I’m not sure how the idea first came to be. Maybe it was the constant bombardment from all my friends who were taking science classes. Maybe it was them always comparing the ‘work” that I had to do as an English major to their much superior and more time-consuming science class loads.
Or maybe all the Bill Nye I watched when I was little was finally resurfacing.
Either way, I decided sometime last year that I wanted to take a science class while at college here. UR is a science school and, as Emmy-winning TV anchor Ron Burgundy always said, ‘When in Rome.” I knew I wanted it to be a hard class and one that would probably kick my ass up and down the street. That was my intention from the start, and while I may not have excelled as best as I could in the class, I at least met my goal of finding something that was going to keep me on my toes.
Before I get into the epic tale, however, I want to clear up several misconceptions that have come up throughout the course of the semester. First and foremost, I’m not dumb. I soared through AP Bio (‘soared” might not be the right word) and knew that, at some level, I’d at least be able to follow most of the ideas to some extent. I pulled a very very good first-year GPA last year, and am good at what I do and take that really seriously.
However, I probably didn’t take bio nearly as seriously as the other 300-plus kids who every day fought for the front row, bent over and scribbled their hearts out on their notebooks, memorized facts even when the professor said it wasn’t going to be on the test or asked a billion questions in recitation when everybody really just wanted to get out of there.
But as with any class that I knew I was taking for fun (also might not be the right word) and was eventually going to pass/fail, it often fell at the bottom of my priority list. After homework for my other classes. After ‘Mario.” After a lot of things that most people taking the class probably wouldn’t have put it after. I knew that it wasn’t my priority, and often times I just couldn’t make it the priority I should have. I could have learned more and I could have done better, but perhaps there is a lesson in that as well that is more valuable than if I remember how to mate E. coli or how to select the gender of flies based on the size of their wings.
I had decided, however, if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. I was still going to take my other 20 credits (25, ouch). I was going to go to class and not sleep in and skip. I was going to take the lab class on top of the lecture. I was going to study with my friends while they put themselves through the ringer. And I wasn’t going to start with Biology 101 or anything like that. Oh, and I was going to skip the prerequisite as well.
Intro to Genetic Analysis, here we come.
The first test went by without too many problems. It was mostly review stuff from earlier biology classes, and while I had to dust off that part of my brain that had been inactive since I triumphantly slammed down my pen after the AP Bio test, I achieved what I thought was a very respectable score. I even toyed with the idea of possibly not needing to pass/fail the class.
Oh, but my confidence would come to bite me in the ass later. One of my friends taking the class told me how the professor told her a story about how sometimes people in the class would get lower scores on the second exam, which was out of 100 points, than they did on the first exam out of 50.
I laughed, a little too soon.
But I didn’t mind taking the tests. I’ve actually always loved tests, and it was a nice rush and change of pace between writing papers a few times a semester. And it was nice to be under the pressure cooker while also knowing that my performance on the test wasn’t for my major and did not affect the chances of me getting into medical school (low enough as those chances are).
My one problem with tests, however, was this brand new concept to me that baffled my mind.
Common exam time.
Common exam time is bullshit. That’s really all there is to it. Actually, if I might say, it is time-ist against people who aren’t morning people. For some reason, the class felt it could schedule my exams when I sleep.
On Tuesdays before the seven hours of class I also had scheduled then. The test was not when I registered for the class, but at the time in the day when normal people are sleeping, not test taking. On the seventh day, and at 8 a.m., God slept. He didn’t take biology tests.
I didn’t get to pick the time. I didn’t get to tell the professor when I wanted her to come give me the exam in common Willie time. Some people aren’t morning people, but instead of offering tests in the morning and night or alternate every other test in the morning and evening, I had to drag my ass out of bed before the rooster had even called the sun up to rise. Hell, I would have rather taken the test in the 50 minutes of class time, like the first exam, than be up at that unholy of unholy hours.
But I did it. The second and third tests did not fair as well as the first. If you hadn’t guessed from my foreshadowing a few paragraphs ago (I’m an English major, remember?) my next two tests scores not only were both lower than my first one, but they didn’t add up to 100.
This would bother most people. And it did bother me at first. I wasn’t used to not doing well. But that was kind of the point. I was still kicking ass up and down the street in my other classes. Bio was fun, it was for fun, it was an experiment. I was learning and trying something new and I was supposed to be having fun. Fun doesn’t always mean good grades anyway.
So, I decided to take one whole recitation class and spend my time more wisely. I sat and figured out, at the bare minimum, what I needed to pass the class. And I’m talking, D-, barely scrapping by passing.
I wanted to know exactly how few points I needed so I could sleep at night and worry more about my other classes. The second test had given me a scare that I might not even be able to pass without a hail Mary on the final, so I needed to know that I would be OK.
I put my recitation to good use. I figured out that thanks to the wonderful thing called a curve, a D- meant I needed to get a 35. Taking into account my good first test, perfect homework scores and my then not so good second test, I needed only 38.5 points left to pass the class. At this point in time, there were 300 points left between the third test and final. Even a monkey (perhaps even the ones they have hiding in Meliora but that’s another story) could pull off 10 percent of the points just by guessing.
But that was the bio lecture. Bio lab was an entirely different animal. I held my own through the lab writeups and the lab quizzes, and while there is still a lab practical to go, and it may be too soon to call this one, I’m pretty sure I might pull an A. Or maybe an A-. Ether way, I’ll probably frame that on my wall. I don’t think I’ve ever had to go through so much for one small tiny little A.
Which brings me to a good point. Maybe I finally understand why science majors are always talking about time and the amount of effort going into each class. I had never had a recitation before, and now it was mandatory. I had a lab that I also had to go to, and while that was a separate credit, the four hours that I would sometimes spend it in felt like it must be worth more than that.
I’m in class somewhere around three hours split between two days for most of my four-credit classes, and here was one credit that was taking up just as much, if not more time, than the rest of my classes weekly.
So did I learn anything? My class grade may reflect that I learned just enough to earn that coveted ‘S” rank (which everybody knows is better than a silly old A anyway), but I did gather the experience of exactly what a college science class feels like.
I learned that reading the book actually does help in class and that using the book as a floor rest for my DS isn’t going to help me much. Either way, it was an experience that I will never forget. And as much as I enjoy biology, I’m pretty sure I won’t be signing up for another science class any time soon.
I need 10 points on the final to pass. Ten out of 200. I am pretty sure I can do it, and I will never be happier to see the number 10 again in my life.
Clark is a member of the class of 2012.