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Is it a bad thing to remind postgraduate students that they're asking… - The tissue of the Tears of Zorro [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[Apr. 18th, 2008|11:29 am]
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Is it a bad thing to remind postgraduate students that they're asking an undergraduate for instructions on how to do an assignment for a class they're teaching?

I don't mind helping people. Generally speaking, I'm quite happy to do so, but there's one person who tends to ask for a lot of help from me and tends to expect that I do so. Now, there's the rub, because I don't want to be taken for granted for doing this. I don't want a lot, but I want recognition that I'm giving up time on my own work, or break time, to help them. Now, add the fact that this girl (and anyone who knows me and my former class knows who I'm talking about (I'm looking at chebe and deadlybuzz)) has managed to become a postgraduate, and imagine this scenario.

I'd just been out feeding my face getting back from some fasting blood tests (they absolutely write me off from doing any decent work for the day, it seems (more on that some other time)), and wandered out to the smoking area to talk to some of the lads. For those of you who haven't seen the smoking area, there are very warm heaters and a whiteboard. That means if you want to think on something you can go outside, turn on the heaters, work on a problem on the whiteboard and, if you're a smoker, smoke a cigarette while doing so. It's becoming quite an area for socialising within the department/school. So, chatting to the lads, they say "Turn around" and there's this girl making hand gestures for me to walk towards the door. I open up and I'm aurally assaulted with a barrage of words.

Her: "EEeeeeeeeee-faH! You know MARIE don't you? Yeah you do. You love MARIE. Come help me! I have to teach this class in it and I don't know how to do this assignment. If it was in Java it would be f..."
Me: "But I never did MARIE."
Her: "Neither did I. Still, I can't do this assignment, you have to help me."
(Yes, that's because I was in the same class as you for 3 years *facepalm* - I didn't say that bit)

Now, you might be wondering why I didn't walk away by that stage. It's mainly because, with this girl, trying to do that is more trouble than it's worth. Really. While I no longer have to be in the same lab as her she can get very insistently annoying. Or annoyingly insistent. Or both. Anyway, she tries to show me what's going on, except she's hopping around her tabs like mad. Anyway, she finally shows me what's going on and expects me to immediately spill out the answer. Being inside, and with nothing to put my thoughts to, and her not really letting me think out loud, I say "Right, come on out here." "But it's cold." "There are heaters, and there's a whiteboard"

Anyway, I should mention that the food hadn't really registered, and because I was nil by mouth, I'd only had my hormones and food within the last while. Anyway, I go to model roughly what needed to be done.

Now, for anyone who wants to know what I tend to do to help someone approach a problem, it's like this: "I really wish I had something that would take care of task X. Right, we don't have that. Stop. Hammer time! Break it down. What do I need to do X. Repeat as needed." I consider it a skill that most, if not all, good programmers should be able to grasp. With this in mind.

Me: "So, as a simplification we model the letters as <technobabble>. Then what we want to do to them is 'letter mod 26'. But we have no mod operator"
Her: "Exactly. So why can't we..."
Me: "In that case we need to model it as an if..."
Her: "But we don't have an if statement in assembly." (I forget what chip this is actually for)
Me: "Yes, I'll get to that. So the if we want is..."
Her: "But we don'thave an if statement..."
me: *aggressive sigh* *kill her with my eyes* "We'll get to that, but first we need to know what we want. So we want an if to look..."
Her: "But we don't have an if statement!"

I got a few words in, and then she wasn't interested in my explanation. In the meantime, one of her students made his way out for a smoke, and while she was rubbing my ego I felt it strangely necessary to remind/chide her that she was a postgraduate and I wasn't. It wasn't actually for me, or my ego, it was more to remind her that she was considered academically more capable than myself at this point in time and she should be capable of learning and adapting to new technologies and concepts.

The epilogue is that about half an hour after she'd walked away saying "It's ok, I'll figure it out on my own" she swans into my lab asking if I'd figured it out yet.


[User Picture]From: ebel
2008-04-18 01:26 pm (UTC)
I think I know who you're talking about, and you have my sympathies. :)
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