Saturday, 28 February 2015

Rationality

I was going to post about how annoying everyone talking about the blue and black dress is (I saw fourteen posts about it on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, essentially in a row) but then realised I'd just be contributing to it and I really can't be bothered. Though if anyone wants to analyze that for their Young Scientist project next year, like some people analyzed the Ice Bucket Challenge last year, go ahead. 

So, a couple of nights ago I finished Chapter 112 of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I keep wanting to review it but I really can't because it's just too huge in scale, I could write a whole blog about it. But if I only review small parts, or talk about Harry's behaviour in x chapter, people who haven't read HPMOR won't get it. Dilemma. There are 8 chapters to go before the story finishes and I'm afraid, because I was reduced to tears by quite a few of the latest chapters and I really don't know if Less Wrong will give us a happy ending. 

So I think I'll have to make a plan and proper schedule, maybe do a series about HPMOR. If you don't want to be super confused, read the fanfic. It's quite possibly the most impressive thing I've ever read. 

It's obvious that HPMOR is just a vessel for the author to teach us about rationality, but holy hell am I persuaded. If he can write a book that good, I'll follow him. So now I'm looking into his rationality archives, but I have to admit, they're not light reading in the slightest. He calls his introduction to Bayesian probability stuff excruciatingly gentle, but I still couldn't do the first question and I don't consider myself stupid.

I think if I weren't switching between internet tabs and printed it out and studied it I might be able to make a dent. Until I have make time to do that, I can peruse some of the other things, like the Litany of Gendlin and all that. 

"What is true is already so
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse"

That's a partial quote. It's nice, and somewhat familiar given how many times Harry referenced it during the book.

It's disconcerting when you can actually feel yourself being changed by a book. And yes, I'm calling it a book rather than a fanfic and people have all these prejudiced ideas about the standard of fanfics that really annoy me. I will readily admit that many fanfics are shite, but there are some, like this one, that are better than most published works (in my opinion). 

So, three messages:

1. Read HPMOR. Do it. Do it now.
2. Don't be close-minded about fanfics.
3. I'll be starting Business Bootcamp in UCD tomorrow, so wish me luck.
4. Book blogger Aimee did a lovely interview with me recently over on her blog To The Barricade! which you can read here

Also, I just realised that I missed a Photo Friday. I am sorry.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

My School Timetable

History
N.E. Religion
Physics
Chemistry
English
French
History
Physics
English
Maths
Break
Break
Break
Break
Break
N.E. Religion
Irish
Irish
Irish
Chemistry
Maths
English
Maths
Physics
Chemistry
English
French
P.E.
P. Care
Irish
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Physics
Chemistry
History
History
N.E. Religion
Physics
Chemistry
French
Maths
French
Irish
Maths
English
French
History


Because I know you all totally care so much about the fascinating minutiae of my quotidian life (I'm using that word wrong, aren't I? Daily.), I'm going to talk about my school timetable. I'm such an inspired genius, I know. The muse just flows within me. Behold, also, the wonder of my MS Word skillz; a year of ECDL has truly honed my table-making abilities. 

Patterns

I think it's been established that I'm a fan of patterns, and I can't help noticing them on my timetable because c'mon, I'm exposed to it a lot. Let's go!

  • I have every class every day (except the sciences), which is definitely different from previous years. For the Junior Cert, I did 10 subjects, so all of them definitely could not have fit into 8 classes a day. Now, however, I do 7 subjects in school, so there's room for all seven plus an extra class (non-exam religion or P.E., which are essentially doss classes). This means that (again, apart from the sciences, which require double classes for experiments), I can never get away with putting homework off for a night.
  • Physics is always beside Irish; before it on Mondays and Wednesdays, and after it on Thursdays.
  • History and French are always near each other. They're adjacent classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and separated by only one class on Thursdays. Admittedly, Tuesday holds a bit of a stretch. This is awful because I find History and French the most boring classes, so Monday mornings and Friday evenings seem to drag on forever.
  • Irish is at the same time for the majority of the week; first class after break. This is pretty convenient for us as the teacher takes a while to get to class after breaktime.
  • English and Maths seem to be all over the place, with only a slight tendency to be adjacent to each other (two days of the week).
  • My doss classes are conveniently placed for getting homework done. 

Personal Comments

First of all, I really love this timetable overall. But I'll start with the negatives anyway because I like ending on a positive note.

  • The two most boring classes, as I said above, are too close together too often. I mean, other people might like them, but this is just for me. It puts me in a bad mood, being bored for that long. 
  • I tend to fall asleep in Irish, even though I don't mind the class ... It would be nice to blame that on the timetable, but it's probably untrue.
  • I would much rather not do P.E. I know it's good to have exercise, etc., but it's not fair that those who choose to do Exam Religion get four free classes a week and get out of P.E. Psh, not like the school is promoting religion or anything, no way. With those four classes, I could do Biology in school instead of trying to teach myself at home where I lack motivation.
Now for the good!

  • I adore Tuesdays. I mean, obviously the three middle classes (all three languages) are awful, but at least they're put there together so they can't ruin the rest of the day. The blow of History is softened with the relaxing non-exam religion directly beforehand. And then we get to my beloved Tuesday evenings, with double Chemistry and Maths. Literally my favourite combination of classes. Though if I could have non-exam religion, Double Physics, Double Chemistry, Maths, that would be ideal. Actually, I'm going to draw up a timetable for my ideal school day.

Maths
Biology
Break
Non-exam religion
Physics
Physics
Lunch
Chemistry
Chemistry
Maths

And there we go. Ignore the awful colour scheme, I was trying to match it with the one above. Obviously, my day would be extremely STEM-heavy, so I put in the non-exam religion to give my brain a break. Maybe another non-exam religion after lunch would come in handy, but that's all eight classes covered already.

I've preserved my beloved Tuesday evening and added an extra Maths, to open and close the day with it because while HL Maths can be difficult at times, that class really energizes me and I always feel like it's going by too fast. Chemistry and Physics occasionally drag, but not too often.

Sadly, this couldn't happen because two of the compulsory subjects for Leaving Cert are English and Irish, and I've left them out. Obviously, I love English as a language and to write in, but I don't particularly like the class. I'm enjoying doing Plath at the moment but it's too regimented, "learn off all these quotes", and so I don't really find it fun. Of course I left off History and French. Again, I quite enjoy French as a language but I can't stand the class. 

  • Mondays are pretty good too, once I get past first two classes. Middle three classes are relaxing and fun, Physics is great fun and Irish is relaxing because the teacher is so laid-back. Oh god, I am such a nerd.
  • Thursdays are fun up until lunchtime, although there's a hell of a long trek from the Chemistry lab to English (and an even longer one from Chemistry to Maths). After lunchtime, the only spot of hope is Maths.
  • I'm just going to take a moment to appreciate non-exam religion and the fact that the teacher lets me/us study during it.
Tada! My comments on and odd analysis of my school timetable. We have learned that I am a dork, and a lucky one.

Surprise!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The History Problem

One of the eight subjects I'm studying for my Leaving Cert next year is History, and I hate it. I'm hesitant (no I'm not) to rant so soon after my last ranty post (here) so let's just say I'm explaining my point of view and letting off steam.

Disclaimer: YMMV. I'm sure many people love History, both as a LC subject and as an area.


How I feel about Leaving Cert History

It is my least favourite subject, a class that seems to last forever and that I struggle to pay attention in. We study, I think, four courses, and we're partway through the second. The first was about Ireland from 1870 to 1914, when absolutely nothing happened. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but our big Case Studies are about the establishment of an athletic organisation and one election where an important Bill failed but maybe sorta hopefully paved the way for it to fail again twenty years in the future, before finally passing about nine years after that, when public opinion had moved on. 

I mean, at least have the decency to stage a few good uprisings, Ireland.

We spent so long talking about the particulars of clauses in Land Acts to help anonymous tenant farmers and oh my god I do not care.

Oh, and we also have a research study to do (the topic of which I have to decide on before Friday), and while I love scientific research, historical research involves poring over old documents that I really couldn't care less about, and that make no sense to me.

Ways History Doesn't Suit Me

  • It's essentially a list of facts and events in chronological order, with no links or significant groupings. This happened, and then this happened, and then this and this and this - when I prefer "this happened because this happened so this happened until this happened but this happened". I once read advice to make history into a story to help study it, but how the hell can I do that when it's the least engaging story ever made? I'm really good with concepts but awful at memorizing, so I need links between areas to establish connections in my brain. I need to understand things rather than just learning them off, and that's worked really well for me in Chemistry and Physics. But I can't do that in History, because...

  • It tells me how things happened, not why. Sure, we get reasons like "because he wanted to see his wife" or "to look good in front of the press", but those aren't reasons I can get behind because they're subjective, nobody knows for sure what x politician was thinking. And besides, why would I care? That's still not telling me why, because now I want to know what circumstances led to that viewpoint, or how society shapes the media's vision of those events, and there are so many tangential things that it's overwhelming and of course we can't cover it all, it's only a two-year course, but an attempt isn't even made  - science isn't perfect, but at least research outside our course is nodded at, whereas we're just handed this series of events. Whew, long sentence.

  • So much of it is human folly, and I can't bring myself to care about it because these people are nothing like me, and I've never been much of a people person. They make decisions because of their own weird personalities, not because of some immutable physical fact. I interact well with my friends but I'm still introverted and fiercely individual, and people, especially ones I don't know, matter far less to me than things I can find out about the world. The physical world is more reliable, too.

  • But I've been making all my points about science. I'm pretty happy in English (and I love Maths, but that goes into Science). But English accepts that it's not "hard" and doesn't try to be something it's not; we have to learn facts about poets, etc., but we're not looking for justifications that probably aren't even there. History is desperately trying to be a science and it's not working. I was considering moving to Economics, because at least that's more sciencey (even though it's definitely a soft science with models that usually don't work).

So why did I choose History?

I know. You think I'm dumb for doing all this complaining about an optional subject. Thing is, though, when I chose History for this long it was a split-second decision. I recognised it from Junior Cert, thought "eh, why not" and went onto the more important (to me) task of trying to decide between Biology and Physics. 

But you're good at History!

Literally no one but me is saying this but okay. I get As and Bs on the essays because they involve English skill and I am very good at writing essays in general. My brain helps me remember details and fudge around the ones I don't.

Doesn't mean I enjoy it.

Whatcha gon' do 'bout it?

I don't even know what that heading is. Some weird attempt at an accent, maybe? Don't question it.

But yeah, I've been complaining about History for months, hoping it would get better or just overcome by inertia I guess. But on Cathy and Cliodhna and probably a few others' advice, I went to the Guidance Counsellor and missed Irish and English talking about it. Well, no, I went in there and asked about transferring to Economics and she basically said "not gonna happen" and then oh boy did she change the subject. 

She started asking about private stuff, and about stress, and then told me I have too many extra-curricular things going on. I acknowledge that a timetable would be helpful (although I'm in bed typing this already, oh dear) but I'm not giving up my stuff. She said my main concern right now should be my Leaving Cert and that a 16 year old shouldn't be doing all this stuff, but c'mon.

I will destress, because I have to, but WOW what a digression, and my things are part of my identity.

I've decided to just treat History as if it's a compulsory subject so that I don't keep kicking myself for choosing it, and struggle through. 

But don't be fooled: it's still my least favourite subject, and will likely stay that way.

Today, we watched a clip from the movie Platoon about the Vietnam War and I was suuuper disturbed by it, I'm actually a bit angry we were shown it (and my respect for soldiers has dropped to an all-time low of zero).

I don't like history; I like the future. But since everything has happened so that History is part of my immediate future, I guess I'd better get good grades and get along. I have my exciting things happening in other areas. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Elle is Dragged into Gaming

Saturday was the designated fun part of my weekend (what a sad thing to say [stop with the parenthetical speech, Elle]), because I was heading to the CTYI reunion, which would be smaller than the one on Valentine’s Day but still hopefully fab.

Ciarán said he’d go because I was, and Seán was bagpacking but we said we’d meet him when he was done. I took the train at half ten and, to my dismay, found while I was already on route that it only went as far as Connolly, which was two stops away from the place I knew.

When I got off, I couldn’t find a DART to get me to Pearse soon enough so I just walked. I got so very, very lost, ending up at Bus Áras and The Irish Times before finally finding the Science Gallery, from where I sort of knew the way to Stephen’s Green.

I went through Trinity campus and took the wrong road for ages, then backtracked and eventually found the way to Grafton Street (by the way, thank you to shops that say the street name on their signs. So helpful). I was in sight of Stephen’s Green shopping centre when I saw a flash of movement and Ciarán crashed into/hugged me, followed by Arthur who I haven’t seen in ages. He wasn’t wearing his glasses, which made him harder to recognise.



So then we went up to the people still at the Stephen’s Green front gate (I was around 40 minutes late for the reunion because of all the getting lost, and Ciarán had presumably been at grinds). I hugged Jerry and Fez, and reunited with Dermot who actually said my hair was adequate and declined to comment on my outfit (for Dermot, that’s amazing).

We then went and found Seán, and went into McDonalds so he could change out of his school uniform and Arthur could take out his contacts and put on glasses. We chilled in McDonalds for ages (Ciarán and I bought Apple Pies) and then I realised what I'd gotten myself into when all three of them took out a Vita/DS and started playing games. So I was sitting there leaning on Ciarán being typical bored girlfriend, which I was not happy with. I tried to steal Seán's Vita to get him to do something for me to fill the bingo card (more on that in a second) and then got caught in the middle of two tables as the three of them tackled me to get it off me. Quite aggressive/impressive.

About the Bingo card: on Friday night, I was skyping Seán and Ciarán when Seán decided to make a Custom Bingo card for things I always do during Skype calls (e.g. randomly singing, my laptop shutting down). It was surprisingly easy to come up with 25 things, and then I fulfilled almost all of them during that one call. Damnit. But there was one left (make Seán carry something) which we spent a lot of Saturday trying to do. Eventually, he carried me to fulfill it. But he wouldn't carry the Apple Pie in McDonalds. 

After that, Arthur got a chocolate crepe in Gino's and we had some weird conversation about overflowing chocolate or something.

Then we left and Seán and Arthur went to this game store called Rage which is apparently really overpriced, although Seán managed to find something for like €30 that someone was trying to sell for a thousand on Ebay. While they were there, Ciarán and I went to Asia Market (me begrudgingly). They literally had huge dead fish there, out in the open. Fish: really, really not my thing.
Then we walked a bit more and chatted until Seán whispered something in Ciarán's ear. They wouldn't tell me what that was, and then a few minutes later two of them held my arms and I suddenly looked up and saw the shop sign:
Forbidden Planet.

Where I'd specifically said not to go. I struggled a lil bit for the craic, then went in. There were some weird things in there, but I liked the book section. I just find comics really hard to read because I find pictures harder to decipher than words and my eyes can't focus on them. I saw the Temeraire series and books by Cassandra Clare. 

Then they asked me to pick my favourite out of three Pokemon they were holding. I said Fennekin because (a) it looks nice (b) I'd seen it before (c) I knew its name, and Seán and Arthur were happy but Ciarán wasn't, oops. Ciarán wanted me to pick Froakie apparently. I also learned what big brother means in manga ... uh.








After that, we went to Murphy's and I got that amazing photo above. See how it says "me and my Murphys"? There I am with Ciarán Murphy (boyfriend) and Arthur Murphy, so I am with my Murphys. It's like a visual pun, it's amazing. 


Shortly afterwards we went to Apache Pizza. I didn't buy anything but I took some of Ciarán and Seán's chips and Arthur kindly gave me two slices of ham pizza. We then walked Arthur to Pearse Station...


and then Ciarán had an idea, and invited me and Seán back to his house to play Super Smash Bros.


Now, I had always promised I'd play stuff if we could do it together in his physical presence, so I called my Dad on Seán's phone and asked if I could get a later train (at 10 p.m.), while Ciarán called his Dad and asked if I could come over. Dad agreed once I assured him I'd be safe, as did Ciarán's Dad.

Oh, and then Seán tied the arms of my hoody together so tightly that I couldn't actually get it off. Not having the use of my hands was a little odd.

We started walking towards the bus and bumped into Paddy on the way (well, glimpsed his blue hair, and Ciarán sprinted to catch him and bring him to us). We chatted for a while and decreed that biology isn't a real (LC) science, then realised that our bus was there and sprinted for that. But first, I got Paddy to untie me.

Ciarán had change so he paid for my ticket (I reimbursed him later) and we showed Seán how destroyed my iPod is. I had to distract Ciarán to stop him annoying Seán by telling him what to do in the game he was playing. 

We got off the bus and went to Seán's house briefly before walking to a shop (bought sweets) and then to Ciarán's. His mam gave us minipizzas which was nice, and then we went upstairs and played Smash Bros.

It was ... a learning experience. Seán laughed a lot and Ciarán was very distressed when they saw that I was holding the remote upside down and sideways, but they taught me and were patient and nice so it was fine. I chose Princess Peach because duh and though I lost a lot, I don't think I disgraced myself so it was fine. I conceded that it was actually pretty fun in small doses and with friends.

We had a really, really nice time. Seán left around 9 because he was working the next day. We made Ciarán a hot water bottle (the one I bought him for Valentine's) and went back upstairs. I did Duolingo and checked my Facebook on his computer (which he didn't like). Also, he has like three screens in his room, it's cray.

Ciarán is fab, Seán is, Arthur is, I had a really great time and it was great to see Ciarán again only a week after last time. And I LOVE that photo, which is down to serendipity and Seán's photography skills. 






Sunday, 22 February 2015

Continuing the Project: First Meeting

I really should’ve posted this yesterday, but I was busy, and you’ll see why in tomorrow’s post. Anyway, Friday marked a much-anticipated day where I had a meeting with a PhD researcher called AJ. We met while I was on work experience at AMBER and clicked when it turned out he’d gone to CTYI. He’s really cool.

I told him a bit about my project at the time, and later emailed him for advice on a few things. Then, after the 2015 Exhibition, I emailed him asking could we meet to discuss development of the project and he enthusiastically said yes which was lovely.

We planned to meet up in the Science Gallery (which would’ve been so deja-vu, I’m not conjugating that right, but I met Nina there as well), but on the day AJ emailed and asked could we make it to the hospital where he works. Some harried phone calls later (because MOR was in Meath for Anna) I took the train to Pearse (made a mindmap of things to talk about at the meeting on the train), got there at 2.08, then waited for MOR to arrive. 

She came at around ten to three which was very worrying because the meeting was supposed to be at 3 p.m., but the (female!) taxi driver was fast and we got there only a couple of minutes late. I rang AJ on the way to let him know, having asked for his mobile number earlier that day. Preparation!

When we (with difficulty) found the part of the hospital we were going to, AJ met us at the reception and shook hands. He was really friendly, which was reassuring, and brought us down to a seminar room with the same chairs as there are in the school music room.

I plugged in my dead laptop, and MOR started talking about the unfair judging. Eventually I said let’s just focus on the future and started talking myself. AJ was impressed, and asked challenging questions. Some of them were difficult because (a) it’s been a while since the Exhibition and (b) my brain fogged over. I could actually feel it happening – he’d start to ask a question, and before he even said it I could feel the mental block. But I think I did okay, and it was a successful meeting: he said he’d talk to his supervisor about letting me continue my research there, although I’ll have to make my graphene somewhere else. He said I should make a poster to brighten up the abstract, and that he’d send me some examples on Monday. I have to email him my report book too.

We laid out a rough timetable/plan, which showed a great proactivity on his part, then he invited me to speak at a national biomedical conference in April. That sounds daunting, but if I can replicate some of the results I didn’t have time to before Christmas, I’ll certainly consider it. I mean, obviously I’m very honoured to get the opportunity – I just don’t want to disappoint.

So yeah, a really great meeting, and he walked us back to reception. Then MOR and I got a taxi back to Ashtown and had a meal (I had chips and a tropical smoothie. The chips were served in something similar to a sundae glass with fake newspaper, something I’d never seen before, so that was interesting. MOR had a scone and a drink.)

Then we went to MOR’s car and talked a lot on the way home about school. She’s a really great educator, it’s awesome. We also talked about Anna’s project. MOR drove me to my house, going above and beyond as always.


I felt so relieved when the day was done and had gone so well, and knew I had a fun Saturday to look forward to. I think that’s a great balance for a weekend: stressful/productive Friday, fun Saturday, relaxing Sunday. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Photo Friday #8: 16th Birthday

Photo Friday is a weekly event on this blog where I pick a photo that means something to me and talk about it. This week's photo is from my early 16th birthday party, attended by Ciarán and John Joe. Also, I'm totally cheating because this isn't just one photo.













These are just a selection of the photos from one of the best days of 2014. On the 9th of August, Ciarán, John Joe and Morgan came to a shopping centre near me to celebrate (heretofore known as "SH").

I had been pretty disheartened as everyone else cancelled, but in the end it didn't even matter. John Joe made a five hour train ride to come, Ciarán was waiting in SH and Morgan insisted on me driving him there. But still, I had a wonderful time and I think they did too. 

I think John Joe scared Morgan with his craziness, but that's to be expected as Morgan was the only non-CTYI person there and the others all knew each other. 

We wandered around SH and they gave me presents, just standard fare really, but it was only 8 days since CTYI had ended and it was so wonderful because in 2013 I never really stayed in touch with people from CTYI, but in 2014 it worked out so well.
We almost got kicked out of SH a few times because Ciarán was giving me piggybacks and John Joe was acting crazy (oops). After a while we went walking. We went to Eurogiant, Waterstones and got our faces painted in the art and hobby shop (so mature, I know).
But first, we went up onto the roof of the shopping centre. I didn't know that was even possible, but we just kept going up escalators and no one was there to stop us so we did. There was such a great view, which you can see in the second picture from the top. I took a picture of Ciarán sitting down looking contemplative (I do that a lot, it seems).

The third picture is one I particularly love. After the shopping, Mam collected us and we went back to my house. Moya and her friends Niamh and Elsa were there, and we had food. Me, Ciarán and John Joe then lay down on the trampoline in the blazing sun for ages and it was amazing. After that, Moya or Niamh called us over and we played Truth or Dare. Ciarán was asked who he likes and it soon became apparent that everyone was trying to set us up. He whispered it but I was pretty sure I was mentioned. I liked two people at the time, and he was one of them. (The other guy sorted himself out pretty soon after that). So that was cool.

Later, Ciarán's dad came to pick him up and he, John Joe and I ran down to the little woods down my road and sang Bohemian Rhapsody together. Magical. Eventually, Ciarán had to leave but you could tell his dad was shipping us so hard. 

John Joe slept over at my house two consecutive nights, and even came with me to my other birthday thing in Dublin (to see Cian), which Ciarán and Jerry were also at.

That was a really, really good birthday. 


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Tracklist Thursday #3: Pure Heroine - Lorde

This is the third round of Tracklist Thursday, where I try to make a coherent story out of the song titles on an album. This will be less regular than Photo Friday and may not happen every week. Feel free to suggest albums. I've chosen Pure Heroine by Lorde this week because it's an incredible album, but it's definitely going to be a challenge.




We meet out on the Tennis Court, her in her 400 Lux leggings, me in my bodice with hair frantically trying to escape my attempt at a high ponytail. The sun beats down on the rubbery tarmac like it's trying to punish us for our sins.

She walks like the Royals have personally blessed her, and I feel very out of place. She makes a tracksuit look like a ballgown, whereas I'm just faking it in this stupid get-up. I can feel my ribs through the stretched fabric, and hope they don't show. 

We walk, doing laps. I don't ask why. She tells me she's thinking of cutting her hair off. It's Buzzcut Season, I think, and I am right. Despite all her mystery and allure, she is very predictable. The day of the first magnolia buds, she talks about losing her hair, about transcending. Her seasons only last a couple of days, and she hasn't gone through with it yet. But there's a first time for everything, I suppose, and so I take her seriously. We are a Team, aren't we? A little unbalanced, maybe, but I'm with her for better or for worse, for the Glory and Gore. I thank whatever powers there may be in the universe when she comes back day after day and is Still Sane. 

I guess I shouldn't have to worry about that so often, but I can't abandon her now.

Anyway, I'm not going to let anyone else see what I'm thinking about. We are White Teeth Teens, perfect and unyielding, occupying A World Alone. They can watch us and they can try to laugh, but really they're afraid. Our Bravado will be either our death or our salvation, and I plan on sticking around to find out. They will treat us like the Million Dollar Bills we are.

I try to keep that in mind as I lead her into The Love Club. She's been so afraid, ever since last time, but it will be different, I swear. Biting Down on the magic pill that'll take us away, if only in mind, I lean into her.

With the drug running through my system, I worry that I'm becoming one of them. But this really is a Swingin Party, and we belong

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Teacher Troubles (Put Your Hand Down)

As a whole, I get on with teachers - to the point where I have a reputation as a teacher's pet - because we usually have similar goals. But in thirteen years of school, there have been some, eh, run-ins. Now for the fun task of remembering primary school! 

In French a while ago, we had to write a journal intime about our memories of primary school. Everyone seems to have good memories of it except the nerds, and oh boy am I a nerd. Primary school for me was a lovely mélange of bullying, boredom and frustration, so no, I don't have fond memories of it. Everyone acts like it was less stressful, but I can tell you it's a hell of a lot more stressful when you're friendless and trying not to attract attention.

ANYWAY.

Have you ever noticed that teachers in primary school always put the smart/quiet/nerdy kids (girls usually) next to the boldest kids in the class (boys, always)? To the teacher, it makes sense: if the boy is put beside another rowdy kid, they'll make noise and disrupt the class. But if you put him beside the quiet girl, they won't talk because they don't get on, and you hope maybe she'll have a calming influence on him. 

To which I say: bullshit.

Maybe that would work if the kids were 15 and in an American teen movie, where the girl brings out his sweeter side. But we were four-to-twelve year olds. That level of maturity is not bloody likely. The problem is that here the teacher isn't taking the quiet girl into account. The teacher reasons that the girl is getting on fine in school because she's smart, ignoring the fact that she's a target for bullying because of it (particularly from catty girls, but rowdy boys aren't going to get on with her either).

The reason I'm going on so much about this is that it happened to me probably dozens of times during my primary school career. New seating plan? Surprise, surprise, I'm beside the most annoying boy possible, forced to try make him change his ways. 

I remember one time, possibly in fourth or fifth class, when the situation was compounded. Not only was I beside this ridiculously loud and unfocused boy, but the teacher put me sitting behind a cupboard so she couldn't see my hand. It was ridiculous how intentional this was; the cupboard was tilted so that I was behind it, hidden from view of the teacher, but the boy directly beside me wasn't. 

Now, you could try to spin that into a good thing saying hey, at least the teacher trusted me. But I wasn't in that classroom all day to be ignored. 

That wasn't the only problem coming from me putting my hand up. 

I remember, again in my later years at primary school, being told things like "Elle, how about you don't put your hand up on Fridays?". We used to have to recite poetry or Irish sentences or whatever, and we'd stand up in our tables (blocks of four/six seats facing each other) and say it together. Everything would be fine - and then, humiliatingly, the teacher would tell me and only me to sit down and everyone else to say the poem again. Aaaand no one else knew it, so they just mumbled their way through. It turned out they'd all been relying on me. 

I can sense another objection coming up, so I'm just going to address that now. Their relying on me is not my fault. "Put your hand down and give the other students a chance to answer."

NO.


But aren't you intimidating the other students?


I deserve the same rights as everyone else in a classroom. We are told to put our hands up to engage in classroom discussion, and when we know the answers. And now you're silencing me for knowing the damn answers. I used to think I was getting in trouble for being a good student, and while I certainly was attentive and hardworking, a student isn't supposed to know things. 

Look, it's not like I was shouting out the answers. Me putting my hand up absolutely did not stop other people from doing the same. I was following classroom etiquette perfectly, and certainly not jumping up and down shouting "Me! Me! Me! Me!" (in fact, I sometimes get so tired of it that I just rest my elbow on the desk and keep my hand up lazily the whole time, knowing they won't call on me anyway). 

Believe me, I know that a lot of the other students just didn't bother to try once they saw I had my hand up. But that is their problem, it's entirely up to them. I really don't make a very intimidating figure, and while I feel comfortable and confident in a classroom (well, apart from thinking about classmates' opinions of me), so can they. There's not a quota for how many students' hands can be up at one time - surely the more the merrier. 

I get a teacher's frustration when they asked a question hoping no one would know the answer so they could introduce a new concept and I was the only one who knew it (from learning it outside school, through reading). But again, I was only putting my hand up. They didn't have to call on me, and it's very insulting that I was literally forbidden or hidden from putting my hand up. They acted as if they had nightmares about the mousy-haired girl in the back's hand up again.

I don't mind quite as much when they explain that it's not my fault but people aren't answering and I need to not put my hand up. But I worry that if I don't have my hand up they'll think I don't know the answer, and something about that drives me crazy. Can't they find some other way to motivate the other students than telling me my opinion isn't valued? I've always loved school as an outlet, but it can't be that if they want me to shut up.

So those are my views on teachers telling me to put my hand down. But never fear, I have more teacher stories!

I think I've mentioned before the times when I got in trouble for reading ahead. Those just make me ridiculously angry - oh, sorry I did too much homework, sorry you haven't prepared for this eventuality when all it would take is a slightly harder worksheet, or even better, just let me read my own damn books! Really not that hard. Look, I get that it's easier to teach to the middle of the class. But surely you can take on a little bit of extra work. 

It's just so awful that they expect me to stay in this weird limbo where I can't engage in class by asking and answering questions, but I also can't completely disengage by reading whatever I want. I'm supposed to just sit there and passively pay attention, letting the teacher use the classroom as their stage. I can't learn like that, I really can't. Teachers go on about how great classroom engagement is but the some of those in primary school certainly didn't practise what they preached.

Of course, not all my teachers in primary school were bad, and most only had some irritating slip-ups (as I'm sure I did too). The ones in secondary school aren't perfect either. 

In third year, my Geography teacher gave out about me to my mother because I was reading a more advanced version of the same course. She literally wasn't teaching us anything - we got next to no homework for three years - and I wasn't going to let her ruin my education. I've described that whole incident in a really long post on a blog which I've since deleted, but argh. I couldn't completely get rid of her influence; she was one of the only two Bs I got in the Junior Cert, and the other was from a class I only joined halfway through 2nd Year. 

It's different in secondary school, because (a) the material is harder (b) the teachers aren't quite as clueless (c) I have other stuff to focus on. For (b), the teachers generally don't actively tell me to put my hand down. But my French teacher embarrasses me by saying "Okay we know one girl in the class knows it, Elle, the ones with the hands up are the ones who have it", immediately drawing attention on me when that's really not what I want. She asked a question and I'm literally just obediently putting my hand up to answer it. I wish other people would put their hands up more often, but they don't and that's not my problem.

(c) is probably detrimental to my education. After a while, I get so sick of my hand being ignored that I just completely zone out and stop listening in class. This is particularly problematic because, while I've started studying a little more now, I used to just pay stellar attention in class and learn everything immediately. But if I don't listen that obviously doesn't work. Young Scientist is the main culprit here; I remember I never paid attention in TY French classes because I was always reading scientific journal articles under the table. It isn't always that high-falutin' either; often I just make To Do lists during class or work on whatever novel is going at the time. 

I know I shouldn't, but can't you understand the frustration? Teachers (notably History and French) make their disdain for me and my questions crystal clear, and of course that's going to frustrate and discourage me. There's only so much I can take before I stop trusting them as teachers, because if you're going to straight-up ignore students ... Actually, they can ignore me from time to time if they want, that suits me. It's the humiliation, and the times when they show how annoyed they are that I have the audacity to ask a question. 

I don't ask questions just to seem smart, because that's dumb. I ask questions I genuinely want to know the answers to, and it's really not that disruptive to the class.

And no, I don't think I'm some genius that teachers just can't handle. I am only passionately curious. 

Tell me about your own run-ins with teachers in the comments below.