Thursday, September 23, 2010


I'm in the middle of my first wave of exams this semester. I'm hesitant to comment in any detail on the ones I've already taken because I haven't received all the grades back, but at this point I can say I'm more than a little frustrated with my performance. I still haven't gotten over my "B = bad" mentality, which makes me really nervous if I didn't even hit that standard. Maybe that's a good thing overall, but it certainly leads to some low self-esteem days.

At least I know I'm putting in some good work and I'm retaining a ton of (actually useful for my new career) knowledge, which is more than can be said for some of the other students I encounter. I think I mentioned that I picked up a job in the tutoring center on campus, where I tutor Human Anatomy... and little bit of Physiology if no one else is available. As part of that job I also run directed study sessions for the lab portion of anatomy. The first lecture exam for anatomy was last week and I was beset with anxious students, most of whom hadn't opened the text book.

One girl in particular was completely freaked out. She came into the tutor center asking for some help preparing for the exam. I said no problem and asked what she wanted to focus on. She replied that she needed help with everything. When I asked to see her notes and she had to rummage around in her bag and a couple different notebooks to find what she had, I began to fully grasp her anxiety about the upcoming test.

In addition to the texts, the professor provides tons of material to help students learn the material; the most useful is a list of open-ended questions that cover all the material for upcoming exam. A number of those questions are used verbatim on the exam itself (albeit as multiple-choice) -- so theoretically, just by going over this worksheet, you will know at least five of the exam questions. Needless to say, she hadn't even looked at it, so we spent about two hours trying to work our way through that.

Towards the end of our tutoring session, she wanted to know how I thought she'd do on the exam. I wanted to say, "You're screwed," but I thought that wasn't very inspirational.

Instead, I told her to do what she could on this test and not stress out about the outcome. The caveat to that was starting the day after the exam, she needed to completely change her study habits -- complete organized notes, all materials filled out even if they seem redundant (more than anything, I think redundancy is the key to learning anatomy) and regular attendance at tutoring or study sessions. With three more exams and a comprehensive final that can replace the lowest grade, there's no reason to fail (F fail, not Nick "B" fail).

I have no idea how her exam turned out or if she changed her study habits because she never showed up again. Maybe she'll be back the day before the next exam.

On the flipside of that, I have a bunch of students that come to every study session that I lead. The material is basically the same in each session, but they use that as time to consistently reinforce what they know and to get answers to what they don't remember. Smart folks.

Unrelated to my educational pursuits, we recently had some work done on the backyard in the form of a new patio. There was an interminable time (almost eight weeks!) where we were left with an enormous dirt pit right outside the back door. I don't exactly understand if that was the result of the heat wave preventing cement pouring or a disorganized contractor (why dig the hole during a heat wave if you know you won't be able to pour the cement until it cools off?), but I do know that only one member of the househould was happy with the hole:

It's all well and good now though; everything is done. The dude went out to check his refined domain the other day -- likely disappointed about the lack of dirt pit.

As you can see, we're a little short on patio furniture. The plan right now is to expand the current motif by picking up a couple blow-up pool rafts and scattering them around.