Tag Archives: university

In Theory, I Hate This Class

Education only works if someone cares

Professor —–,

The following is a hypothetical situation, but I think you’ll find it helpful in understanding my performance in class and how we can work together for our mutual benefit.

Let’s say I’m taking a class, the purpose of which is to equip me with a certain skill. For this exercise, let’s call the class “Literary Analysis in Arabic.” This class, like any class, is built upon the relationships between the student, the professor, and the material. In order for the class to successfully equip me to analyze literature in Arabic, one of several scenarios must happen (combinations are also possible):

A) I enjoy the professor and want to excel in order to make her proud.

B) I am passionate about Arabic literature and as such am driven to do well for the love of the material alone.

C) I am a mindless slave to grades and would sacrifice everything in order to get an A, regardless of my relationship to the professor or the material.

However, in this theoretical class, something interesting has (theoretically) happened. Not only do I not enjoy the professor, but I am also not particularly interested in the material, which is made up primarily of reading novels in Arabic, an act that takes grotesque amounts of time. Indeed, in theory, I determined while sitting in the very first session of this theoretical class that my time was better spent elsewhere doing something I enjoy and find useful instead of honing this skill which will likely go unused in the future and wasn’t all that lucrative to begin with, personally and financially.

At this theoretical juncture, it is clear that I’m not motivated to excel by the material itself or the professor, who theoretically I find overbearing yet absent. The only thing left to compel me to do well in this hypothetical course would be the promise of a good grade, a letter on a scrap of future-trash that means nothing to the rest of the world and to me would only signify the hours I wasted earning a clearly meaningless letter. Actually, I have theoretically found grades irrelevant and am no longer motivated by them.

Indeed, the only reason I have to continue attending this theoretical class is the desire to avoid personal embarrassment complete withdrawal might cause in addition to administrative issues that are not related to the subject matter or professor. In short, my theoretical motto for this class is, “I’m here but not interested. Please do not disturb.”

For that reason, the lackluster professor should theoretically avoid doing things like assigning a surprise presentation and then adding with a flourish that it will be done, “for a grade,” because theoretically I would sense a challenge. “What if I just didn’t do it? What if I just sat here and stared? Will you fail me? FAIL ME ALREADY!”

So in theory we should avoid doing that. But there’s nothing to say this theoretical situation could be a positive experience, with each one left with less work to do and more time to do the things she loves. In theory, this could be the best of every world.

Thanks for taking the time to hypothesize with me, Professor —–. If you have any questions please let me know. See you in class tomorrow!

Photo Credit: Grant Cochrane at freedigitalphotos.net

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7 Indicators of a Great Start to the Semester

No pen=no doodle. 😦

1. You forget the pen you were sure you recalled and proceed to not record anything for the entire day except for when you borrow that one guy’s pencil. You even regret doing that because the lead is really light and a pain to write with but you remember that beggars can’t be choosers.

2. You spend a large amount of class time debating whether the classrooms feel most like a coffin, grave, cistern, or well. You decide that the grave motif resonates the most because of how you feel about the course itself and the room’s stark lack of natural light, but ultimately you throw out all your choices and settle on describing it as a morgue: stale and lifeless.

3. After staring at the wall for most of your first class, you rush downstairs when it ends to go to the bathroom/escape. Later on you see the teacher from that class who asks you whether anything is wrong. The prospect of taking classes for the next 4 months in the morgue makes you want to curl up and die but there’s nothing she can do so you keep your mouth shut.

4. On your way into the university, you look at the bottle of water you just purchased and wish it were whiskey. You close your eyes and wish for it to turn into whiskey. When you open them, it is still water, which you drink because you hope will cure your massive headache.

5. Having shivered most of the day, you exit your unheated classroom building and find that the air of the city in which you reside has been rendered brown and unbreathable from dust kicked up by the massive gusts of wind. This would make great stuff for a song about witches coming down chimneys, you think to  yourself.

6. The best part of the day was when you learned that your first class might be 15 minutes shorter than originally scheduled. The worst part of the day was when you had to sit through the entire hour and thirty minutes because they hadn’t decided on a time length yet.

7. You’re looking forward to the fact that the only girl’s bathroom is about a 1.5 minute walk away, which will be good for breaks from class over the next four months. If you time it right, you might be able to miss hours of class.

It’s going to be a wonderful semester!

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A Word Problem: Sleep, Hopelessness, or Success

206.26 words…and it’s all in Arabic.

A word problem:

It is 11:50 pm, and an Arabic student has 206.25 words that she must learn for a test that begins the next day at 8:30 am. In order to pass the test, the Arabic student must go through the entire list of words at least three times, weeding out one third of the words each time. In the first round of reviewing, she has gone through 33.33333% of the words in 3 hours.

Currently, she is at 60% wakefulness. This percentage drops by 8% for every 30 minutes of studying.  If at any point her wakefulness drops below 30%, she will need to take a 20 minute coffee break, followed by a nap of desperation and then a slapping fit upon awaking. This will take one hour, and will raise her wakefulness to 70%, but after recommencing her work, she will move at a pace that is 23% less efficient than her original speed. Furthermore, her wakefulness will deteriorate at a new rate of 16% per every 30 minutes of studying.

One minute in every 6 is lost to facebook and email checking. Every 4 hours there is something new on one of these sites, resulting in the loss of an additional 4 minutes. The student must also write one email, which will cost 24 minutes as and result in a 30% decrease in concentration. The equation for calculating efficiency is e=chilz, with c=concentration, h=hunger levels, i=interest level, l=location, and z=zoo location. The email will be written when wakefulness hits 43%, but will also raise wakefulness levels to 55%.

Her current level of hopelessness is at 20%, but this rises exponentially as she continues studying, at a rate of x to the (1.3h). If her hopelessness ever reaches 80%, she will instantly go to sleep. If she sees her bat friend, it will result in a temporary boost of wakefulness and a decrease of hopelessness levels at a flat rate of 5 and 8 percent, respectively.

Will the student finish studying? If so, how many hours of sleep will she get if she wakes up at 7 o’clock in order to enjoy the new brand of granola her roommate bought?

If not, will she be overcome by hopelessness or sleepiness? If she had to complete at least 80% of the original amount of work in order to make an A on the test, with each ten percentage points below that corresponding to a lower letter grade, what will she make on the test?

What are ways she could avoid having this happen to her again, if the words were given to her over the past two weeks at a rate of 20 words per day, and if she is has 7 hours of free time every day?

Choose the answer that is most correct:

a. What was the question again?

b. Get back to work.

c. Really, you should stop blogging and study for your test.

d. Why are you still blogging?

e. All of the above

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I Want to Open a Bakery in Egypt

This is almost incomprehensible. And it’s just the beginning.

We met three minutes ago and you just learned that I study Arabic. You don’t take the news well—your mind is reeling….why would she study Arabic? What is it about this language with its scribbly letters and random dots that has confused her so much that she wants to actually learn it?

You may not know this, but on the other side of the conversation I can see the thoughts swirling in your head and I know what you’re about to ask me. I can feel the question being formed in your mind as your lips, tongue, and chin prepare to pronounce the dreaded words. The sentence pours from your oral cavity in slow motion as my usual panic sets in.

“Why do you study Arabic?”

You might as well ask me why hippos seem friendlier than crocodiles despite their notorious aggression or why lotion doesn’t taste like yogurt even though it looks the same. You, my dear, blundering acquaintance have forced me to peer into the black abyss of my future post-Arabic fellowship and let me tell you this: I can see a darkness that no amount of graduate school could penetrate.

If you really must know, I’ve been studying Arabic since my senior year of high school because–and pay attention to this part—I liked it. Indeed, friend, I enjoyed the twisty letters and sounds that required new muscle growth. I didn’t even know that people wearing black suits and sunglasses would pay handsomely for my skillz.

But I smashed those sunglasses on the ground and threw white chalk on their coats. I was much too naïve for the men in black, and instead dreamed of working at an NGO in development work or something romantic like that where I could “help people.” On less romantic days, I entertained the thought of working in a think tank, of swimming in big wells of ideas and spending all my waking hours in front of a screen.

To my great relief, however, I found after only 2.5 months out of college that I have absolutely no interest in any of those careers. I won’t waste time describing the depths of my dread when I think about typing on a computer all day in a cage with people who start conversations with statements like, “So, President Obama has kind of an aggressive foreign policy.” Suffice it to say that I’m glad to be free of those business casual and business formal illusions.

But, you insist, what are you going to do with Arabic? I’ll be honest: anything I say will be a lie to myself and to you so let’s just leave the future as the black abyss it is and I’ll tell you about how I’ve always wanted to work at a bakery. If you can connect that to Arabic, be my guest and stop by for cookies, or should I say كوكيز?

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Purchasing and Eating a Sandwich

The time is 10:00 AM, EET. Class is over. I have 45 minutes before “education” begins again. I am hungry.

BOOM! This is me brushing past the security guards and striding down the street. My mind is one purpose. This is me and my stomach is growling, my sense of smell heightened at the expense of both sight and hearing. I am the closest I will ever be to being part of nature: I am the predator. I seek my prey.

The sun is merciless. Men in shirts with fake vests, middle school girls in fluffy white hijabs, middle school boys up to no good— I pass by them all, my mind interpreting their forms as big sandwiches. I come across all the usual obstacles— scalding patch of sand: crossed. Steaming pile of street trash: avoided. Slimy puddle: circumvented. Overheated puppies at the pet store: cooed at.

At last I arrive. I slide into the back of the small mob pressing against a shop no bigger than an Easy Bake Oven. I know this crowd: we sandwich mobbers all want the same thing and will do anything to get it. I edge in, my hackles and elbows raised. My ordering position seems quite poor. I languish in the back; I am in a forest of surrounding men; Arabic is not my first language; I prefer asking for things politely. All indicators point to failure.

However, these are only minor setbacks. I am still foreign, clueless, and girlish. My abject appearance incites pity amongst the lunching crowd. Other patrons ask me what I want or let me get in front of them, showing me where to stand in order to put my order in. Their pity is seasoning for my sandwich. It will salt my lunch.

Today, however, I catch Mr. Man’s eye from the back of the crowd, one lone Oklahoman in a haystack of Cairenes, and he knows exactly what I want. “One?” he says. And I nod. Seconds later his hand reaches across the sea of bobbing heads and I receive my prize: a hot Egyptian falafel sandwich. With my other hand, I submit payment. We nod politely at each other through the human undergrowth. He knows he’ll see me tomorrow.

BAM! I gobble the sandwich down, enter the university gates, and swerve to throw the trash away before heading back to class without ever easing my pace.

Eat fast. Play hard. Love bats. This is my life.

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