I really hope that none of you have been checking my blog daily in hopes of something new popping up, because I took the phrase ‘summer break’ literally and have been chilling here at home for the past couple months, enjoying my siblings, a better sleep schedule, and some very cute kittens (anyone need kittens?). This is all well and good, but unfortunately a more relaxed schedule tends to leave me very unmotivated, especially where blogs are concerned. I’ve tried to map out articles every so often, but the themes tend to drift around like jellyfish in a tsunami, purposeless and colorless (strange metaphor). You wouldn’t want to read them. Trust me.
However, now my break is over, my one summer class has begun, and every weekday starts out with a cup of coffee and a lecture on Developmental Psychology. What on earth does that convoluted label mean, you ask? The basic definition—developmental psychology is the study of how the human brain and it’s mental processes change throughout the life cycle. As you might have guessed, a baby’s brain solves problems very differently from an adult’s, just as an older adult no longer thinks in the same way as a college student (for which I’m sure the older generation are most thankful). Since I really enjoyed my previous psychology class, I was expecting to have a lot of fun with this class and showed up with a thirst for psychological research and theories.
And I have had a lot of fun with this class, don’t get me wrong.
Ah, you guessed it! Yes, even though the class is fun, the teacher is engaging and laid-back, and the tests are fairly easy, there is a fly in this psychological ointment.
The fly? The class is small.
Normally, I don’t have an issue with small class size. I actually prefer it. When you’re in a class of 170 students (as has been the case with a few of my nursing classes), the teachers aren’t available for questions, you don’t get to know other students as well, and the schedule is more inflexible, for starters. There are a lot more advantages, but I don’t think that you really want them all listed here. However, the informality of a small-ish summer class also allows personalities and—quirks to be much more pronounced, if you get my drift. There are definitely some unique people in this class. What kind of people, you ask?
Now here comes the list, mentally compiled after many in-class incidents within a two-week period. If you’ve ever taken a class with fewer than thirty people, you might be able to relate.
- The Day-Dreamer (I’m assuming they’re day-dreaming, anyway). This person consistently has to have the basics of whatever slide we’re discussing repeated just as we’re about to move on to greener pastures. I don’t know how they’ve lost the thread of the discussion for so long, but they always seem several minutes behind everyone else in ‘getting it’.
Teacher: The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain located behind the forehead, is a major component in our personality, social skill-set, and memory. According to the Morksikonist theory, the prefrontal cortex... (Goes on to talk for ten minutes about the myriad tasks that are related to cortex development.) ....so you see that, without the prefrontal cortex, we’d be pretty miserable and misguided human beings. Any questions?
Day-dreamer: Um, yeah. Where’s this cortex at? Is it in your brain or what?
- The ‘Expert’. This person, perhaps justifiably, feels that they’ve seen it all and that they have the magic piece of information that will help the teacher with whatever issue she’s discussing. And they also feel a need to share it in class....with everyone.
Teacher: As an example, I know a child named Mark who has a severe allergy to wheat. It’s become so much of an issue that he is no longer able to attend school and needs private tutoring.
‘Expert’: Has he tried Wheat-a-Fix?”
Teacher: Beg pardon?”
‘Expert’: Wheat-a-Fix. It’s the best thing out there for completely curing a child’s wheat allergy. It’s guarenteed to work within two weeks of the first dose, and has absolutely no side effects worth mentioning, besides a slowing of gut motility. I recommend it to all my friends who have children with wheat allergies. You should tell this child’s parents to go get him some from his nearest drug store.
(By the way, I don’t have an issue if a person wants to tell the teacher this after class, in private. But sometimes it feels that the class is spaced out with a series of commercials.)
- The Anecdote Maniac. This person is constantly being reminded of personal experiences by the topics in the lecture. From lobotomies to stage theories, there’s no concept so remote that they can’t conjure up a story to illustrate it.
Teacher: From eighteen months old, toddlers start to scribble on paper, sometimes using the crayon symbolically. Perhaps they might use it as a rabbit, hopping it across the paper.
Anecdote Maniac: My nephew once thought his pencil was an alligator, so he made the pencil ‘eat’ the paper by crumpling it up and throwing it on the floor. Unfortunately, their dog thought it was a treat and ate it. My sister had to take the dog to the vet because we thought it was choking on the paper, but it was actually a chicken bone that was making it act weird.
Teacher: Interesting. Okay, so by the time a child is three they’re usually starting to draw quasi-identifiable images, usually based on the people and objects in their everyday lives. They often expect their care-givers to know what their drawings symbolize and are frustrated if the adult fails to immediately know what they’ve drawn.
Anecdote Maniac: That happened to my son once. He got so mad that he turned purple and we had to call his grandma over to calm him down. He really likes her, and she had some candy in her purse, so he eventually settled down.
Another Anecdote Maniac: My cousin once fell down a flight of stairs when his dad couldn’t tell whether he’d drawn a zebra or a giraffe. He cut his head open on the side of the washing machine and had to have five stitches.
(This can go on for a while, depending on how entertained the teacher is by the anecdotes.)
- The Exceptionist. This person knows all the people, animals and places that are exceptions to a generally-accepted rule, and they want to remind everyone in the class, especially the teacher, that nothing is ever, ever absolute.
Teacher: As a general rule, most infants say their first word by at least one year of age.
Exceptionist: Excuse me, but I once knew this one kid who didn’t speak until he was five years old, and then he started speaking complete sentences in English, Mandarin Chinese, and American Sign Language.
Teacher: What an amazing child. There are exceptions to every rule, as I said earlier. Well, by the age of two, many children start using ‘holophrases’, words combined with actions to express greater meaning. For instance, a child might say ‘out’ while picking up his shoes and pointing toward a door.
Exceptionist: Um, hey, I knew a kid who never cracked a smile or gestured or anything until he was seven, and then he suddenly began miming the entire plot of ‘War and Peace’, interspersed with Russian words, even though his family was Brazilian. They eventually had to restrain him, especially when he got to the battle scenes.
Teacher: As I said....
- The Uncertain Factologist. This person frequently asks distantly-related-to-the-topic questions about some research that they saw on the internet and then can’t remember where they read it, when they read it, or, eventually, if they read it.
Teacher: Our brains are heavily myelinated and deeply crevassed in order to hold more information. Rats, for instance, have almost smooth brain surfaces which are unable to contain much long-term memory storage.
Uncertain Factologist: Excuse me, but I read online that they’ve just discovered that sharks have really creased brains like ours. How come they aren’t as smart as we are?
Teacher: I’ve never heard of this discovery. Can you tell me where you found it?
Uncertain Factologist: I think it was on this nature blog that this one guy writes. Or it could have been on my news service, I guess. I read it a few weeks ago, so I can’t remember all the details. Oh, actually, that may have been another fish. I just watched a documentary on sharks.
Yup. I hope you see what I mean now about having unique people in my class.
Have you ever met anyone like any of the people I’ve described? Let me know in the comments! And, if you haven’t, now you’re prepared in case you run in to an Exceptionist next month. Or maybe an Anecodote Maniac....