Archive for October, 2014

Dear stats students,

I was grading your time management projects with the bar graphs.  Many of you have pleasant, cushy schedules.  Some don’t.

I saw a couple of things that saddened me.  Though you seemed to recognize that the canned answer for a school time management project is always “study more,” some of the areas to cut seemed to be areas that are too vital to cut.   They included sleep, time with children and/or family, and time with friends.

Consider my caution as one who constantly over-plans time and is constantly looking for ways to establish balance again.

Sleep – many of you are 18 and 19 years old.  Sleeping sufficiently is normal.  Sleeping until your bodies are done sleeping doesn’t make you lazy; it makes you healthy.  Let me be a little clearer.  Not sleeping until your bodies are done sleeping will make you unhealthy.  Develop habits that will set you up for success in the future.  What do you want to do with your lives?  My dad used to say that it is of the utmost importance to stay healthy because not staying healthy will inhibit your ability to be who you want to be in your lives.  You can’t be as effective at work, school, play, caregiving, art—or just life if your lack of health keeps you having the energy to accomplish whatever is set before you.

 

Children and family – my children vie for my attention.  I grant it to them.  I have had to make a section in my planner where I have to check off daily that I spent time with my children and likewise a section for my husband.  I can’t screw up being a mommy or a wife.  Who cares about all of the math in the world if I don’t bond well with my family?  That requires going on walks one on one with one of four other family members.  That requires reading stories when I can think of a million other things to do if my lap would be vacated.  It requires the time to come home and retrieve a child to run errands with me instead of finishing it quickly on my own just for the chance to ask the kid how his or her day was. They are important.

 

Friends – are these good friends?  Do they inspire you to positive outcomes?  If so, don’t avoid cultivating a relationship because you feel that you need to hold your noses to the grindstone.  It is human to connect with others.  It’s a beautiful part of humanity.

 

Statistics may be a thing that gets you to where you want to go in life.  Statistics is valid.  You should aspire to understand it thoroughly and become proficient at the art of making sense of quantitative data.  Statistics, nor any other class, IS your life.  It’s a worthwhile stepping stone in your life.  Your education serves a beautiful and utilitarian purpose in your lives.  If you need to give up something to make more time to study, don’t give up your lives to do it.  What inspires you?  Don’t give that up.

 

Finally, a shout out to the many of you who are holding down jobs.  It’s hard.  I hear you.  We are all cheering for you.

When I was in high school, there was a nice young gentleman who used to talk to me about physics. We discussed at length why it was so fascinating. At this time in my life, I was destined to do something in the linguistics field and math was a beautiful and mesmerizing diversion that I thought was much too fun to warrant the laborious connotations of academic credit. Physics, naturally, was a brilliant extension of the loveliness of mathematics with all of the equations and derived units. So, I put down the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and indulged in the conversation that was intended to captivate me. As it turned out, the young mister believed that chemistry was much more appealing, but back then, I was none the wiser. In retrospect, I think it was an adorable gesture. Though this gentleman was anticipating cultivating a relationship of a dual nature, he gets innumerable brownie points for appealing to my intellect first.
Presently, I am the instructional support/creative outlet for a math department and I have been happily married for 13 years. I expect to interact with men on a daily basis. I expect that I serve an academic purpose. I expect to play a role that is full of intellect and camaraderie. I would anticipate that my long-lasting monogamy, my small litter of children, and extensive familiarity with all things algebra would deter, if not completely prevent, any men from ever acknowledging my femininity.
Now, let me dispel the myth that men comprise the more logical gender. My intellect is available for public use. My femininity is not. My womanliness is obviously inaccessible, and yet, I have been blindsided three times in the last three weeks by men who find my inaccessible femininity so distracting that they can’t make adequate use of my intellect. It’s certainly not a pragmatic approach. So much for the gender who is touted for the ability to compartmentalize.
Granted, the social ineptitude that accompanies my nerdiness and the residual poor body image from days of yore contribute to the shock factor. I don’t see it coming. I never see it coming. I find the thought of me being lauded as some sort of tartlet to be humorous. I’ve been known to say, “Ha! You must not know that I’m a geek. Allow me to enlighten you.” It seems as though many are given to exaggeration; I own a mirror and can attest to the antithesis of the accusation/exaggeration.
A couple of different male friends have observed this behavior have asked, “Aren’t you FLATTERED?” No, and let me explain why not. I have been referred to as a “that” instead of a “who” by three twenty-something students. My brain has been characterized as an adorable accessory instead of the primary feature. My message of scholarship is lost. I imagine that the men have an inner dialogue of, “Oh, you like physics? Don’t care. You’re a girl.” No, I’m not flattered. I’m disregarded for the qualities where I place my identity. I am reminded that I have no value for anything that I find to be valuable.
Then again, the flip side of that coin where I make a point to blend into the backdrop of academic things, I’m presumed to be frigid and incompetent (apparently, those two are assumed to work in tandem) and my brain never even makes it to the assessment round.
I’ve been repeatedly disappointed by mankind. I do believe that there are some wonderful exceptions. To quote Winifred Banks of Mary Poppins, “while we adore men individually…” Feel free to sing the next line. But it is certainly a man’s world and will continue to be a man’s world as long as men are bound by the persuasion that biology is the most important subject at school. Mankind will continue to be disappointing as long as they believe that monogamy is merely a suggestion. A wife’s femininity is only pragmatic to her husband and outside of that, she is unattainable.
So, gentlemen, please stop suggesting that my very existence is an accusation against me. Skirts are comfortable, not alluring. My glasses don’t make me a “naughty librarian” or a “naughty teacher;” they make me able to see. I am aware that parts of me are disproportionate, but I would rather discuss the eight different ways to write the equation of a proportion. When I discuss curve fitting, assume that I’m talking about regression. Now, if any of you would like to discuss the finer points of translating logarithmic functions, I’m available.