Written by Abi Humber Tuesday, 11 September 2012 15:47
Two weeks into this school year feels a little too soon to have a firm grasp on how things are going to pan out. I’m still getting settled into my new apartment with my new roommates, still trying to fall into a rhythm with my classes, and still a little antsy about starting at 826CHI.
I sure as heck can tell you, however, that General Chemistry is the hardest thing in the entire universe.
I’m taking the class to satisfy one of my final general education requirements, and, yes, I have postponed my enrollment as long as possible. I was holding onto a teensy ray of hope that North Park might change its standards and stop requiring non-chemistry majors to suffer through the class.... But, no such luck. You can find me sulking in the lecture hall every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon, among rows and rows of perky freshmen and baggy-eyed seniors.
So far, I’ve arrived at all six classes fully prepared, having read the day’s chapter(s) and reviewed the professor’s slides. I have been able to stay fully engaged for the whole period. I have completed the assignments on time and even spent a precious Thursday night at an emergency study session with my saintly professor and several other chemistry-challenged students.
This is all extremely notable behavior for me, and, perhaps more notable still: I. Just. Don’t. Get it.
Like, at all.
Maybe the fact that it’s been nearly six years since the last time I had to focus on anything even remotely left-brained has something to do with my complete inability to understand basic chemistry. In fact, I really do think I may have reformatted my brain to be 9,000 percent right-brain dominant, and entirely left-brain handicapped.
Give me a disastrous first draft of a 15-page research paper on anything under the sun and I will gladly turn that baby into a work of art fit for anyone’s refrigerator.
But assign me numbers 1-45 on page 59, odds only, due tomorrow? Shove my scientific calculator back in my hands and expect me to type anything other than “8008135” or “43770”? And, what’s that you say? The answers aren’t in the back of the book!?
The mere thought of that problem set banishes anything even remotely intelligent from my brain. I can’t recall the necessary equations, elements or really even the words to type this sentence that happens to be about problem sets.
A Facebook friend recently posted a math meme that reads, “How I see math word problems: If you have 34 pencils and I have 7 apples, how many pancakes will fit on the roof? Purple, because aliens don’t wear hats.”
Yes. That. That is exactly how my brain comprehends any chemistry-related problem these days.
I think my professor has already observed the pathetic condition of me and my fellow chemistry-challenged senior pals. (She’s still smart. Chemistry hasn’t ruined her brain yet.)
There are six of us, huddled together in the lecture hall, our books/print-outs/wails of despair/periodic tables making us appear far more studious than we feel. I think our seating choices pretty well symbolize our intentions with the class: about halfway up because we’re not total back-row slackers, but far, far away from the professor’s podium, lest she interpret our “confused fish eyes” for “eager young mind” eyes.
Yes, “confused fish eyes” is an actual phrase my professor has used to describe what she sees when she looks out at us.
I wish I could blame my complete confusion on my professor’s bad teaching, but I can’t, because she happens to be an amazing teacher. She is young, has a lot of energy, and is very normal, considering how obviously brilliant she is.
She makes countless chemistry puns (“sodium sodium sodium sodium sodium sodium sodium sodium BATMAN”) and regularly laments the U.S.’s refusal to give up the English system for the metric system. She wears a tie-dyed lab coat covered in “pieces of flair” and accidentally tells us how to make stuff explode.
She honestly inspires me to release my inner chemistry nerd.
Most teachers probably would consider this a huge success. Finally, the masses catch the teacher’s enthusiasm and strive to apply it to their everyday lives!
A huge success, of course, except for the fact that I don’t get any of the material.
I say I’m a lousy chemist, but my saintly, genius teacher would probably reply, “‘Na.’ Place your fears into the palm of my hand and together we can ‘Barium.’”