Just Another Manic Monday
Hello friends!!! Last time I posted, I was discussing an average (Mon)day in the life. Here is the much anticipated continuation!
After excitedly pumping us up for our next programming assignment, Dr. Roth notes that the clock has struck noon and lets us out into the world. I quickly open my convenient and user-friendly Uber™ (cab alternative that is all the cool kids use) iPhone™ app for time waits for no man/woman/other identification outside the gender binary. My team and I have a fun lesson on the exiting topic of UV rays to teach at 12:30 sharp.
I have participated in Vanderbilt Students Volunteer for Science (VSVS) every single semester I’ve been here. I love it! VSVS assigns groups to classes ranging from 5th to 8th grade all over the school county and gets them excited about STEM issues. Though appreciative and a big fan of campus, I cherish every moment I am able to “break the Vandy bubble” and explore the larger community. I’ve taught exciting lessons ranging from evolution to waves to genetics to dry ice and everything in between. The students are always so smart, respectful, and eager to learn; this semester is no exception.
This fall, we’ve gone to nearby gorgeous West End Middle School. Today, one seventh grader excitedly met us at the bottom of the stairs and helped us carry boxes up to class. The students were fascinated with my hippie look and asked to try on my green-tinted glasses. Coincidentally, one student saw my henna from the previous weekend and recognized it as his mom’s work. What a small world! One of my favorite parts is when the kids ask us about what college is like after the lesson is over. I’ve gotten quite good at giving PC answers to “What is there to do for fun?” and “Do you go to parties?”
Another successful lesson and subsequent cross-examination completed, we rush back to campus. I have my research at 2. We thank the courteous Uber™ driver and hurriedly exit without having to worry about payment (seriously Uber™ is the best). Vivek takes the boxes down to the VSVS lab, while I head over to the CMS lab. Our team analyzes lead-proton and lead-lead collision data from CERN. My lab adviser is this amazing post-doc who is very patient and has taught me a lot about Linux and programming in general. Though I’ve mostly been in the learning phase thus far, I feel that soon I will contribute productively to the group. I would say I feel fortunate to be able to have this research experience which has already taught me so much, but opportunities are so abundant (especially in physics). It only takes a few emails and kaplam! you’re in a lab. I also am getting credit towards my physics major, so life is good. I look forward to my continued work!
Getting out at 5, I have some time to kill before my next endeavor: teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. AMIGOS is a student-led volunteer org that focuses on the Hispanic community in Nashville with many opportunities; ESL is one such option. Instead of 7th graders, the students are now Hispanic adults who are similarly super enthusiastic. It’s inspiring to hear how they work long hard days and still are excited to come to class. I wish I shared their work ethic.
It’s also been an edifying experience for the volunteers as well. Save for some workbooks, the organizers give us full reign over what we do in class, which is both liberating and a little overwhelming. This contrasted with my teaching stint in Ecuador through an awesome Vandy program, during which we more or less followed a lesson plan. Above all, it has made us realize just how difficult the English language is to teach in a systematic way. There are more exceptions than rules and each student comes in a different proficiency level. Fortunately, we have the numbers to work one-on-one with each student and work through the workbook at his/her own pace. We’ve been trying to balance workbook activities with conversational work, which we’ve agreed is the most valuable (and relevant) and source of improvement. The hardest part is explaining why some grammatical structures are arbitrarily the way they are when our only rationale is that “it sounds right”. But it’s been buckets of fun and it seems like they are already making great progress!
After dropping my teammates off at various places around campus and returning the car that OACS graciously loans us free of charge for our service work week after week, I retreat to my awesome dorm to kick back and (eventually) start my 100 pages of reading due for tomorrow. That’ll have to wait because, as part of our ongoing nightly film series, my roommate and I are watching Orlando, a gorgeous and thought-provoking film about an androgynous noble living during Shakespearean times who lives a rich, 400-year-long life during which he becomes a she and undergoes many other transformations. I shall focus on my experiences with McGill at our next encounter.
Tl;dr: Mondays are fun-days that rock my world! Stay classy San Diego.