Monday, January 9, 2012

About to Drown

What $180 buys you. I'm so gangsta.
My first day back for the new semester was cold and wet. Come to think of it, most of my first days of the semester since coming back to college have been rainy (and cold for the Spring semesters). My Behavioral Research lecture doesn't start meeting again until next week, so for today I merely had Modern American History and Philosophy of Science to deal with. And, even though first days are typically non-eventful, I still found myself feeling a bit in-over-my-head by day's end.

As luck would have it, both courses are taught in the same lecture hall in Withers, so I get to sit in the same seat in the same room for two hours every Monday and Wednesday this semester. My history professor is a middle aged woman who seems pretty nice overall. She assured us that we weren't going to focus so much on names and dates, but rather on historical trends of consistency, continuity, and change. That said, there is a great deal of reading that will need to be done for the course, and our grades consist almost entirely on a short paper, a mid-term exam, and a final exam. On Fridays, we will have discussion groups led by the professor's TAs, one of whom I found particularly attractive in a sort of bookish, sexy, academic way. It doesn't hurt that the TA in question was wearing some really nice black leather boots, as I discovered early last year that I apparently have a previously unknown boot fetish! Although, with my luck, she probably won't be the TA for my particular discussion group.

The entirety of my Philosophy of Science course sort of bothers me, however. I don't think the material will be challenging in and of itself, since I do enjoy reading philosophy and science, already. The problems for this course come out of the fact that the professor seems rather pedantic. He is a nice, older man, but he spent an hour today explaining to us about how he did an in-depth statistical analysis of his prior courses to determine what sort of studying behaviors led to good grades in his courses, showing us the results of that analysis, and trying to instill upon us the necessity of regular, consistent studying versus cram-style studying. As both an old man, myself, and a psychology major who has taken Cognitive Psychology, I was already well aware that cramming isn't an effective way to study. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop me from doing it every so often, as I did at the end of the last semester! Another problem with the course is that all the quizzes and tests are online, something I have always detested because I tend to forget to do them when they aren't placed right in my face during a class period.

I guess that is why I feel so overwhelmed already. I am going to have SO MUCH READING to do this semester, and I haven't even gotten to my Western Literature course, yet, as it doesn't begin until tomorrow morning! Most of the books in the stack in the photo above are texts for the literature course, although from what one of my friends who has previously taken the course tells me, I won't have to read every word from every one of those books, but rather selected readings from each book. While that helps, I suppose, it certainly doesn't alter the fact that I am A) a slow reader, and B) needing to make an A in each of these courses this semester. I can't make an excuse like I could with math last semester. I can't sit here and say, "Oh, I'm just not good at English," or "I've always been bad at History," because all of that is totally untrue.

There is, of course, the academic stereotype of the bookish intellectual who spends the majority of his/her time stuck in a library reading tome after tome of obscure reference material for some dissertation or manuscript to be published at a later date. And, to a certain degree, I enjoy that stereotype myself. However, it always comes down to a question of motivation. The bookish academic is doing it because of the intrinsic motivation of becoming a little bit more demonstrably intelligent than everyone else. The frazzled undergraduate/graduate, on the other hand, does it out of the extrinsic motivation of needing to score a good grade. And, research has shown us that intrinsic motivators are always better for producing effective and durable work. Extrinsic motivators cause the participant to focus more on the reward than the task, which is problematic since the completion of the task is ultimately the true goal.

At any rate, I should find all of the subject matter enjoyable, so long as I can keep my head above the water, so to speak.

Have fun, and keep living life... Or some approximation thereof.

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