This is kind of going back to the communicating science idea. It came to be a little bit after my last blog post. I was talking to a friend at an internship I’d done last year in Austria. He worked in technical support, so he had people calling him in English and in German asking for help on how to use the equipment. I said that I thought I couldn’t do that because it’s difficult for me to talk to people (much less communicating to people in a language that was not native to me). He commented that he felt the same way about a lot conversation, but that talking about the technical details was easy for him – even if it was in english a lot of the time. It made me realize that as a TA, I felt the same way about talking to my students. I can communicate with them in technical language – and occasionally, I can joke around with them, but still it’s much more professional and it doesn’t make me particularly nervous. This is probably in some part because I do not have to defend my work, but they have to explain themselves to me to get their grade. I think it’s interesting that although communicating to my students about technical work doesn’t seem to bother me, it hasn’t really translated into other parts of my life. I still feel like I stutter when encountering new people – even at conferences where we’re all speaking the same language of sorts. Hopefully, I’d assume that this will get easier – there was a time when I was a bit more nervous even as a TA.
Monthly Archives: November 2012
Being comfortable as a TA
I think that it’s really interesting how people really look for so much purpose in everything that they participate in. I understand, our time is valuable, we’re grad students, the university (and our advisors) kind of owns us until we graduate. We have to do things all the time to keep up with all of our obligations, so why would we want to waste time?
I think that this warrants a little exploration of what I’d consider wasting time. I do think that more than 5-10 minutes on facebook at any given time is a waste. Why not the 5-10 minutes though? Well, it’s a pretty negligible amount of time, and sometimes doing something different is really good for refocusing yourself. I think that sleeping in after spending late nights hanging out with friends isn’t a waste – it builds relationships, it pushes you to open up to people, and it takes a lot of time. That isn’t a waste to me, even though it takes time away from sleep and from work that could get done.
My point of this is that you can get things out of activities that can get labeled as a waste of time. Sometimes, I think it is very worthwhile just to let yourself be with what you’re doing – i.e. there doesn’t need to be a direct “I’m getting __________ (fill in the blank) out of what I’m doing right this second.” I got a fun and interesting evening which, to me, was enough to make me think that the exercises were worth class time. When being a bit more thoughtful about the experience, I got a lot out of these exercises because it got me out of my box, it made me feel uncomfortable. No one likes feeling uncomfortable, especially not an introverted electrical engineer. In thinking about how it made me feel about communicating my work with people who are not my peers, it was good because that isn’t that easy. When something is not easy, you can get choked up, not tell your story/information linearly. It showed that you should think of your work as sort of a story – one that you know very well, as if it had been a part of your childhood. I say we know it well, because at this point, we should. You’re getting a Ph.D, be the expert you’re supposed to be!
Anyway, to wrap this up, I’m just trying to point out that I think that sometimes, we need to step back and appreciate an experience as an experience and not immediately jump into what it did for us.
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