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The teacher is picking favorites I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of college

  1. Oct 22, 2009 #1
    I've noticed something: Most teachers have very complex intellectual needs but are still humans and have very simple emotional needs.

    A little background: I'm currently taking an intro physics course. I'm not a physics major, I am a computer science major, but this seemed like an appriopriate forum, since there are a lot of math geeks who might understand my situation. Regardless, the class is a requirement, so might as well go forward with it.

    The first couple tests were relatively straight foward. They were mostly like the homework we've had. I struggled to understand some of the concepts, and thanks to some helpful people in the homework forum, I actually understood it well and got 113 on the previous test.

    But yesterday, our test was just enough outside the HW to put me into a fright-paralysis.. You know, deer in the headlights type of moment.. I probably bombed it, although I'm definitely not the only one.

    Ruminating over the questions, I came to realize that at least one in particular was specifically designed for one student in particular, who had seemed to impress the teacher with his curiosity to learn beyond the textbook. It was a question (or set of questions) related to potential energy graphs.

    Now in theory, I could have gotten it. I mean, he put up the answer sheet immediately after the test and none of the answers was terribly complicated. It was probably more my fear and lack of genuine interest in the topic that threw me off.

    However, if this were a mere isolated incident, I would just blow it off and continue as if it didn't happen. But I'm beginning to notice a pattern. Let me tell you a few more stories.

    Case #1: In my linear algebra class, just this last summer, the teacher began the class with a discussion of fields. Now, I knew what a field was before coming to the class, but for some reason, he goes on about it for nearly two or three classes about how fields are related to matrices and vectors. And I'm like "WTF? Why are you bringing this up?" Turns out, this guy did some research into the Riemann Zeta hypothesis for his PhD thesis, which, IIRC, is related to finite fields. I dropped the class because of a very embarrassing mistake.. Mostly due to my self esteem and depression than to my abilities.

    Case #2: About 3/2 years ago, I was in my intro discrete math class. The guy was well known to be an ******* but that information was not well known to me, so I ended up in that class with only 10 other people, all of us clueless about the material. When he introduced first order logic, I found it to be very intuitive. I had been writing software for at least 3 years prior, and you ask yourself similar questions about proof of correctness. When he sees that I actually understood the concepts, despite his lack of teaching, he starts throwing in stuff even more complicated stuff, related to abstract algebra and category theory. In particular, threw in a question related to the powerset functor, which I guessed at, and almost had.. As turns out he did research in topoi, which apparently makes use of that particular functor. I drop out due to financial problems, and also because this guy starts creeping me out and staring directly at me while teaching the class.

    Case #3: I retake my discrete math class, and have a much better appreciation for mathematics as a whole. I walk in there somewhat scared, but I notice this particular teacher is actually a little personable. After a few tests, I notice he doesn't go very far beyond the text, and actually makes it clear that the homework and the tests are the same format. After the 7th or 8th week, he starts throwing in ideas into the lecture that seem familar to me. I come to find out that he too was a category theorist, and was straying a little bit from the standard curiculum. I start talking to him about this strange and abstract subject and we end up pretty friendly during and after class... He throws in a few simple proofs about associativity of functions and whatnot into the tests. Needless to say, I ace all of them without a problem.

    The only conclusion I can come to is that some teachers, especially the PhD's, are lonely in their ivory towers. They've studied their specialization for nearly a decade and, at the very least, want to see at least one or two out of the hoards of students that enroll become genuinely interested in the topic they are teaching. After all, they have the power, might as well try and convert a couple to their religion, right?

    That said, I think the only way to "win" at the college game is to know ahead of time what the teacher's areas of research and interest are. If you're not aware of them, you're going to fall flat on your face when questions start showing up that are outside the range of the textbook.

    If my derivation is correct, then teachers are nothing more than functions of their years of experience. What they have studied is what will be on the tests. So then college is not an "institution" the way federal government or standardized tests are an institution. College is way more like a church or business, where there are technical hurdles, such as knowledge and skill, but there's also the relationship between students and teachers, or even better, students, teachers, and the subject matter. As I move up to higher level courses, this relationship seems to play a more important role than the dilligence of the student alone.

    I never let my schooling interfere with my education. -Mark Twain

    If that is the case, then the only way I can continue my education and hold my level of self esteem is to leave school for some period of time and continue my journey as an autodidact. At some point in the future, I would return. But I wouldn't even bother to take a class unless I talked to the teacher ahead of time. And if I didn't like their attitude, I wouldn't even bother registering, even if it was a requirement.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2009 #2
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    I've noticed something too... when I drop something, it tends to fall down, not up. I mean while we're sharing the obvious... :-)

    There is a lot more to education than learning a bunch of facts. College is also about learning discipline and how to work with others who may have different motivations and points of view.

    I hope for your sake that you are both a genius and independently wealthy. Because otherwise, I foresee a lot of difficulties for you in later life.
     
  4. Oct 22, 2009 #3
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Yea, they try and covert if you show that you might like the subject matter. Sometimes people are not sure what they want to do. So a little push or guidance is not always a bad thing. Also it is exciting to see someone show an interest int something that you like. I try and covert my niece every time I help her with her homework, by showing her division and other ways of doing things, other than working with a 1000 chart (she is in elementary school). I bought her a cheap telescope cause she said that she liked looking at the stars. I am not sure if she was saying that to be nice. The feeling that someone else likes, what I like was grand, thus I wish to nuture that feeling and hopefully she will learn something from it. Professors are people too, and I don't think are any different.

    As for going whats outside the realm of the text book. I have taken a few physics, geology, biology classes and not once did they go outside what was written in the book. My biology professor was a Marine Biologist, she studied sharks, not one shark question came up, not one. One physics professor, astrophysicist, nothing ever came up on the test that dealt with his area of study in the subject, expect for the time where the book went over what he researched. Even then he glossed it over. Geology professor, he was all about ocean geology (or something to that nature), never came up on a test, never. He talked about the odd jobs he had as a geologist but that was about it, but it never was on a test.

    If you are looking for someone to just teach the book, then that is not what college is about. It is about the ability to learn and to grasp idea's and then expand on them to work with other concepts. If need be that means using more than just your text book to supplement what you are being taught in class.
     
  5. Oct 22, 2009 #4
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    I work at an insurance company. We sell software to bankers. I don't make tons of money, but I'm doing fairly well, I think. I didn't have any college experience when I started, just some random software projects. I'm not 100% sure, but I think those projects have gotten the attention of my previous employers and probably outweight the fact that I'm not a college grad.

    Oh yea, and I think I remember reading somewhere, on this site, that if you're not graduating from a top school, that your best bet is to work on your resume / portfolio. I think that is probably a better use of my time than pulling my hair trying to impress jaded teachers.

    BTW, I do intent to finish, once I figure out how teachers actually think.
     
  6. Oct 22, 2009 #5
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    It's hard to address this because I both agree and disagree with you.

    On the one hand, truely creative thought does go beyond the text book. On the other hand, there are some ideas that you might never consider until you see it in print. I don't think I have any real passion for physics as a theory. Most of my classmates are engineering majors, and so many of the homework problems are structured in that way.

    I do have a passion for physics in terms of computer simulation (of course, I'm a comp sci guy), so much so I wrote some simple particle system scripts to describe gravity. Mostly just fun, but it is a fascinating idea.

    So, in that case, maybe I did go beyond the text book. But I didn't go beyond the text book in the way that the teacher wanted, which is how you're suppose to get good grades, apparently.
     
  7. Oct 22, 2009 #6
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Buddy,

    You're finding a reason to dislike every teacher/and or course. Suck it up, pass the class and move on to higher level things.

    I see no evidence whatsoever that your instructor is favoring others.
     
  8. Oct 22, 2009 #7
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    A conversation with your teacher can go a long way. If you are having these problems with the course work most teachers are happy to help out a student who is interested in doing well in the course. You just have to make sure to be respectful and at least appear to be genuinely interested in the course.

    I don't think these PhD's are trying to force you into their subject as much as this information is what they know. They merely like to use these examples because they have spent nearly a decade studying the topic and probably understand the class work in terms of its application to their life's work.

    I think many students will find that they appreciate a teacher who can be excited about their work over a teacher who is reading to them from a book. I know I already know how to read from a book and never like it when I am paying for someone else to read to me.
     
  9. Oct 22, 2009 #8
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    What, trying to impress jaded bosses? :-)

    My point was that, for better or for worse, this is how the world works. People are always more favorably inclined towards people who are interested in the same things that they are interested in... whether they are college professors or insurance company hiring managers.
     
  10. Oct 22, 2009 #9
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Pretty much, but you say this as if you think it's a bad thing when it isn't.

    Also if you think that the Federal government and standardized testing is free from the influence of human relationships, then well.......

    The other thing is that I think you have a very restrictive and ultimately quite self-defeating idea of what an education is. One thing that you learn in college, is that if you are doing too well in a class that means that class is too easy, and I should be trying something harder.
     
  11. Oct 22, 2009 #10
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    As you said in all of these cases, you could have gotten all of these "reach" problems right.

    That's the point of school, is to teach you not only the material but how to use that material, how to apply it.

    Regardless of why they are doing it the practice of making students think outside of their comfort zones is a good thing.
     
  12. Oct 22, 2009 #11
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Actually, you're right, I am trying to just that. I have been battling depression for a number of years and I posted this rant to get a second opinion, since I know mine is biased.

    Well, that's a bit difficult one your part.. I was trying to paint a picture of what I'm experiencing, not give you all the data.. But that said, I just talked to two of my classmates, and they too bombed the test.. He might not be picking favorites, but he's definitely trying to separate the wheat from the chaff..
     
  13. Oct 22, 2009 #12
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    It's really quite simple. You spend hours and hours trying to pull teeth to present material students that would rather be somewhere else, that when someone actually has some genuine interest in the material, it's quite refreshing.
     
  14. Oct 22, 2009 #13
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Yes.

    (Hint: Most bosses are not that bright)

    Oh yeah, I was mildly aware of this, just didn't know deep this sentiment ran. Now I know and now I will use this to better plan my future. Thanks.
     
  15. Oct 22, 2009 #14

    Dale

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    If something so minor and so common bothers you this much then I agree, you probably should drop out. I don't see how it is anything that you haven't run into in your career, but if it bothers you in an academic setting then just stick with work.
     
  16. Oct 22, 2009 #15
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Or maybe he is just being tough. One thing that I liked about the school that I went to is that typical everyone bombed the test. There are usually a 150 points on the test, and you often are doing great if you get 70. If anyone got anywhere close to a perfect score, that meant the test was not hard enough.
     
  17. Oct 22, 2009 #16
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Oh yes, thanks to twofish-quant for reminding me to comment about this...

    NOBODY is anything more than a function of their years of experience, regardless of what they do.
     
  18. Oct 22, 2009 #17
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Bing! Now just to figure out how each particular teacher thinks, before I take the class.. Then I can take a good guess as to what will be covered on each test, and stay ahead of the game instead of fail.
     
  19. Oct 22, 2009 #18
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    I hope he is... that's his job, after all.
     
  20. Oct 22, 2009 #19
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll

    Okay, okay, so suppose this is the case. I actually agree that this is how teachers should work. I watched nearly all of my classmates drop discrete math when I took it the second time. So this is something I've seen and can't necessarily disagree with.

    But here is my point: I only passed the second time because I took the time (the time being about 9 months) to read other math books and try to understand how to do proofs. If this is a similar mechanism, then I would have to repeat the same pattern: Drop the class, study physics on my own terms for 3/4 of a year, and then retake the course and actually do well..

    And then what about the next teacher who teaches XXX? Drop the class, study XXX for a year, then come back..

    I dunno.. That would take while to finish, don't you think?
     
  21. Oct 22, 2009 #20
    Re: The teacher is picking favorites.. I'm seriously thinking of dropping out of coll


    Maybe you need to re-evaluate how much time you should be devoting to a particular class during the regular semester?

    Do you work while you are in school? If so, how much? How much time do you really spend studying for each class?

    I am not implying that you have bad study habits, but perhaps it is a possibility?

    College is a full time job. If you are working full time on top of that, one of the two will probably suffer.


    On a side note: Depression can be a really tough thing to deal with on your own, as I am sure you are aware. Hopefully you have some help in this regard? If not, that might be something to look into.

    It's awfully tough to be motivated to work and to be motivated to study when you are not even motivated about life in general.

    Wish you well. :smile:

    Casey
     
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