Model minority in math immersion

The entry-level trades program I did over a year ago was self-paced. This second level course isn’t. I thought I’d hate it, having to attend classes and do all the same work at the same time as my classmates. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the first couple weeks, because I grasped a lot of the concepts fairly quickly and so had very little homework. Then we hit circuit analysis, and suddenly I became the one student holding everyone back with my questions and confusion.

Fuck, I hate that… I already stick out as the only woman in the room, and having to ask for clarification from the teacher makes me super self-conscious. And yeah, I know I have a right to be here, and to ask questions, and to get frustrated just like any other student… But these are the effects of being constantly reminded that I am fundamentally different from my peers: I am determined to succeed and excel, to prove not just that I can do it, but that women can do it. It’s fucked, but that’s how I feel… Like I have to “represent”. Classic symptoms of a model minority, hmmm?

It doesn’t help that I hear this message over and over from others in the trade. I’d thought it was just me, until another female apprentice at the hydr0 boot camp told me that she gets the same thing: Upon learning that we are electrical apprentices, the immediate reaction of lot of older, male journeymen is to start telling us about the one or two woman electricians they’ve known throughout their careers, and how PERFECTLY BRILLIANT they are/were. I gather these men say these things because they’re trying to show that they support women in the trades. However! The actual way it comes across is a reinforcement of the fact that there’s a higher standard for us: We can’t just be sorta okay at our jobs, like the majority of the schmoes we work with. Instead we have to prove ourselves over and over, by being THE BESTEST-24/7!!!

Which is exhausting, and unfair, cuz really, as much as I like to be good at things, I also have other priorities aside from the trade, and I’m not always going to rock out 100%. I would like to be okay with that, and I would like my coworkers, classmates, and teachers to be okay with that too: I’m human, dammit.

Having said that, I’m working very hard, and so far have achieved a 95% average after four exams. Only 8 more to go!

It’s mostly math, which I really like, when I understand it… It’s getting to that place of understanding that’s the trouble. Going through this schooling as an adult has been an amazing journey in understanding my own learning styles.

For instance, I know now that I need to have all information clearly laid out and labeled, and all equations in sequential order, in order to make sense of it. My current instructor writes partial formulas and calculations all over the whiteboard at the front of our classroom, haphazardly drawing diagrams and graphing results. It drives me completely nuts. In the past, I’d have simply given up, mired in frustration. Now I plow through, rewriting his equations on my own notepaper, taking extra time but arranging everything in a way that’s accessible to my own quirky brain.

I also know that I really benefit from spending loooooooong amounts of time on the same concept: Entire days of math immersion really does wonders to cement it in my understanding. In high school and university, everything was arranged in 1 or 2 hour blocks. I never questioned this, because it never occurred to me that it may be related to why I struggled so much. Concentrated bursts of difficult topics, I’ve learned, are exactly the sort of thing that send my mind into panic mode. I get worried that I won’t have enough time to comprehend the lesson, and I’m so distracted that I *really* don’t pick up anything the teacher is showing us! So when I’ve got full days on entire topics, I’m more relaxed, and then I can follow along. My current instructor is forever apologizing for the length of time we focus on topics, but it’s just about perfect for me.

I can’t help but think: If only high school had been 6 consecutive 8-week long courses instead of 6 simultaneous courses over 40 weeks, I might have ended up an engineer by now. Ah, well… If that’d been my path, I would have missed out on all the great scenery on this route, and what a shame that would have been.


5 responses to “Model minority in math immersion

  1. You are my bestest even when you are at your worstest.

  2. Hang in there!
    I just finished a stats class and when I was IN Class, Listening and taking notes as the instructor was teaching I did fine. I missed ONE class and I completely lost the plot. I didnt take the time to analyze why, just finished the class and eeked out a passing grade which was all I cared about, but I am now frustrated that I didnt pursue it enough to grasp the last few concepts completely.

    • feralgeographer

      Oh, stats… I thought I’d love that topic, but it was one of the worst courses I ever took during university: Our prof told us that he was stuck teaching it even though he didn’t want to, and that we should all “grin and bear it”. Talk about uninspiring pedagogy!

      You know, there’s something to be said for eeking a passing grade, so good for you! Especially with missing a lecture… I can’t even follow most of what my current teacher says, so I depend on the handouts and texts, which works so much better for me than lecture-style courses.

  3. Why bother overcompensating just to be on point 24/7? Oh that must be so tiring!!! Stop it already…

    That’s energy that could be put to better use elsewhere. Like I said before men are pigs and they need to get over themselves. Drop the need to “be” all the time and just BE yourself every day. After while I am sure the pissing contest will end and they will tire of the constant haranguing about the other women they know/knew.

    You got here on your own merits and your merits will carry you through in the end. You got nothin to prove to anyone, and you can step away from the feeling “model minority.” Stop wasting valuable energy on those men. It’s like preaching to the choir. Go to class, do your best and let it go.

    You are Woman. A pretty god dammed smart one at that I hate maths.

    You need not have to carry the pressure to perform in front of those men.

    If you don’t feed the animals, they will tend to look for other prey. Stop enabling them with justification. You’ve got what you need – let go the difficulty and go with it. So you ask questions, big deal. I think it is better to ask question and learn rather than looking like the smart bird who knows it all and may not be so smart in the end. I know it sounds like you feel inferior because of your questions but hell, why are you in school if you can’t ask questions?

    Take your time, do your best, and fuck all what they think of you, because in the end, “What others think of you is none of your business.” If you don’t worry about it, then there’s nothing to worry about right?

    One day at a time.


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