I decided to leave some of my basic requirements for later in my degree to have some easy classes to sprinkle into my engineering schedule. The downside to them is that they are boring.
Plenty of my classes leave me feeling way out of my depth. Even after I spend hours doing all the reading and homework, I am just at the edge of comprehension. If the slightest thing throws me off I get a cold and need a little extra sleep. Then I get a chapter behind in a class and I have to give up on trying to fully understand the material and just settle for getting the right equations and putting them in the right place.
What is that in-between place between boring and floundering? It’s that place where you feel challenged, but not overwhelmed.
For me Modern Physics is that place. I enjoy going to class. I like reading the material and doing the homework. I find myself thinking about the math and therefore thinking about physics in general.
The other day, due to a conversation about the bed pulling me back in, I calculated the gravitational acceleration due to gravity at the International Space Station:
Is it possible for school to strike a balance? Where students don’t feel lost all the time while also remaining challenged?
I remember getting done with my digital project in which I had to program a timed traffic light. I went in on a Saturday for several hours to get additional help. I worked hard and I knew it. I felt so proud.
Then there was a project upon which I spent two whole weekends with little progress. It was frustrating. I did not feel I was learning anything. I eventually had to give up and realize my time was better spent working on other classes.
I am not saying school should be easy. To do that educators would have decide that math was an unnecessary subject. I am saying that perhaps we should stop assuming that constant frustration is just part of school.
Is this goal even possible? Student ability and prior education range all over the place. I remember one student who went to a very rigorous high school. He found Electrical Engineering just as I wish I did -- challenging but fully within his grasp as long as he put in his 15 hours a week per class.
I have tutored some kids who require more help and more time than I do. How do you put the 90th percent in a class with bottom 10 percent without boring one or losing the other? Maybe this should not even be a priority.
If we could just start by thinking of learning, and the challenge it brings, as enjoyable and fascinating then maybe could work up to school being a fascinating challenge.
My name is Caroline Storm Westenhover. I am a Senior Electrical Engineering student at the University of Texas at Arlington. I am the third of seven children. I enjoy collecting ideas and theories and most enjoy when they come together to present a bigger picture as a whole. Perhaps that is why I like physics and engineering. My biggest dream is to become an astronaut.
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