has always worked for me until ObnoxiousKid.  I was talking for at least 15 seconds while he was still shooting the breeze talking about something on television to JovialFriend, who was adamantly not responding, before I said “OH MY GOD, COULD YOU PLEASE STOP TALKING, HOLY CRAP!”  The room erupted in laughter as ObnoxiousKid turned the color of the earthy hematite before him.

Nothing holds back ObnoxiousKid for long though, so naturally the lab midterm came and he told me he didn’t like one of my questions, leading to the following exchange:

Me: “What problem did you have with that question?”
ObnoxiousKid: “Oh…I didn’t mean to offend you, I just don’t think that one is a very good question.”
Me: “No one else seems to share that sentiment with you. Is it possible that your judgement of good and bad questions might be impaired by your not paying attention to half the things I said so far in this course?”
ObnoxiousKid: “haha yeah that’s probably why.  I’ll pay better attention after this.”

But alas, ObnoxiousKid has only limited capacity for paying attention, including the world outside academia.  For example, one day when I was trying to figure out who was absent:

JovialFriend: oh Scruffy isn’t here
ObnoxiousKid: who is that?
me: the other guy who you talk to all the time while I’m trying to lecture
ObnoxioiusKid: no clue who that is
JovialFriend: he did like every lab with us
ObnoxiousKid: oh that guy, well I have no idea his name, I don’t need to know his name

3 minutes later, after I have started talking about coastal processes and put up a satellite picture of the Galveston Bay…

JovialFriend: Wait, that looks like Houston
me: That’s because it is Houston–there at the top of the bay.  This is Galveston Island and this is the Bolivar Peninsula
JovialFriend: whoa, I had no idea Galveston was an island
ObnoxiousKid: wow, that’s really bad, how could you not know that?
me: this from the guy who said he didn’t need to know someone’s name he has been talking to every day for the last month?!
JovialFriend: yeah dude, how could you do that to Scruffy?
me: chill out there, JovialDude, I didn’t say it was okay to not know Galveston is an island either

The time came for learning though, and ObnoxiousKid tried to feign interest when I taught them about groundwater since it’s what I know the most about

ObnoxiousKid: So if there is subsistence, does it go back if they stop using water?
me: no, and the word is subsidence
ObnoxiousKid: right okay…so if they quit draining out the water, then will the subsistence come back or just go away?
me: the word is subSIDence…with a D…subsistence is a type of farming

If I were a bit more southern, that would be the point at which I’d give a resounding “bless his heart” before going on.  I think that’s enough though.  And I’m now done TAing…for good! What a way to go.

I’ve done the unthinkable…

…and gotten a Twitter account.  I know, I’ve said it was ridiculous and self-indulgent and emboldened narcissism, but I had the best of intentions.  You see, with all the chaos following Wendy Davis’s inspiring defense of women’s reproductive rights the other night (more on that another time), I was getting antsy trying to figure out if the facts (the session was indeed over when a partial vote was called) were going to make any difference after all of the other shady politicking that had gone on.  I tried searching on Twitter, but that was a bit difficult to maneuver without having an account.  It still is for me.  I’m a 26 year old who can’t use basic social media That shit is not intuitive.

So I bit the bullet and signed up for an account. As predicted, the first people it told me to follow were celebrities like Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears. But after adding the feeds of more substantive members of society, my faith in humanity was somewhat restored and I sent my first 140 character thought out into the twittersphere.  For the record, the president’s twitter feed is run by his campaign team, who appear to be a bunch of 13 year old girls:

Might want to rethink terms like “epic selfie.” Anyway, if you feel like following me I’m @literallylinds.  I won’t pretend that I expect to post things often, but I promise not to use the space on your feed to tell you I like cookies either, so at least there’s something to rejoice about right?

Filibuster City

Wendy Davis is kicking ass.

Austin tends to be home to lots of non-Texans who move here for its undeniable “cool factor” and thriving economy.  A lot of my acquaintances who fall under this category tend to look on the rest of my beloved Texas as a sea of ignorance.  As a young and progressive woman, I’ve been on the wrong side of the whole “good ol’ boy” thing too many times, but my state is so much more than that. Regardless of politics, Texans exemplify strength and tenacity, and Wendy Davis is the embodiment of both as she filibusters this bill.

Go her–I will never understand how the people who think merely registering their guns is an infringement on the second amendment can also think it’s okay to ACTUALLY infringe on the rights of other people to get married or make decisions about their own baby-growing organs.

Cubiclemia: a morale-sapping disease I’m happy to not suffer from chronically

Possibly my favorite thing about studying the earth (and there are a lot of things) is that it generally involves studying the earth. By this I mean “going outside and looking at nature, or at what humans are doing to fuck up nature.” Even when this involves bugs or snakes, obscene Texas heat, and/or rain, there’s a common saying that “the worst day in the field pretty much beats the best day in the office.”  After having a bout of chiggers and my fill of the heat the last couple of weeks, and spotting a tick crawling across the collar on one of my compatriots’ shirts just a couple of days ago, I was foolishly thinking that having a whole Friday in the office for processing all that collected data might be a nice break.

WRONG…enter Cubliclemia (yeah, I’m aware there is probably a real name for this, but I don’t think it sounds as ominous and therefore adequate as this does).  Holy. Crap.  I cannot imagine having a job where I ocupied a cubicle 40 hours a week.  8 hours in one day was too much for me.  When I’m teaching I get to walk around and help students, and when I’m working on my own research I get to break up the monotony of data entry and analysis with setting up lab experiments or shooting the shit with other grad students, unfettered by predefined “working hours.” But it was actually painful. The noise level that cannot be dampened without real walls made it distracting to work without headphones, which squished my ears too much to be comfortable any longer by lunch time. My back could not really handle sitting any longer, even after some desk yoga.  I had to stack binders to raise up my keyboard and mouse enough to be able to stand (see Instagram).  Now I know…if you work on a roof in Texas in the summer you feel no sympathy for me, nor should you in all likelihood.  That is a different beast entirely.

None of this is to say anything negative about my employer, who is awesome and has made my first  few weeks a great experience.  And my day wasn’t even really “bad” so much as a watered-down (this office is super low key in that I get to wear what I want and most of the other people there share my desire to be in the field) peek into cubicle work. But if you compare this whole “sitting most of the day under artificial light” thing to the entirety of human evolution, pretty much the only perk we are getting here is climate control while losing much more.  So, some simple lessons from my brief glimpse into the life of a cubicled office worker: 1–studying the earth is awesome, 2–cubicles are not, 3–some offices are worlds better than others (my day at a desk may have been unbearable if I was forced to wear business attire instead of my shorts and Chacos), 4–beer with friends can alleviate truth #2 even if truths 1 and 3 couldn’t do it all on their own.

Inaugural Post

I can only hope if you are reading this that, like me, you are procrastinating from something else you should be doing with your time.  I’m not sure what corner of my brain directed me to over commit my summer to teaching a lab (mostly to kids who couldn’t care less about geology…although maybe they could since they did choose it over another science credit: alarming), working at an internship with the city (easily the most enjoyable), and finishing my Master’s thesis (soul-crushing obligation I’m in too deep to shirk). The time I’m currently wasting has been allotted for the thesis, but obviously it is what is suffering in my summer trifecta of busy-ness since it is the most important.  And what am I doing instead?  Focusing intently on fonts for my as-yet unread blog and HTML coding that I’m sure the nearest high schooler understands better than me.

But I am determined to produce something other than just changing the fonts (seriously….harder than I thought it would be!), so I will offer the inspiration for my blog’s name:

I’m a grammar-nazi.  And although the recent trendy hyperbolic use of “literally” by the masses isn’t exactly a grammatical issue, it has the same power to lower my faith in humanity as mixups of there/their/they’re.  Except when Chris Traeger uses it…he’s just so damn happy I can’t be mad.  So…remember: 

Photo credit snorgtees.com