I debated on calling this "micro" - I had to remove it, because it's not. It will probably be a little longer than that. I'm still marking 10 min though for my information.
Today was intense. That's an understatement. BUT VERY FUN! I was surprised. People told me it was boring - we have to do this two day TA training program called TATTO that teaches us about how to teach effectively. What were people talking about? This was TOTALLY interesting!! I was wondering what they could tell us that we could learn in two days. Doesn't seem like much time. It turns out, they could tell us a lot.
I got to Emory about 7:15 and after I'd prayed for everything went to Cox Hall around 7:50 a.m. It turned out there were a TON of people there for this training - not just us 23 chem grads - all the other science division grads, plus all kinds of non-science division grads like history and literature and politics. It was a real mix. That was fascinating.
We chem people stayed together pretty well the whole day which was awesome! AJ said he brought water with him and put it in his coffee and said it tasted HORRIBLE. I told him he should put sugar in it and cream! That always makes coffee taste so much better. But really apparently, he brought something spiked, and that's why it was so bad tasting, whatever it was. He's such a character, I should have known. A lot of the other guys thought this was completely funny, but he wouldn't tell them what he brought.
The first speaker was completely fascinating! He was a British literature professor that also wrote books on teaching. I'll write his name in here when I get my papers and see what it was - started with an "L."
He talked about how experts learn differently from novices in a field and how experts could help novices learn like they learn. He also talked about the importance of "metacognition" or how accurately students gauged how well they knew the material. He told us some great resources and materials to follow-up on his lecture. I'd heard some of that before, but not in the way he told it, and it really helped me understand it better.
I really respect that guy - he seemed really knowledgeable. I've always thought how people learn was a very interesting study. Here is one of the video series he recommended - about five 7 minute youtube clips by Dr. Stephen Chew from Samford, "How to Get the Most out of Studying." They looked great. [10 min mark]
Class about Lecturing vs Discussion
We went to the next class. It was in Whitehall, which I didn't actually know where that was, but fortunately AJ did, so we all followed him. I was so glad.
That class was discussion about the best ways to teach a class and they asked what problems we first thought of when we think of classes and possible solutions we might have. Great discussion. There was a politics professor and a biomedical professor leading it. We girls went to the restroom and sat right in the front.
The class also discussed how to keep the class engaged and enjoyable, how a class should be structured, different strategies to engage students and the like. I wrote lots of notes.
Class about Writing
The next class was taught by Dr. MacDonald in organic chemistry at Emory and a lady from GA Tech about how to use writing as a teaching tool. That was TRULY interesting! A lot of the things they mentioned - like how to grade writing assignments - I'd never even thought about before.
Heidi told me later that she didn't find all this as useful, because she had TAed before and had had to do all this stuff before - I can see that. I've never been an official TA though. Being an SI (supplemental instructor) isn't the same as a TA. I didn't have to grade anything as an SI, just give mini-lectures and tutor the material. So I thought all this information was ALL fascinating and incredibly useful.
Someone told me that they didn't like Dr. MacDonald much, saying he seemed kind of mean and not very personable, and gave me some reasons, but I didn't notice any of what they said today. He seemed pretty nice and like he structured his orgo classes well, giving extra problem-solving sessions and such. I'm not sure he's so bad - maybe he was just having a bad day on that particular day.
Lunch - thank goodness for sandwiches!
After that third class, we had lunch - AND IT WAS TURKEY SANDWICHES TODAY! I had been doing good up to that point - full of energy, listening with rapt attention - but by 12:30 I was tired and thoroughly and completely starving. Sandwiches - especially turkey! - were a sight for sore eyes. They had other sandwiches too, but I got the turkey one. SO good. They had Mediterranean Grill yesterday, and I just didn't like it very much. It was strange food to me, and it seemed all mixed. I didn't know how to put it together properly. I still ate it because I was so starving. I wondered if Dr. Salaita would have liked it or not.
I'm glad I mostly finished eating before the lunch lectures O.o
I was SO hungry, I ate really fast and finished most of my food before the lunch lectures. I even had a chocolate chip cookie this time instead of raisin! Unfortunately, as we ate lunch, they gave more lectures of very serious topics - sexual assault and resources to get students aid, suicide and ways to recognize warning signs, and get students aid and finally, disability services. This was very stressful and made me feel sick, especially while eating. I really wished they wouldn't have told us this information during lunch and I kind of wonder at why no one thought of this point. That's the only thing I would change in the whole program today. Heidi and I agreed that it would have been better if they had talked about the disability services first.
Reactions to sexual assault lecture
There's nothing to me more offensive, angering or upsetting than sexual assualt/rape or the like offenses. As I see it, there's no worse way one could disrespect a person than that. Such perpetrators are not just disrespecting the person they hurt - they're disrespecting that person's family and loved ones and lowering themselves. They were telling us about resources to deal with it, because students deal with it and we need to know how to deal with traumatized students and this IS very, very important. I'd almost though really like to avoid thinking about it, it's so stressful, but that's not the answer. I hurt so much for these people, I'm not sure I could handle facing this situation without serious trauma - the thought of people getting hurt like this makes me sick. I've known some people this has happened to. I pray the Lord gives me grace for that if it happens. I'm afraid I would go through serious depression and pain myself for months afterward.
Reactions to the lecture on suicide *sigh*
Then they talked about suicide and how to recognize when people are depressed - another *incredibly* stressful topic too me - made much more so by having experienced it. Tariq Perwez, the post-doc in my last lab did this, and I've never been quite the same. I only knew him a year, but I can get really attached to people within such a time. I love everybody around me and I want them all to be wonderful and happy. He was such a nice person and my favorite person in the lab - Pakistani - always put mayo on his rice, talked up a storm, was always telling me about all these fascinating books he read about every topic under the sun, such a character. He talked loudly almost constantly to everybody in the lab, even me. He didn't have any family here and wasn't married. I think that didn't help. He seemed a lonely person.
He was an atheist but went to a Bible study that a friend of mine went to that I knew from my Hebrew class - an informal one I went to as a hobby back when I was trying to learn some rudimentary Old Testament Hebrew. I always wonder if there was more I could have done for him. He died the week after I returned to the lab after a short hiatus. I passed him in the hall really excited and said I was back! He was looking markedly not himself and depressed and told me not to work too hard. That was the last thing he said to me. After that, I called Bijoy twice that semester when he didn't show up to lab unexpectedly, so scared that something had happened to him too, but he was always ok.
Tariq is the reason I write my weekly reports. It was advice he gave me while I was researching - he was very encouraging to me that first year - and told me it was really helpful to write those, and how much it had helped him in grad school even though it was a pain in the butt. After he died, I so badly wanted to do something to honor his memory. I feel like, writing them is the only thing I can do. I really, really wish I could have done more for him while he was living, and I decided that when I was officially a grad student, I would always write these. It's important.
He's actually buried in a Muslim cemetery right by my house, about five minutes away. I don't know *exactly* where, but someday, I'm going to go visit. I've been thinking about it a long time. I just need to do it. I think about it every time I drive by that road by my church, where I know it is. It still hurts so much. It's been almost three years. I guess that's not that long.
As a result, I consciously and unconsciously watch everybody and everything in labs I'm working in very carefully. I want to make sure everybody's ok - nobody's depressed, everyone's happy and doing well. This is true anyway, but I think it's been highly sensitized since the incident. I so much love everyone around me, and I never, never, never want to see that happen again to anyone I know. It makes me really worried seeing people overworked or stressed. It's just important that people take care of themselves. Especially international students - ESPECIALLY them!! And if there's anything in the world I can do to help, I will do it. Every single person is important. I want to protect them all and take care of them but I know I can't really do that. That's God's job. So I pray for everybody too. But just in case I can help, I will do my very best.
So after that talk at lunch, I kind of felt sick and REALLY stressed. Fortunately, we had a thirty minute break after that. Heidi waited for me outside of the building to walk to the next one and we sat in the lobby. I read some Philippians to become peaceful again.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Final Exhortations4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What Heidi and Morgan talked about
Heidi and Morgan were talking about what they wanted to do in grad school - Morgan says she definitely wants to be a professor. Heidi says she might be a professor if the ends up really liking teaching and doesn't end up liking research as much.
I was brooding slightly about how Dr. Salaita had said in his talk yesterday how that PhDs were supposed to be leaders and if all you wanted to do is research with your own hands you shouldn't be in the program - which, I've heard before - it just makes me worry - because I *do* want to never stop doing my own research. I'd really like to lead research too.
But I'm wondering if a research scientist who works in a lab isn't worthy of the title - maybe they shouldn't be PhDs. Then why do they exist? I have to find out. Clearly, I don't understand this well enough yet. I'll do whatever I can to make sure I'm legit. I just really love research - can't I do it myself and also lead some of it? I hope so. I hope so. It would be really unfortunate if this was mutually exclusive. I *refuse* to believe that! I must talk to Anil again soon.
Fourth class - TA panel
The next class we had was led by three TAs - a 7th year in sociology, a 5th year in PChem and a 4th year in the biomedical sciences - and was basically a panel to ask all our TAing questions. It was great and very useful! I was wondering how many unstable students they had encountered, but didn't feel up to asking. Wallace asked though. And they said yes, they'd had to deal with that *frequently.* I kind of groaned to myself - that's what I suspected. It'll probably be ok though. The Lord will help me.
So many great questions were addressed! They gave key tips they wished someone had told them. They mentioned how they didn't recommended friending students on facebook - and maintaining professionalism and I started getting really stressed again. It seems some TAs and many professors have this attitude that teachers are there to teach and nothing else - no, no messing with anyone's personal lives - everyone must remain completely separate and apart and pretend no one else has problems and just do your own thing!
Well, not exactly, but that's how it sounds to me. This is just not how I am. Because I see this attitude a lot, I worry that maybe I SHOULD be that way. Maybe I'm doing something wrong - or maybe I'm offending people that I don't realize - or maybe - all kinds of things! I don't know what I don't know. Just to make sure, I asked them if there was an official policy anywhere against friending students on facebook and they said no, it really was just personal preference and that most people didn't like to do it, because then students know what you're doing on weekends, which can make it hard to maintain proper authority over them. I was slightly less stressed then - that makes sense.
I'm a very boring person, so I don't see any reason for anyone not to know what I'm doing. I prefer to be friends with everyone, student, professor, janitor, it doesn't matter - and know everybody and be as involved in their lives as they want to make me, because I like everybody - I won't force myself on anyone. But I do always really worry about this because I don't want to do anything wrong or offend anyone by accident - that scares me. And I feel like most people aren't this way - or there are some great differences of opinion that can get heated. Example: ALL my Oxford professors are friends with me on facebook. NONE of the Emory professors are, except one - Dr. Marsteller. UGA is about half and half. People have very, very strong and differing opinions on this it seems and I just try to hide, stay out of the crossfire, and hope no one minds me being too friendly seeming, if I am. It seems it's ok though - maybe I don't have to be too worried.
Facebook makes a lot of people mad. One of my grandmothers, for instance, is an extremely, extremely private person. But it just doesn't worry me much. I feel like, I don't really do anything I'm ashamed of, so why should I care if people read my page? Also, this blog. But I feel like, as a believer, I'm supposed to be transparent, as I understand it - I don't know.
The only thing I can think of that will cause me problems if people wanted to give me a hard time is being in science and my faitht. It'd surprise me to dodge it completely. However, I have to be true to the Lord first, as best as I know how, and just trust He'll take care of me. He's done a pretty good job of that so far. And I don't require myself to be famous or prestigious - I don't care - I just want to enjoy doing science forever, discover cool stuff, make useful stuff, help people with it, disseminate knowledge and hopefully, show as many people as possible how cool it is too. I know I don't have all the answers, so I'll just have to do my best and pray for the Lord's wisdom to help me with all the tons I don't know. He's good at though too. I'm glad God knows everything. Such a relief.
5th class - How to Write Syllabi and Grade Effectively
At this point, I was finally feeling a little less stressed, but had lost most of my energy and was thoroughly drained in every way. I found this amazing vending machine that takes CREDIT CARDS! Who KNEW that existed?? I've been wanting that for years and this is the first I've seen such a thing. Cherry coke ftw.
This class was also interesting, taught my Dr. MacDonald again and I guy from Tech. I took lots of notes, but it was harder to focus than earlier. All of these classes except for the 30 min break at lunch were back-to-back with only 10 min intervals, which usually ended up being more like 5-8 min or less. Intense.
6th class - Body and Voice, and Public Speaking
This last class was HILARIOUS and very weird. A person from theater talked to us about talking.
First, she asked us to say our names, what program we were a part of and what we were passionate about about our field in front of the class. Matthew Jones had one of the best lines - "chemistry was the lens through which he saw the world." The instructor said she was impressed with our passion (she'd rarely seen such a passionate group) and that's what was most important and we must have had some great professors or else had some impressively incredible tenacity to persevere inspite of obstacles.
THEN, she asked us to imitate the worst teachers we'd ever had. OH. my. goodness. I've had some bad teachers, but not really any terrible ones. However, AJ, Morgan and Wallace demonstrated EXCELLENTLY and everyone was laughing SO hysterically - I really wished I'd videoed it.
AJ first came up and demonstrated a professor talking like a zombie, not speaking up, either looking at the floor or the ceiling and never at the class and never varying his voice. I think we've all had the zombie professor.
Morgan came up and demonstrated the teacher who writes constantly and really fast on the board in illegible writing, talking to the board so you can't hear them, and erasing constantly and writing again in the same spot, in FRONT of the words so you can't copy them.
AJ got up AGAIN and demonstrated a teacher who wrote on the board with one had and at the SAME TIME erased the same sentence with an eraser in his other hand so that you had to be speed devil at note taking.
Then Wallace got up and demonstrated a teacher who said that in his student evaluations, it was said that he didn't teach and he said yes, that was accurate - he wasn't going to teach, and the students he'd expect would learn on their own, because that's what was going to happen anyway. He'd give them books. He'd test them on the material. He'd spend an hour saying irrelevant things that wouldn't make sense at the beginning or end of the course, and you'd take the final, and that was pretty much how he rolled. Seriously?? Wallace said yes, he was completely serious - that was one of his professor's opening speeches - and he found it completely unacceptable.
After those hilarious demonstrations, our teacher talked about things we could learn from those examples. And later asked us to demonstrated professors we liked. At one point we did weird stretching exercises. And some brave ones of us practiced speaking energetically. It was really actually a hilarious and completely weird and fun end of the day.
I met a cool student!
One of the biomedical students from Tech that came up to say a short blurb about himself said he worked with drug delivery and nanoparticles! So of course after class I asked him about what lab he worked in and we had a FASCINATING conversation - it turns out that his lab works on Cas9, that protein I'm interested in - for DNA editing! And just about everything else they do is also fascinating. He said he'd get me in touch with some of those people and I told him to send me all his cool literature.
Talking to Dr. Salaita
I told Dr. Salaita about meeting that guy. I was so INCREDIBLY excited about it. Maybe I can talk to them about what they're planning to do with Cas9! Maybe they can answer some of my questions! OR point me in the right direction so I can read more effectively about it! Dr. Salaita said he knew of that lab (Gang Bao) and they did a collaboration with them once upon a time - I figured he probably would know them. :D I got to ask interesting questions about things I'd been wondering, which is always great.
He reminded me about the professor talks - SO glad he did. I almost forgot. I got there around 5:25 p.m. and by then I was SOOOO incredibly starving again, drained, exhausted and dead. Fortunately, there were chips, some brownies and pretzel things. That helped.
Dr. Blakey gave a talk about his research and it was actually pretty cool. When he talks, he's so excited, which is so great - he reminds me of a Steve Irwin in chemistry (that guy who used to hunt crocodiles, but died from a sting ray). That's exactly what he sounds like to me, actually.
Dr. Weinert talked next and I really enjoyed hearing about her work. I didn't take many notes though. I was just too tired. It was really hard to sit through them, which is sad, because the research is really cool.
I was going to get John dinner, but then I asked if he could get it instead and he said that was ok. I just wanted to be home. Before leaving, I wrote an email to that guy at Tech (I'm still so excited about this!) and then to Ann, because I got this message that said my UGA transcript still isn't there, but I thought for sure she got it in her office that one day I talked to her and she opened it while I was there. I left at 7:30.
On the way home, I was talking to mom and a policeman stopped me. This was overwhelmingly upsetting. I feel like I'm such a horrible person, because despite me wanting to obey traffic laws, I've somehow managed to get a least two tickets in five years.
He said I was speeding - and I said that was likely, because I hadn't been paying attention while talking. While he was writing up this stuff, I asked for the Lord would have mercy on me, because I desperately don't want any more tickets and I was feeling like such a horrible criminal, so tired, drained, so so hungry, stressed, so overwhelmed. I have to do better. My brother never gets any. He doesn't drive as much, but still.
The policeman said he was just giving me a warning and I said oh thanks so much and burst into tears. *headdesk* I wish I wasn't so emotional. He was so nice to me though and asked me where I was coming from and about what I was learning at Emory and if I was any good, and if I got payed, and said there was nothing to be stressed about and he had never been any good at chemistry - just be more careful and don't talk on the phone. I'll never talk on the phone! I'll not touch my phone. I have to figure out how to avoid this ever happening again.
I was kind of an emotional wreck all the way home and mom and dad said what was I doing speeding, when I got home, which made me feel horrible and set me off again, but John was there to help. He's so good to me. I felt like there was something wrong with me and I was so ashamed for being so emotional for no good reason. Mom and dad just didn't know how tired and stressed I was - they weren't trying to be mean.
Mom made stew. I've never eaten so much stew in a LONG time. I had no idea I could eat that much. So good. Fresh corn in it. I felt much better after that, but I was too tired to do anything else tonight. So I just wrote about the day to destress. It was really actually a terribly fun and interesting day. It was just really intense and parts of it were stressful. I think tomorrow will be easier. Sorry this is long. I'm not offended if no one reads it. It was relaxing to write it and that's what counts.