The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Note to self: things aren’t always as they seem.

I was reminded today not to make hasty judgements about people, and to have a little more faith in myself.

I taught today (MUCH better, very fun … Stella’s got her groove back).  One student sat at the front-and-centre bench, working alone  and diligently on the assigned tasks.  He asked frequent, detailed questions.  They were thorough, thoughtful questions, but I interpreted his curt and affectless demeanour as dismissive and irritated – with me?  With my replies?   I wasn’t sure which it was, but I became increasingly unnerved with each exchange, and in short order I was convinced he thought I was a complete moron.

Imagine my surprise, then, when he lingered after class to talk to me.  Not about the lab content, but about the fact that he was a brand-new undergrad and was frustrated by his efforts to express himself eloquently in a language that was not his mother tongue.  He wanted to tell me about his academic interests, and find out what opportunities there were for undergrads to do field work: “real” science.  He asked my about my Master’s research.  He wanted to know about the types of employment he might be able to pursue, how to get research funding, and how to develop helpful relationships with professors.   

These are not questions you ask of someone you think is a moron. 

His terse speech was actually a reflection of his struggle to communicate the way he wanted to (not that I had thought for a moment that he was having difficulty, he was very well-spoken). 

Long story short, I allowed my own insecurities to cloud my perception of one of my students; a young man who turned out to be very self-aware, intelligent and keen.  And who most certainly did not think I was a moron.

This was an important lesson.  I’m glad it was taught to me this early in the process.

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3 responses to “Note to self: things aren’t always as they seem.

  1. Ted C. MacRae January 21, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    Good lesson!

    I’ve experienced something similar, though in opposite manner. Some years ago I learned to speak Spanish through individual lessons and periodic travel to Argentina and later Mexico. I had a knack for pronunciation, and as I became more conversational my good pronunciation made me seem more fluent than I really was. In the earlier days of doing this, I would begin a conversation with a Spanish-speaker, and after hearing me speak they would assume I was fluent and begin talking very rapidly – I had to constantly remind them to slow down. It was very frustrating to be able to speak the language but not understand it when spoken to me!

  2. Rachel January 21, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    Very good lesson. So glad Stella is finding her groove!

  3. bug_girl January 22, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Well done!
    Just the fact that you are paying attention tells me you have a great future ahead in teaching 🙂

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