Risks and Mistakes

In class, we have recently discussed Geneseo’s Learning Outcomes; “Leadership and Collaboration” specifically caught my attention. This Outcome urges student to work together and also encourages students “to experiment, take risks, and learn from mistakes.” At first glance, I didn’t see the importance of this line; in fact, I thought it was strange to include “mistakes” in a Learning Outcome. However, after thinking about it, I think this line is one of the most important parts of the GLOBE.

I have found that the best opportunities and achievements often require one to step outside of their comfort zone. I recently started to tutor for an elementary school class. When I first signed up for the program I signed up to tutor reading; however, when I got my teacher placement the program had signed me up for 6th grade math. At first, I was worried; I am terrible at math and have never learned the common core that elementary students are currently learning. I know that it is just 6th grade, but I really doubted my ability teach math to someone else. I almost told the program I couldn’t participate, but I told myself to give it a try, and I’m glad I did. I was honest with the teacher in the beginning and told her that I was nervous to tutor math. What she told me changed my thinking; she told me that most of the time the kids just need help staying on task and being encouraged to keep going with they get a question wrong or are confused. I was surprised to find that this was true; often the kids just needed someone to tell them that they are smart and capable and give them a little nudge when they are frustrated. They need this even more than they need help with actual math problems. On the first day when the teacher introduced me to the class she said something like, “remember the last half of the year when we asked for a tutor but couldn’t get one? Now we have one!” I realized that she was grateful to have me; whatever level my math tutoring ability was at it was better than no tutor at all. It’s crazy to me that I almost didn’t try tutoring because I was afraid of my own abilities, but I took a “risk” and it wound up for the better. After reflecting on other instance in my life where I took a risk, I have found that taking a risk and trying something new or facing on a challenge often provides more benefits than downfalls.

The second point of the line I provided from the “Leadership and Collaboration” Outcome is to “learn from mistakes.” As I said earlier, I was surprised at first that this line was included in a Learning Outcome because mistakes usually have a negative connotation; I thought they wouldn’t want us to make mistakes in the first place. However, after class discussions and thinking about it more, I have come to understand the importance of mistakes; we learn from the mistakes we make and find better alternatives as a result. I connected this to our rewrites of our essays. In most of my classes, I learn the material, study it, take the test and then forget the material. While I would like to take the time to look over my tests and understand every question that I got wrong, I need to devote that time to work that will help me for other tests/essays. However, in our class we currently have the opportunity to rewrite an essay. This gives us the opportunity to “learn from mistakes” in the old essay; we can see Dr. McCoy’s critiques and work with her and others to improve our own writing. I see this as the best way to grow and learn; if we didn’t have to do a rewrite we would probably not learn from Dr. McCoy’s critiques, and therefore not improve as writers. Learning from what we did wrong and what we can do differently improves our writing, not just for this one essay, but our writing abilities in general. Furthermore, the Learning Outcome shares that mistakes are actually encouraged because they allow us to learn and create new paths that work better. This encourages students to take on new opportunities and challenges, something that is necessary to prosper, not only as a student, but in all aspects of life. 

Mindset

Currently in my Child Development class we are learning about emotion. In class, we discussed the importance of framing what you say to a child and validating that child’s feelings. The textbook gave an example; if a young boy falls and starts to cry, a parent might say “big boys don’t cry.” The parent is probably trying to help their child, trying to tell them that they’re going to be okay. However, this can be detrimental because it tells the child that their feelings aren’t valid. Telling a child that big boys don’t cry is telling him that he shouldn’t be crying. Next time the child falls the hurts himself, he may automatically start to cry as a reflex, and then get frustrated because he thinks that he is not supposed to cry. What a parent should do instead is validate the child’s feelings, saying that it’s okay to cry and ensure the child that it’s only a small pain and will get better soon.

While discussing this in class, I thought of “The Power of Realistic Expectations.” Both my Child Development class discussion and this article have to do with the mindset of individuals and how that can affect how they develop, whether that development is emotionally or academically. Specifically, “The Power of Realistic Expectations” shows how society’s treatment of a student’s situation, whether it be minority stereotypes or students on academic probation, affects a student’s perception of a situation and perception of their own abilities. The article shares how students were “exposed to the idea that intelligence, rather than being a fixed trait, is something that grows over time and can be developed with effort.” I really liked this quote and think that it can be connected to everything in life. Specifically, with the writing and revision process. At first glance upon any negative feedback for blog posts, blood child essay, or any from any other class, I, as I assume many others do, get really frustrated and label myself as a bad writer. However, after putting the work away and going back to it later, I realize that I was being irrational; the feedback is important, it is not saying that I am bad as writing, rather, that there are things that I can improve upon to make my writing stronger. Critiques are something that we should want, in whatever we do, because they make us better. Confidence and mindset were emphasized so much in the article; how one thinks of themselves affects their thoughts and actions about other situations. It was so interesting how even changing the capitalization of the letters,  from Academic Probation to academic probation, changed the affects.  Rewording the letter changed the outcome because rather than seeing the situation as fixed and something that defines them, students started to see it as an obstacle that they can overcome. This furthermore connects to one of Geneseo’s Global Learning Outcome’s, “Leadership and Collaboration” which states that one of the goals is, “to experiment, take risks, and learn from mistakes.” When students start to perceive their “failures” not as failures, but as opportunities for growth and development, they start to believe in themselves and their ability to improve. 

Plagiarism

A few weeks ago, I attended a plagiarism workshop as extra credit for my Behavioral Research Methods class. While I’m willing to bet that most people there went for extra credit or mandatory credit for a class; I actually learned very important aspects of plagiarism I was unaware of. The presentation began with sharing that one of the main reasons that students plagiarize is that they don’t truly understand what plagiarism is. Everyone knows that if you literally copy and paste an article from a website and then hand it into your teacher claiming you wrote it, then that’s plagiarism. However, what was emphasized in this presentation was “stealing ideas.” Plagiarism isn’t only copying and pasting; it can also be using findings from someone else’s research or using someone else’s idea. You don’t even have to claim it is your own; if you fail to cite where you got the information or idea from then that’s plagiarism. The presentation also greatly emphasized “Switch Plagiarism.” This is when one basically copies a sentence or paragraph; however, to make it different students switch the order of the words or use synonyms for certain words and the new sentence is similarly structured to the old one.

Dr. McCoy often stresses giving credit where credit is due, and this presentation reinforced that. It was a little out of the ordinary when on the first day of class Dr. McCoy made us all memories each other’s names. No other teacher I’ve had has made the students know each other’s names, and many don’t even know the names of their students. Learning the names of my fellow classmates not only creates a more comfortable atmosphere for class discussions; it also allows us to give each other credit for ideas. Last semester I had a teacher who called one student in the class “surfer dude” because he had long blonde hair. It wasn’t even a large lecture class. I can understand that professors have many students; however, if he didn’t even respect that student enough to simply ask for his name how could he ask for respect in return?

Crediting other people is a responsibility we all have in order to respect them. The plagiarism presentation suggested that one way to overcome plagiarism is: instead of looking at the passage while you try to summarize it; read the passage you’re referring to, put the passage away and then write about the main idea in your own words.  Part 1 of They Say I Say stresses the “They Say” part of writing; it specifically explains the “art of summarizing” another person’s work.  It claims that “a good summary requires balancing what the original author is saying with the writer’s own focus.” In other words, one needs to ensure that they have enough of their own voice while still presenting another’s argument. This connects to plagiarism because we need to remember that the goal of using quotes and another’s work is to enhance one’s own writing, rather than using those as a substitute.

The Tortoise or the Hare

The other day in class we discussed Discourse on the Method, specifically one point Descartes made about patience. Descartes argued that “those who go very slowly but always on the right path can make much greater progress than those who sprint and go astray.” Like the old story of the tortoise and the hare, Descartes is arguing that slow and steady wins the race. Descartes claims that often when people go to fast they often miss something or make too many mistakes. He urges the need for patience and taking the time to think through problems and situations. Our class discussion connected this to timed essays in high school and time management in college. Often people in high school rush through essays because they do not want to be doing them. There is also often a time limit, which enforces rushing through rather than thinking through. While time management is a necessary tool for students to learn in college and later on, this rushing through and limited time decreased creativity and the ability of students to think through the material.

This reminded me of my study habits for my Human Biology class. In Biology, every class we cover a single chapter, and I try to read the chapter before class so it’s easier to understand during class. I am not a big fan of reading the Biology textbook, so I just want to read it as quickly as possible to get the reading over with. However, I am constantly conflicted between reading fast, copying the textbook word for word, and getting it done as soon as I can, with reading slow, absorbing the material, takin more effective notes and ensuring that I understand the material. The first one might be less effective in the long run, but I am still reading the material and getting it done quicker. The second might seem like an obvious better option, but it also takes up much more time, time that I need to spend doing the online homework for biology or attending to other class homework. Weighing the benefits and negatives (or risks and rewards) of each, I know that in the long run the latter would be the better choice.

In any class, we often risk rushing through an assignment to get it done quickly but less efficiency. Students can look at the risks and rewards of each alternative and contemplate whether saving some time could be worth the lower grade or going through material and taking your time might be worth it for the higher grade. Descartes argues that the need for patience and perseverance, rather than rushing and not giving your best. Similarly, They Say I Say shares that many students “have trouble entering some of the high-powered conversations that take place in college because they do not know enough about the topic at hand.” It further argues that when given the chance to study the material in depth those same students become more confident about their own ideas and contribute more, and that good arguments are based on “everyday knowledge that can be isolated, identified and used by almost anyone.” While this doesn’t exactly connect to Descartes argument about patience, it does connect to his argument because it shares the importance of going in depth about material and taking time to gradually absorb information. Going in depth about a subject is more worth it than brushing the surface because it allows for a deeper understanding that is better in the long run.

Consent, Coercion and Beneficence

Throughout the past few classes we have been discussing several issues with the partnership between Gan and T’Gatoi in Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild. We have contemplated the complexity of their partnership and the issue of consent. Our class discussion reminds me of what I am currently learning in my Behavioral Research Methods class. Currently in this class I am learning about the International Review Board, which is a group of people who determine whether a proposed scientific experiment is ethical and thus allow to be performed. There are several guidelines for this which include: respecting the rights of subjects, informed consent, no coercion, beneficence and justice. Specifically, the parts that I connected to our course are informed consent, coercion and beneficence.

They key in informed consent is the word informed. It is not enough in an experiment to have the participants signature agreeing to be a test subject. Rather, the experimenter needs to provide information about the entire experiment, which includes: what the participant will be doing, the purpose for the experiment, and not deceiving the subject about the experiment. In class we discussed consent with the agreement between Gan and T’Gatoi, the implantation. Some may say that Gan gave consent from the beginning. When Gan first nods to the situation he says “my sister instantly took a liking to [T’Gatoi] and wanted to be chosen, but my mother was just coming to terms with me and T’Gatoi liked the idea of choosing an infant… I’m told I was first caged with T’Gatoi only three minutes after my birth.” (8) He seemed to just accept the situation because it was how he was raised; it was the only way he knew. However, connecting to the informed consent criteria, this consent was not informed because Gan didn’t really understand the situation. Gan realizes this upon seeing Lomas give birth, after which he says; “I had been told all my life that this was a good and necessary thing Tilc and Terran did together- a kind of birth. I had believed it until now. I knew birth was painful and bloody, no matter what. But this was something else, something worse. And I wasn’t ready to see it. Maybe I would never be.” (17) Gan’s opinion of his consent of the situation changed greatly after he is given more information about it.

I also see a connection with coercion. The IRB won’t allow an experiment if there is a large amount of coercion, which involves threatening or forcing someone to do something. Although technically one could argue that Gan is given the choice of having his sister be implanted instead of himself; in another sense Gan doesn’t really have a choice because he knows this is wrong. “I could make Xuan Hoa my shield. Would it be easier to know that red worms were growing in her flesh instead of mine?” (26) Gan and the other children in the preservation are not fully given a choice about this decision. This is an exchange that has been going on in the preserve for generations, it is a social “norm” now in a way, and the children do not fully understand that it doesn’t have to be this way. Gan, and the other Terran are coerced because there are consequences if they disobey. The Tilc are more powerful than the Terran so the Terran can not rebel in this situation without being suppressed. 

Beneficence also connects because it involves risks and rewards. In my Behavioral Research class, we discussed beneficence as the necessity that the benefits of the experiments must outweigh the costs. In other words, any harm or discomfort caused to animal or human participants must be justified by the amount of good the experiment is trying to do for the population.  There is a partnership between the experimenter and the experimentee and each has obligations to the other.  This connects to class because out whole class premise revolves around risks and rewards. In Bloodchild there is a partnership between the Terrans and the Tilc, specifically between T’Gatoi and Gan. As Gan puts it when he insists T’Gatoi allows him to keep the gun, “there is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” This partnership has risks and rewards for both parties and ultimately by agreeing to the partnership each party believes that their rewards outweigh their risks in the situation.

Reflecting

Recently I have made a connection with some of the ideas in the book Reflective Writing to my own experiences, specifically with running.

As a runner, I try to reflect on my races, so I write race reflections after each of my races. I didn’t really think about that this could connect to a class until I was reminded of it while reading Reflective Writing. Specifically starting with page 22; “Reflecting on yourself and your experiences.” This section discusses reflecting on, as the name says, your own experiences. It discusses reflecting on your writing, and your own feelings of a situation, how your feelings and opinions of a situation change, as well as your process of revision and growth. When I write race reflections I try to do a similar process of reflection. I try to write down what went wrong, what went right, how I felt and what to improve on for next time.

An example of the similarity is on page 23, which shares example of how students thinking should be guided, stating that “rather than trying not to think about the experience, students have had concentrate on it and analyze their reactions.” When someone gets criticism they often don’t want to face it, they often want to only focus on what they are good at. However, we need to analyze and reflect on our pieces to become better writers. This is like runner’s experiences with bad races. When I have a race that I am unhappy with, the first thing I want to do is forget about it.  However, the more productive thing to do is to analyze the race and learn from it to improve upon for next time. I might analyze my split times for each mile and realize that I started off way too fast, so I didn’t have energy at the end, so next time I’ll try going out slower. Even if I have a good race, I need to look at what I did right. I also write do outside factors, such as what I ate before, how long before I ate it, if I felt low on energy, if I was very nervous or relaxed, etc. By writing these factors down I can figure out if it’s something that I should mimic or avoid for the next race.

Another similarity between running reflection and writing reflection is looking to other people for advice. As the premise of our class is Academic Partnership, when writing we can work together to generate ideas and review each other’s work. other people can find grammatical errors, biases and incoherent ideas that we ourselves may not notice, as well as provide us with experiences and beliefs different than our own. When I reflect on a race I also look to other people; specifically teammates and coaches, for advice on what I can improve upon. Looking to other people can give us insight on things that we otherwise may not notice and enable us to become the best versions of ourselves in any situation we encounter.

Geneseo’s Mission Statment and GLOBE Connections

Tuesday’s class discussion regarding a liberal arts education and connecting different majors and classes really got me thinking. In Geneseo’s GLOBE, its 7th learning outcome is “To work effectively in a pluralistic society, recognizing and respecting diverse identities, beliefs, backgrounds, and life choices; to practice effective communication and collaboration across diverse communities and organizations; to critically reflect on the reasoning and impact of one’s personal beliefs and actions.” Since Geneseo is a liberal arts college, we are all required to take several classes outside of our major. This specific learning outcome connects to our class discussion because as a liberal arts college we are required to take many classes outside of our majors, to gain a “broader” knowledge. Although many people dislike the fact that we all must take classes outside of our majors, myself previously included, I’ve come to see the value and necessity. As a Psych major I am required to take Human Biology, which I am taking this semester. At first, I was dreading taking it, I would not consider myself a science person and did not like biology in high school. However, I’ve found that it is a lot more interesting than I thought, while there are many parts I dislike there are also many that I enjoy and find interesting to connect to real life situations.
Geneseo’s mission statement and GLOBE also stress the importance of the ability to apply skills learned in class to the outside world. One way I see that at a liberal arts college is making connections between different classes. For example, last semester three of the classes I was taking were; Psych 100, Intro to Global Social Changes, and Comparative Politics. At one point in the semester I saw a connection between the classes that I found very interesting. In psych I was learning about different parenting styles and how the different styles affect a child’s development, personality and life outcomes. In sociology I was learning about how socioeconomic factors affect children. How things that are provided by the family one in born in to, for example; resources, environment, parental income, community, school etc. affect children. Kids who are born into wealthier families most likely attend better schools with more resources and therefore more likely to attend better colleges than student who come from poorer families who may not have money for notebooks, or even food. The former has safety nets to fall back on while if the latter has an unfortunate situation happen, like a house fire or a lay off. They might not have anywhere to turn and may resort to homelessness. I also found the connection to my comparative politics class because we often discussed the economy in several countries and how those developed differently in different countries and evolved overtimes. We learned about why some countries are more successful than other and what economics factors work, as well as which don’t. I may be pulling at strings, but I see a connection between how parenting styles affect children because of the socioeconomic resource they provide or fail to provide, and how those factors contribute to their later jobs contributing to the economy and how the economies differ in different countries. Different countries have different parenting styles that are the social “norm” and these parenting styles may contribute to a child’s academic path and job outcomes, contributing to the differences in the country’s general job occupations and economic efficiencies.
I also see a connection from Geneseo’s mission statement to the presentation that Dr. Harris gave that we were able to attend for extra credit. For anyone who didn’t see her presentation, she discussed her life as an illegal immigrant in the U.S., challenges she’s overcome and ways we can make our community for dreamers better, by being a supportive community that helps all different types of people. I see the connection to the mission statement because our mission statement shares the importance of a community, specifically a diverse community. A community enables people to work together, for example as Dr. McCoy often shares that we need to put the chairs back into our real classroom because it is our obligation to the custodial staff, and we would not have a functioning environment without them. A diversity community can open us up to ideas, experiences and beliefs that are different from our own, enriching our experiences in college. Taking different classes and connecting those classes allows for us to reap the benefits of a liberal arts college. While it may seem unnecessary at times to have to take classes outside our major, it helps us apply our skills to and prepares us for the “real world.”