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Re: How to be a paleontologist

Sherry Michael wrote:
>While I agree than ambition and motivation can play a big role, I do not
>think that the advice to "just try harder" is valuable to some students who
>may be having problems is school.
        I do believe that there are some people who will have more
difficulty than others at some subjects. My girlfriend is an excellent
artist, a brilliant writer, and very skilled at training children, dogs and
boyfriends. But maaaaaaaan, math and chemistry just aren't her "thing." She
has tried, tried as hard as she could, since they were very important to the
degree she wanted to get. And, yes, she could have bulldogged through them
if she hadn't had four other classes and a full time job. But that might
have also required some tutoring she could not have afforded.
        And this is the sort of situation many people find themselves in.
Some people need nearly full-time coaching to get through the math. Heck, I
know a guy whos mother had to literally hold his head so he couldn't look
away from a book until he learned to read. This kid is now a really sharp
cookie; he is looking into colleges, and I'm sure he'll make something of
himself. But our education system can't necessarily provide this sort of
help to everyone, and getting it on your own is very expensive.
        So, the important thing to rememeber is that you can "try harder,"
and it will work for some people. But if it doesn't work for YOU, then take
Sherry's advice. Don't get down on yourself, you aren't stupid. Heck, even
if you were, that doesn't mean you couldn't be involved in paleontology.
I've known mildly mentally handicapped people who could wield a shovel or an
awl with the necessary care. I happen to think that we sometimes overvalue
intelligence, as if it is the answer to every situation. Sure, a keen mind
helps in academia, but the point of my post was that academia isn't the only
way to professionally work on dinosaurs. 

>They may feel very guilty if they are trying hard and still can't cut it
        I think Sherry will agree that "can't cut it" in this sense only
applies to SCHOLASTIC work. You may not be able to excel at your studies,
but you can still work on art, or technical skills, or outdoor skills.

        Note that this is NOT an invitation for would-be paleontologists to
slack off in school! The more you know, the better your grades, and the more
skills you have are what will make the difference. Find out what you are
good at and concentrate on that, but do not neglect other possiblities.
You'll want all the options you can get when you actually have to start
looking for a job.

>Finally, never feel stupid, don't compare yourself to others, never give up
>on yourself.
        Remeber that you have to make up a way to compare people: tests,
exams, height, weight. There is NO way to say one person is "better" than
any other.

>BTW, I'm a muti-learning disabled adult who has a BS in science from a very
>good school, and I now audit grad paleo courses at and Ivy league school.
>Most of my scholastic experience was a living hell. There are lots of
>ingenious talented "average" and "below average" kids out there. 
        It seems to me that the true quality of a person lies more in their
personality than their intellect or education. How many friends do you have
that you would honestly call "stupid?" Probably a lot fewer than you have
"stupid" enemies. Do you think this is really a reflection of their relative
intelligence? I bet most of the educators on the list will agree that a
good, hard-working student of "below average intelligence" (whatever that
might be) is worth any two slacker-geniuses who won't do anything. It is the
attitude, the willingness to work, to challenge yourself, and to devote your
time and energy to something you love which will make an impression.
        A secret, by the way, is to learn to love anything that will get you
closer to dinsaurs. Love the chemistry, love the math. It may not make it
any easier, but your attitude will inspire others to help you. And you'll
feel a lot better about having to get through it.

        And, of course, the point of all this is to get you into dinosaurs.
But, if you play your cards right, you should develop enough skills to get a
"real" job and do your dinosaurology on the side.

     Jonathan R. Wagner, Dept. of Geosciences, TTU, Lubbock, TX 79409-1053
  "Why do I sense we've picked up another pathetic lifeform?" - Obi-Wan Kenobi