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Sophomoric mistakes and attitude adjustments

By Amy Nielsen

In the continuing saga of my quest to pass organic chemistry, this time with feeling - the second time around, I made my first of what I am sure will be many incredibly sophomoric mistakes. I got cheeky with my professor and he docked me points from an easy A for it.

Every other week we are required to write a short one to two paragraph check-in post, detailing how we are doing and how the teaching team can support us is learning the material. Simple. Done in 15 minutes on a long day. There are three specific questions to answer, all open ended and opinion rather than hard fact with citations.

Slam, bam, easy A.

Unless you tell your professor you feel like the text book is laughing at you, even though you are trying your level best to make it work this time. I was much too familiar in my tone for a Master’s level interaction between a student and professor. He docked me three points for that sass and not answering the questions as assigned.

Where on Earth did I get off telling him that my textbook is laughing at me you might ask? Well, I cannot keep the letter abbreviations of the elements in a molecule in the right order as I am dyslexic. OH often looks like HO and that chemists write them interchangeably makes it even worse. So yes, when I get silly stupid after reading about this stuff for several hours in a row, I really feel like it is laughing at me.

I have a really hard time with this material due to this learning disability. I am trying to keep my head above water with humor this term. I often make chemistry jokes to my friends. I am trying to keep this subject as engaging on as many levels as possible so I can find what hook makes it finally all fall into place.

I have also learned to keep it to myself. I enjoy engaging with people and I am finding this distance learning gig to be pretty alienating. I have not spent much time one-on-one with other students either on campus or online. In every single class we are required to post and respond in a pseudo-conversation with other students monitored by the teaching staff. But you never really get the character of the person behind the keys in those stilted academic connections.

Those required check-in posts are also not the place to bring in one’s personal coping mechanism used to deal with the overwhelming sense of anxiety about the prospect that this one class could derail the entire plan. I know that I could easily start to struggle with the material in this class again. I need every bit of help I can get and offending the professor is a bad start.

I am terrified that I will end up just under the passing score again. Each point I lose is critical. I know that there are two timed exams that I will have difficulty with. I need to save up all of the points I can to spend them there and still pass. I need to play nicely and by the rules and not make waves. It’s better if I just do the work with my head down.

I am afraid that I have now earned an extra look this term. If I need help, I feel like I am going to earn even more looks, making it harder to just pass the dang class. He made no comments on my post, just docked the points. So everything here is completely my personal fabrication. But I suspect I need to shape up.

Going forward I will make sure that I answer the questions in a more dignified and worthy manner. I will remember that this is an academic institution. I will remember that each interaction is scrutinized in a professional setting and that this program is setting me up for success in my professional career. I can express my personality and my coping skills in other more subtle ways in more appropriate forums. It was a tap on the wrist I needed to get back on track.

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