I remember the moment I got hooked on science.

Don’t get me wrong, before that moment I had always liked science. During my K-12 education, I enjoyed my science classes. I found the material interesting. There was a lot I liked about science, as a topic. But it wasn’t until my undergraduate years that I learned what it felt like to do science, and that’s the part I fell in love with.

When I was little, I tried to conduct misguided experiments — such as mixing together substances that I found in the bathroom cabinets — that my father rescued me from. Being that said experiments sprung forth from the whims of a small child, they were dangerous, unprincipled, and did not in any way adhere to the scientific method. In high school, I did “experiments” in my chemistry classes, by which I mean I was assigned to measure reagents, mix them per the assignment’s recipe, observe a reaction, and measure its outcome. While those assignments followed the scientific method in that I was testing a hypothesis derived from a particular theory, and the test was carried out in a principled way, no new knowledge was gained. The thrill of discovery was notably absent. …


Every now and then, I think back to the fist time someone genuinely complimented my academic writing — not just because it was kind, but because I was confused. I had so normalized receiving negative feedback exclusively that I couldn’t even interpret what was said in the moment as a compliment.

Picture shows a close up of a red pen with the cap removed. The pen is resting on the cap such that the point is raised.
Picture shows a close up of a red pen with the cap removed. The pen is resting on the cap such that the point is raised.
Photo by Jan Verbist from FreeImages.

Prior to that, the feedback I received on my writing ran the gamut from merely unconstructive, to downright unkind — sometimes with a dash of patronizing tone for flavor (I guess?). …


Content warning: Because the topic is emergency documentation, I describe traumatic experiences and grief that can constitute personal emergencies. I also discuss current events taking place in 2020, many of which are also traumatic, in relation to emergency documentation.

On the topic of excusing students for missing class, assignments, etc., due to personal emergencies: Over the years I decided to never ask for details or documentation. Here’s why.

Photo showing the silhouette of a person sitting alone against a dark sky. It communicates a sense of sadness and isolation.
Photo showing the silhouette of a person sitting alone against a dark sky. It communicates a sense of sadness and isolation.
Photo by Asif Akbar from FreeImages

My position is informed in part by my own experience with family emergencies. …

About

Dr. Gwen Rehrig

Postdoctoral researcher studying language and vision at UC Davis. Opinions expressed are mine, not my employer’s.

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