Speaking of Communication...

I have a graduate student working with me these 12 weeks. It is an unusual situation; she is actually only volunteering here while visiting her husband, a fellow in one of the clinical departments. They are from India, and he moved to the States one week after they were married; she has come out to visit but needs to go back for one more year of her graduate studies.

Things are going well. She has good hands, which means that she gets good clean results. She is meticulous, which means she moves slowly. Sometimes a little too slowly… but, she is volunteering her time with me after all, so I can’t complain. Occasionally, I wish I could just do the work myself; but I know when she is gone I will wish I had her back.

We have one little problem, however. It is a communication issue. For the first few weeks I thought perhaps I wasn’t communicating effectively; but that has never been a weakness of mine. However, I made an effort to slow down, and wrote as I spoke so she could see and hear my instructions… and then have them written for her reference. I made a point of telling her why we need to do a certain experiment, what I was hoping the result will be, and the detailed protocol on how to do it. Even so, I found that there was still an issue. It was quite frustrating.

Yesterday, however, I realized what the problem was.

She thinks I’m an idiot.

She is constantly questioning me… but not in a positive, inquisitive, manner. She is second guessing me, my motives, and my methods.

And she smiles so politely as she does it.

It is quite irritating, really.

Well, there is nothing to be done about it. I know I am not an idiot. My resume speaks to that. I’ll just have to keep on explaining myself… maybe eventually the results will prove that I do know what I’m talking about. Of course, this being science, there is a greater likelihood that the experiments won’t work.

I’ll just have to look at it as one of those challenges; I’m sure, if I continue to teach, I’ll always have that student who thinks they are smarter and better. And some of them will be… but that doesn’t mean they don’t have more to learn.


Lisa said...

OK, not quite the same thing, but I can tell you that one of the things that makes me NUTS is when a student of mine thinks that they know more than me. That is one of those moments when I REALLY bite my tongue! But, then again, they are third graders, not grad students...but it's still annoying

KTP said...

"For the first few weeks I thought perhaps I wasn’t communicating effectively; but that has never been a weakness of mine."

First of all, I got hung up on that sentence. I thought it was hilarious. Not that I don't agree with you, I just think it's a very well-put sentence!

Secondly, this post is so wise and accepting and I am inspired by you after reading it. If I was in your place I am sure I would not have the same calm and wise attitude. I would probably have to punch her.