Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chemistry and Knowledge Gaps

So, I've been taking this chemistry class at the community college this quarter. I kind of snuck into the class. I had spoken with a MeanLady advisor a year ago about getting into the chemistry class and she said (roll eyes) that I probably didn't remember enough from my college algebra class 20+ years ago to be successful and that I was going to need to take the math placement test and take math classes to work up to fulfilling the prerequisite, which was precalculus or something equally impossible.

This summer I spoke with NiceGuy advisor. I didn't mention what miss crabby advisor had previously decided about my situation with chemistry a year ago. He saw algebra on my old transcript and wa-la, I'm all signed up for chemistry 121. Never mind that I secretly think she is probably right. I'm old and time is short.

So, last night was my first major exam. Due to life basically stinking, I hadn't studied. Well, I had studied the first 2 chapters a month ago and in class lectures, but no studying leading up to the test. You have to follow the drama with me because today it's making me smile.

I get there and sit next to my lab friend, Sara. She says, "Hi! How was your weekend." I looked at her like she had just asked the stupidest question ever. Which it was. And I smiled and told her not to ask questions like that.

Just about that moment, the prof says, "I hope you all remembered your graphing calculators." Which I hadn't. I could visualize it on the red couch. Forgotten, I would like to think, because of my hasty exit to get to Alissa's swim meet on time.

Then she says that we need to spread out so we can't cheat. Good idea and no problem. I would just move over one desk and leave all my junk on the floor where it was. I look at the girl two seats over, who had just arrived, and her face clearly said, "I'm not moving, I sat here last Thursday and this seat is mine." So, I gather up my stacks of books and bag and purse and my dinner (a Starbucks tall toffee nut no foam latte) and not my calculator and move. Everybody sort of watches me.

Teacher hands out the tests. First thing to do is write my name on the line. I'm not kidding .... I wrote Kaisha on the line. It was sort of an out of body experience when I realized that Kaisha is not my name and I should not have written her name on my chemistry test paper. It wasn't until that moment that I got worried about myself and my test.

Then I read the first problem. Shoot. Then the second. Oh, dang.

Do you guys have a few, specific, embarrassing knowledge gaps that you hope nobody notices, because it's really something that you were taught in 3rd grade? True confession. One of mine is vertical and horizontal. Not that I am not able to deal with those things ... but it takes me a second. I ALWAYS have to talk to myself about the horizon and picture the ocean with no islands or boats in the way. Just that incredibly beautiful flat line. Well, the periodic table has rows and columns (I have trouble with those terms too. I have to picture the Parthenon and those ancient white columns holding up that triangle thing on top.) and they are either called periods or groups. Or sometimes instead of groups they call them families. And I had worked so hard to remember that the families were the standing up ones. Geez. But at that moment, I honestly could not get them straightened out in my head. And it didn't help that she was swapping terms from question one to question two. I had to skip them in hopes that clarity would come later. And then I couldn't remember if I was allowed to have dinner in class or not so I denied myself even a sip of the caffeine I desperately needed.

Things got better after that and I don't think I'll need to withdraw to avoid getting an F on my transcript ... yet. We'll see. The molecular nomenclature and geometry was a little fuzzy to me at nine last night. And actually, I should be studying.

Aside from my grade school knowledge gaps and the fact that I have no idea what a log-rhythm is ... chemistry is basically totally cool and it makes me wish to be a white robed, test tube carrying, chemistry phd guy in my next life.


Through the Sea Glass said...

oh Man, I love you. I respect your perseverance too...I never went to collage because after my accident I had short term memory loss and It damaged my confidence. I have always wanted to go. Maybe I still will :)

tara said...

You had me laughing so hard! I can just picture all of this! At least it ended better than you thought!

I admire you for going out there and walking like you own it and going for it! You are awesome!!

Jenny said...

A while back I took an Applied Math class (for fun. I know...). Unfortunately for me, it had been far too long since my last math class. I would spend at least three hours a night doing homework - one hour on the class homework and two hours trying to remember all my calculus so that I could do one hour of homework. Sigh.

We're thinking of you and sending lots of love.