Thursday, January 18, 2007

Overachiever

Sometimes, I think I should probably be in medical school, not radiography school.

Of course, I say that not because I have any overwhelming urge to be a doctor. I don’t. For one thing, I don’t think my hypochondriac tendencies could handle learning about all those diseases and treating and diagnosing patients who had those diseases. As a radiographer, I might X-ray them, but that’ll be the extent of it. I also don’t have much interest in devoting the time, at this point in my life, to medical school and residency. Finally, my undergraduate GPA, at right around 3.0, is probably not high enough to get me accepted to any reputable programs, particularly without a biology/chemistry degree.

But I feel this way about medical school sometimes because I feel so “out of place” among my peers at Spencerian. It’s not that I don’t like my classmates or feel like I am friends with those people. I certainly do. There are a number of people in my classes who I like really well, and enjoy spending time with in class. But I also feel increasingly isolated because of how far apart my study habits and subsequent test performances seem to be from just about everyone else.

My Wednesday night class is a prime example. This class – Radiography 100 – is widely considered the most difficult and overwhelming class in the program. Prior to starting this class, I had heard numerous “horror stories” about it. Our instructor even admitted, somewhat regretfully, to this fact during the first class session. She said that it is “very, very difficult” to get an A in the class, and that she wishes it wasn’t this way, but it does tend to serve as the “weed out” class for the program. We were all, myself included, fairly intimidated after that first class session.

Indeed, this class does cover a lot of material that your average person (even your average college-educated person) has never studied before. It is a complete introduction to radiography, including all the physics and science behind how the machine produces X-rays, even down to studying the electrical circuits of the machine.

In preparing for the first test, which covered two chapters, I spent about six to eight total hours studying, over the course of two weeks. Not knowing what to expect from the test, I went into it with quite a bit of trepidation. Having gotten a 4.0 during my first quarter, I feel a lot of pressure to maintain that GPA.

The test turned out to be fairly basic. I daresay it was even “easy.” I fairly cruised through it, and felt very relieved that it wasn’t more difficult or obscure. I expected to have a high “A” at the very least; as it turned out, I got a perfect score, 100%.

Most people, however, did not fare so well. The general consensus was that it wasn’t quite as difficult as they had expected, but that it was still pretty bad. Two of the people who I have a lot of classes with, and who are both generally A/B students, got C’s on the test. I don’t know for sure, but I have a sneaking feeling that my 100% was the only A in the class.

After that test, we had a second test. This second test was a math test. As part of the curriculum for this class, the students have to display a certain proficiency in basic math. Since there is not enough time during the quarter to teach both math and introductory radiography, the math is supplied by an online course called PLATO. However, a student may avoid the very time-consuming process of completing this online course by scoring a 70% or higher on the math test given at the beginning of the quarter. Anyone who scores less than 70% must complete the online course in order to pass the class.

As an avowed “Math Hater” most of my life, and as someone who has always considered math to be my weakest subject, I was naturally quite worried about this test. When I took the GRE a few years back, I scored 600 on the math section, which was higher than the national average. However, that was a multiple choice test, and this test was to be open answer. Furthermore, I had a study guide for the GRE – for this test, I just had to try to brush up on my basic knowledge of fractions, exponents, and decimals.

Like the chapter test, the math test turned out to be fairly basic. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it was absurdly basic. The first four questions, for instance, were simple multiplication. 2145 x 4523, etc. Oh, did I mention we were allowed to use a calculator? As long as you know how to punch buttons on the calculator, and transcribe the result accurately onto a piece of notebook paper, you couldn’t possibly miss the first four questions. After that, the questions became slightly more in depth. These included changing a few fractions to decimal points, and vice versa, finding percentages, and some very basic algebra (solve for “x” when x40 = 72, for instance).

I do not know yet what grade I got on this test, but I am certain it is a 100%. It was so easy, in fact, that I was afraid I was missing something. It was that overwhelming feeling that it couldn’t possibly be this simple.

Some students, apparently, fail this test on a routine basis. There were a number in my class who felt that they probably failed it, and I know some students I talked to last quarter had failed it. Clearly people fail it routinely, otherwise the college wouldn’t have the online PLATO course. (Incidentally, assuming the PLATO course provides instructions and tests on the same level of our classroom test, it is also notable to point out that I had some people tell me last quarter that they were doing the PLATO course and that it was incredibly hard and that I should “start preparing for it now.” It makes one wonder how these people got out of high school.)

What’s the difference? Why am I set so far apart from my peers? There are a lot of reasons, of course. First of all, I am older than most of them. I have more life experiences and more maturity and am thus better prepared for the dedication required to succeed in a scholastic program. I also have already been to college, and graduated, so I have four years of experience in going to class and studying at the collegiate level.

Finally, I have a passion for learning and I enjoy learning. As such, I have spent much of my adulthood reading and learning about things – in other words, I have a lot of practice at this whole “learning” thing. I believe most of my peers probably view this program as a means of getting the certificate they need to have a job where they can make some decent money. I don’t think they are all that interested in actually learning, beyond doing whatever is necessary to pass. That, more than anything else, is probably what sets me apart. Of course, I want a good-paying job too. But I also want to learn as much as I can along the way, for the sake of learning itself. I think most of my peers would think this strange.

But this is why I feel separated from my peers – like I should be in medical school, not radiography school. My study habits, my interest in the material, and my ability to excel are all better suited for something more than just a vocational technical college. I almost feel like people are wondering what I’m doing there, and I feel like maybe people resent me. “We might be able to have a grading curve if it wasn’t for him.” That sort of thing.

I’m also afraid people think I’m arrogant or that I “know it all.” I do my best not to come across that way. Indeed, I don’t think my good grades occur because I’m necessarily so much smarter than everyone else. It’s about dedication, not intelligence. Intelligence helps, of course, but I make A’s on everything I do because I spend hours preparing and studying for the tests. One student remarked, a week or two ago, after hearing me say I had spent about ten hours on the weekend studying: “I don’t have ten hours to spend studying” (or something to that effect). I work full time, forty hours a week, am a full time student with three classes this quarter, and I also have a wife and two young children. So I empathize with anyone who feels like they have “no time.” However, I spend what little free time I do have studying. And I think that’s the difference. It’s not that other people have less time than I do, it’s just that they aren’t willing to spend the majority of their free time studying. I know how precious that free time is – believe me when I say that free time is about as important to me as anything. But I also know that if I intend to excel in this program, I have to devote that free time, right now, to studying.

So I think it’s that dedication level that seems to be what primarily sets me apart. And I intend to continue to be dedicated to the program. I just hope I am not resented or looked down on for it.

One thing I can say for sure – when I get out into the field and am working in this industry, it’s going to irritate me to no end when doctors – with their medical school diplomas slung on their walls – treat me like I’m common gutter trash, assuming I’m a typical underachieving, undereducated technologist. It’s not that I think doctors are all jerks, or that they all look down with derision on the allied health professionals who assist them, but I’m sure there are the types out there who treat techs and assistants like second-class citizens, assuming they’re all stupid and not talented or smart enough to do anything other than push an X-ray button or draw blood.

It almost makes me want to go to medical school, just so people won’t think I’m stupid.

Neurotic, eh? But I guess it comes from having so many jobs over the years where the “bosses” walked around as though they were kings of the hill, and treated everyone else as though they were street trash. I’m so sick of Type-A personality lawyers and corporate execs that I think I could probably scream. Yet, I know when I get into this field, those Type-A lawyers and corporate execs are simply going to be replaced with Type-A doctors.

I guess that should serve as motivation to write harder.*

*(It’s not that I think the writing industry isn’t full of cutthroat Type-A personalities either – it’s just that at least, as a writer, if I was successful enough, those Type-A’s within the publishing industry would be kissing my ass, not the other way around. Of course, I realize that’s incredibly naive, as I’m sure any run-of-the-mill novelist would say that they spend their whole lives compromising their art and kissing people’s asses in order to sell books. But at least I’d be writing and getting paid to do it!)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I felt intmidated by your intelligence in our 'Recent America' class with Dr. Apple. And also, when you get your degree, I want you taking all of my x-rays.

Scott said...

I'll bet you felt intimidated! One place you did feel intimidated for sure was at the ping pong table.

Scott said...

FYI: My peers in my class last night kept calling me "Jesus" because I "know everything."

deine schwester :) said...

There are kings of the hill in every profession. You just have to suck it up. You have always had that "greatness" complex thing that I have never understood. I never expected or necessarily wanted to be "great". I'm glad that you are doing so well with school though.

Anonymous said...

You are so obnoxious! I cannot imagine going through a 2 year Radiography program with someone like you. What you need is a small lesson in humility. Radiography won't just require moving that decimal point. It will require a great deal of people skills so you may want to begin trying to master those. From my vantage point, you have an awful lot to learn!

Scott said...

Thanks for your post, Anonymous. Do I know you? I can understand how this post would come off obnoxious or arrogant, or whatever, to someone who didn't know me or who didn't know the situation. For what it's worth, my instructors seem to think that I will be a grea tech and that I have a good bedside manner and natural leadership skills, so I think I'll be just fine :) I didn't get into this field because I think I'm Einstein (I don't), I got into this field because I want to help people, provide a valuable service to the community, and make money to provide for myself and family. I'm a much more dynamic person than just this one blog post from 6 months ago :)

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