Saturday, October 18, 2008

Biology in the Barracks

Well, not really "in the barracks," but "Biology in the Latrine Trailer" doesn't have the alliterative quality of the former....

Yesterday I'd been feeling a bit homesick for California, especially after one of my bosses had asked if I was missing being at work in the Biology Department.

Last night as I was finishing up "personal hygiene time" and washing my hands, the Soldier at the sink next to mine asked me what it was I teach in college. He explained that he'd been at the Multicultural Gospel Service a couple of weeks ago when I preached, and that I'd mentioned that I was a teacher, among other things.

When I told him I teach biology, he smiled and said he'd thought so, which was why he asked. He had just taken an online test "on meiosis and mitosis" in the biology class he's taking and was waiting for the results to be posted. This young man is taking four college courses online in an attempt to get an Associate's Degree so that he can submit a packet for Officer Candidate School.

He asked if I liked teaching biology, because he was not having very much fun taking it. This prompted a rather lively exchange between the two of us, as others came in and out for their own "personal hygiene time." (I suspect that may well have been the first time any of them had heard the finer points of the cell theory being discussed in a latrine trailer in a war zone.)

I suggested that perhaps he might be psyching himself out, and that my experience has shown me that when students allow themselves to believe they can master the subject matter at hand -- and do the requisite amount of hard work to make that happen -- they're much more likely to experience success. I encouraged him to stop by my office before his next online biology exam. He mentioned a couple of things that were confusing to him, so we chatted about them for a while.

As we finally went outside, he said with a huge smile on his face, "I just learned more biology in the past fifteen minutes than in the past seven weeks of this course -- and the two other times I've tried taking this class."

I went back to my CHU feeling as if I believed in everything again, and that all was right in my world, at least for that instant.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In response to "Biology In the Barracks" I agree. We tend to forget that we can "shoot ourselves in the foot" so to speak. In other words, our mental state plays a big part in how much we succeed in our lives.

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