Soils lab

I love what I do. I get payed to play in the "dirt"* at least that's how I describe it to non-soils people. I get really excited about it. One of my career goals is to teach and my department requires all PhD's to TA for one semester. I decided to go ahead and get it out of the way this semester, so I volunteered to TA for the Intro to Soils lab. As I was reading through the lab I'm teaching tomorrow, I looked back at my Intro to Soils notebook. I wish I had absorbed more during that lab. I was reading through some of my lab assignments and seeing what questions I got wrong and why. Some of them were flat out stupid mistakes. Writing "increases" instead of "decreases", and some I just generally missed the point. This really helped me to remember that the kids in the class aren't as passionate about soils as the TA's and the teacher. They mostly don't see the point in taking a soils class except that it fulfills a requirement on their transcripts. They don't come in caring. At the very least I hope that they realize that soils are the foundation of civilization and that soils do more than just grow plants. If I am a halfway decent TA then at least one kid in this class will see the point by the time the semester is over. It probably won't be my "return customers" taking it for a second or third (yes, third) time, but some of the other kids in there are really pretty bright and seem to be absorbing some, if not all, of the concepts presented to them. It's hard to remember that I am the expert in the room and that I can't/shouldn't expect a lot out of these guys when it's 8:30 in the morning and I've only just started on my cup of coffee. It's even harder to remember that when I'm grading their labs and read a response that is no where even close to right. "We covered that!" and "Are you freaking kidding me, how do you not get this?" run through my head. But reading through some of my stupid answers helped me to get my mind right. For all but my "repeat customers" this is the first soils class they've ever had. And for most of them, this will be the only soils class they ever take so I have to make it count. Most of them probably didn't even know there was a whole class about "dirt" much less a degree in "dirt". I just have to work harder to remember that if I'm not openly passionate about what I'm doing there's just no way that I'll ever get them to see just how important and fun soils are!

*I put dirt in parenthesis because soil and dirt are two very different things. The first thing covered in probably every Intro to Soils class ever is that soil is a medium for plant growth, water filtration and a whole host of other important functions. Dirt, on the other hand, is what gets stuck under your fingernails or what gets tracked through the house. Saying "dirt" to a soils person is like cussing in front of your grandmother. You just don't do it. We get all flustered and irritable and then we start lecturing about the differences between the two.


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