unix_jedi (unix_jedi) wrote,

Sherman! Fire up the wayback machine!

(Prompted directly by a post at TSM, and something I've been meaning to post for a long while, I've typed it into IRC several times.)

When I was in college, the group I hung out with was almost all physics majors.

The advisor for the Physics Majors was a stereotypical, absentminded physics Ph.D. I'd had 3 classes he taught with my friends his advisees, and he'd seen me around campus with the physics majors and got it stuck in his head I was a physics major, too.

I had to take over 2 years of physics for my major, plus some labs, and the physics building was a good way to cut through campus if you knew how to navigate it... Around advising time, 4 times a year, he'd see me, and demand that I come to see him for advising.

"Doc, I'm not a physics major." "Oh, right, right."

One day I'm walking through the building and he sees me down the hall and yells for me to come see him in his office.

Geez, not again.

So I walked in, prepped and ready to say, again, "I'm not a physics major..." and he says "I want you to sign up for my meteorology course!"

Which caught me totally off guard. While I was still kind of getting back to mental equilibrium, he gave me the hard sales pitch. Promised a easy B if I showed up. No math, he promised.
But he was pushing it hard. Actually, in hindsight, really hard. But at the time it seemed reasonable. I did have some spare hours I needed to fill.

So I said, well, OK, and signed up with one of the aforementioned physics majors I hung out with. He was a likable prof, meteorology's interesting, and I had to fill the hours somehow, and would be more interesting than most electives taught by the Liberal Arts sort.

Over Christmas break I log into the system, check the class schedule, and find that it's in the... Physics building auditorium?
Huh? Bwahuh? A "Senior level" (4xx) class.. In the *auditorium?*

First day of class, arrive with my friend. There are a couple of chemistry majors I've had classes with, and a couple of physics majors I know.

And a LOT of cute girls. Room's filled with them. Few guys I don't know. But, wait, wait, wait, wait. Cute girls? Physics class? I haven't seen a lot of cute girls since it was elective time... *DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER DANGER*.

In comes Doc and we start the preliminaries Yadda yadda, This is Meteorology, Phys 4xx, if you're expecting something else....

Then with about 1/2 the classtime left, he starts on "dimensional analysis". Simple. Look: If you keep your units together, you can make sure you're doing it right. So, for instance: if you do a acceleration question, and end up with meters.. you know you did it wrong!

*yawn*. I mean. Really. This is a senior-level class!

The class explodes. People are waving their hands, there's screeching and yelling, and those of us who know each other from Organic, Physics, or Calculus are looking at each other with astonishment, and looking at the rest of the class.

Soon, I'm turned around trying to explain the the girls behind us, and my friend is leaning over explaining to the girls in front of us. The people I know are all writing, and talking to the people around them as the Doc is trying to handle questions.

This isn't that hard. I mean, if you don't get this in high school you'll get killed in Chemistry 101. What is going on? My friend and I were thinking this had to be a Candid Camera setup.

We spent the next two freaking days on Dimensional Analysis. At the end of the third class, I followed Doc to his office. Walked in, pointed at him and exclaimed "You're using us!"

He slumped in his chair, said "Close the door" and as soon as I closed it, he covered his face with his hands and said "Oh, god, I can't make it without you guys."

As I was figuring out, and he confirmed, that class was required by the Education seniors ... with Science Concentrations. Required for teaching High School Science.

After his first year of trying to explain basic science to the Education, Science majors, he'd come up with a plan: find friendly hard science majors, and promise them a B if they'd be his Teaching Assistants. Seed the room with people who knew what Dimensional Analysis was. (Obi-Wan Kenobi felt the disturbance when he tried to explain Adiabatic Lapse Rate...)

These "kids" - after at least 7 semesters at a University, within 6 months would be teaching High School Science - didn't know basic science.

So we were the unpaid TA's to get them up to speed enough to pass a 3 hour class that had barely (by our standards) math.

He was brilliant, utterly brilliant. It was a cunning, perfect plan, that worked well. We got all the Education, Science majors out to train the next generation. We got our A's and B's, and a trauma that we couldn't talk about for years.

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