One of the promises I made to myself before beginning this whole ‘journal’ business is that I wouldn’t be vague and skip around what was really on my mind. Following that goal, I’ve been about as detailed as I want to be since I don’t want to verbally discuss my anger. I am left to merely put it into words.
I find it ironic that one of the primary reasons I stayed at the University of Florida no longer applies to me right now. I have been looking forward to teaching ever since I sat in my very first lab in early January of 2002. I distinctly remember sitting in a 70s style orange swivel chair at a brown desk with a small yellow box in front of me. Inside were a series of chips (ICs) of which I had no clue as to their purpose, a digital multimeter that I couldn’t figure out how to use, and a breadboard that wouldn’t connect to the given power supply. With no prior training and not half a clue as to what to do, I sat next to Kari patiently waiting instruction from the someone I could barely begin to undestand. My first reaction was to get up and walk out, but I knew this was something I had to learn so I started to cut the wire while at the same time trying to see what the person across the table from me was doing. Looking back, I must have appeared to be a total idiot because I remember telling Kari to make sure not to touch the wires together out of fear of her electrocuting herself. Little did I know that there were only 5 volts between power and ground.. and there was no way electrocution was possible. I had basically no idea how to put a circuit together, and didn’t understand what the drawings on the board were supposed to represent (probably how to get an LED to light up). Anyways, as the lab continued to progress over the next few weeks I managed to get the assigned material completed but kept noticing how little the TA was actually able to assist me.
It wasn’t the language barrier, nor was it her unwillingness to help because she always tried as best she could. The fundamental flaw was that her way of teaching simply didn’t get through to me. The more courses I took, the more aware I became and the more I wanted to do something about the lack of the educational foundation that was laid for myself. Throughout all of this, the thought that stuck in my mind is how if I was in the position to be the helper, how much differently I would have done everything. Perhaps that sounds elitist or arrogant of me, but that is honestly the way I look at a lot of things (I’m sure a good number of people silently share that same characteristic, but I’m admitting it). To me, the ability to give students a solid foundation and understanding is crucial to their success further on. Even going back to high school, I knew I wasn’t being pushed as hard as I could have been, and I now had the chance to push myself from the very beginning but had no idea where to start. Thus, the beginning of my frustration. The more at the beginning usually translates to less at the end, and I wanted to give what I didn’t get to someone else. I doubt I’m alone in thinking this, but that was my sole motivation for wanting to teach. I really enjoy helping people. Not because it makes me feel good or whatever, but because I like to think that in a similar situation another person would do the same for me. Now, through no recent fault of my own, I failed to reach my goal. Seeing as how I am traditionally used to getting what I want, especially when I work hard to achieve it, it is difficult for me to come to terms with why I would be denied the opportunity to better not only myself but perhaps someone else as well.
Two days later, I’m no longer bitter but I am left feeling just as disconcerted. If I work hard enough for the next three and a half months, I should be able to secure some sort of teaching assistantship (eg, the robots class) so I can pass on what I’ve learned and hopefully inspire a student in a way that a few of my TAs inspired me.
Overall, the experiences of the past 36 hours made me rethink my life’s path. I don’t know if I made the right decision, and for whatever reason I cannot shake my initial sentiment that, in fact, I chose incorrectly. But at this point it doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong, because there was obviously something that kept me from going to New York City or taking one of the job offers to come my way. In a few months, I know my current attitude and frustration will seem to have been unfounded, but for now I am fed up.