graduate · work

Respect for teachers

It’s that time of year again.
High school biology students are flocking to my department while us poor grad students are trying to teach them how to use a pipette, do Mendelian genetics with flies, and answer pretty silly questions. This year I’ve signed up for more than usual to help pay for my conference trip. After today, I’m not sure I’m going to make it…

It’s just as well that the most dangerous thing the students are exposed to is ethidium bromide (a carcinogen), which they don’t even come into close contact with. With their gloves on the students will touch their hair, phones and cameras. Once their gloves are off, they continue to play with the pipettes. Dude, you just handled those with gloves – doesn’t that give you some sort of hint?

I don’t mind students struggling with genotypes and punnet squares. I’ve never had difficulty with them but I understand that some people find them difficult to grasp. A physics teacher would certainly have a hard time explaining physics stuff to me.And I seem capable – for most students, at least – of explaining it so that they do understand without me just giving them the answer.

Today I met my limits.
There is a lot to cover in 2 hours so I run my students at a fairly fast pace. I’ve got it timed quite well so that they can collect all the data and answer most of the questions (the fast students even make it to the extension questions). But I had a pair that took so long looking at their flies that I had to hold them back during the break to get the practical part done. I had to pretty much ignore the rest of the bench while I walked each one through the questions. Even with me giving them the answer, they still wrote the wrong things.

Then one of them added some numbers into a table but did  cm instead of mm (which was asked for). I know I was being anal and should have just moved on but I know that I haven’t received full marks for questions because I didn’t read the it correctly and did not give what was asked for.
I told the student that she had put in the wrong units and she pulled out her calculator. A calculator. To convert cm to mm. That’s like being unable to work out 8 x 10. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp. Just move the decimal by one place.
I grabbed a ruler and tried to explain mm/cm but she wouldn’t listen and told me that she used a different ruler. Yeah…my ruler is clearly a magical ruler with magical measurements…
I couldn’t keep my frustration out of my voice. She said “why are you yelling? You should be trying to help me!” Because clearly I wasn’t trying to help her with my ruler. I just really love rulers and wanted to share the love with her.

She ignored me the rest of the session and I left her friends to explain things that I had explained to them.
And that is why I’m not a teacher.

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