Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Just Plain Feel Stupid

One of the best perks of my job at ICC is that every semester I teach, I get to take a free class. I finally figured out that my hobby is actually learning things. For a long time I worried that I was just really fickle, because I'd take a class in some new (usually crafty) skill, learn to do it, and then never do it again once the class was over (after, of course, giving my mother lopsided vases/knitted goods/stained glass projects for Christmas, because apparently four children going through kindergarten wasn't enough when it came to lopsided handcrafts). Eventually it dawned on me that it wasn't so much the skills that were my hobby, it's the learning new things that's my hobby. So now I try to focus that on things that don't cost a billion dollars in tools for basic set-up.

Anyway, since I get free classes, I'm working my way through the science curriculum and through useful life skills I never learned, which this semester means I am taking:

Residential Wiring.

Yep, I'm learning electriciany things. Or trying to. I have to read five chapters (FIVE CHAPTERS! This is excessive.) for next week, and I understand about one paragraph in ten. There are lots of digressions about trade names and things like that, where I at least understand that I don't know what they're talking about because I don't know the trade names for things, but other parts I just don't get at all and this makes me feel downright stupid.

This may be exacerbated by the fact that I truly have no idea whatsoever how electricity works. In my head, there's a bunch of electrons lined up in a tube waiting for someone at the utility to flip the switch. I KNOW this isn't true because electrons are (usually) attached to atoms, but I seem really deeply incapable of coming up with a mental model to help me understand electricity, and I don't do well without mental models. (I do know how alternative current is generated, but that might be from listening to so many "So-and-so is spinning in his grave, we should wrap him in wire and hook up magnets" jokes.)

What I have learned from the first two chapters is that there are a wide variety of horrible ways you can die (chapter one) or set things on fire (chapter two) by merely being in the remote vicinity of electricity. And that's without even interacting with the electricity. You start messing with it, and it actually takes out hits on your entire family. Kerosene looks better and better by the second.

Probably this is good for me as a teacher, making me more sympathetic to my students' struggles when it's their first exposure to philosophy and I seem to be speaking gibberish. But mostly right now I am concerned with the amount of gibberish I have to learn by next week, and how many flashcards I'm going to need to survive.

5 comments:

Diane Vespa said...

I think its safe to say I won't be calling you to re-wire my house anytime soon ;)

Jennifer said...

Oh, gosh, this scares me. I've been telling myself all this time that my fear of getting electrocuted from plugging in the vacuum was an IRRATIONAL fear. But now I fear it's not...

Anonymous said...

don't worry, I got electrocuted plugging in the blender, and it only hurt me a little! :D *twitch*

B said...

OK so electricity is my business. Rather industrial electricity is. I like industrial electricity. 3 phase distribution panels to heavy heavy cable to industrial strength connectors...lots o' power. Now residential electricity...that's scary. I have a house that was built in '98 and the trades people who built it...well I'm glad they (those specific trades people who built my house) aren't my show electricians. Good luck...but if you want to know more about cam locks just drop a line.

Ramble On said...

What an enviable position to be in! I would have been a professional student if someone would have paid me a living wage. Trust yourself, you can do it. The "want to" is half the battle!