Demotivating Experience

Mar 26, 2015 • Meredith Durbin

One of the most demotivating experiences of my education occurred when I studied abroad. I was taking introductory quantum mechanics, and the class was set up such that there were both lectures and tutorials. The tutorials were essentially unstructured homework sessions, where students discussed the homework in (self-selected) groups while the professor and TA walked around answering questions. Going in to the first tutorial was intimidating for me to begin with, as I knew no one in the class and was far from confident in my understanding of the material. I was too shy to ask to work with anyone, so I spent the first tutorial session struggling with the problem set alone and listening to the other students discuss problems I hadn’t yet gotten to. When the professor came by and I asked a question, his (very brief) explanation was prefaced with, “Oh, that’s trivial.” I felt humiliated enough that I didn’t return to tutorial for the rest of the semester, and ended up failing the class.

I absolutely could and should have taken more initiative to connect with the other students at the beginning, or to seek outside help for the subject after that experience; however, that might not have been necessary had the professor been less dismissive towards me.