Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tear 'em down, then build 'em back up.

Oh, the process of apprenticeship is a strange one.

First, you have to strip away all the bad habits of the trainee.

The sloppiness. The tendency to give long-winded answers. The expectation of being treated like a human being. The defensive argumentative whiney crap.

You do this by muscle confusion. You make them jump when you ask, then ignore them for months. Criticize them as much as possible, even when they did everything you asked. Criticize for being too obedient.

Only when they're completely confused and helpless, when they've thrown their hands up in the air and said, "Whatever!", then you can start to imprint the qualities you want.

Organization. Promptness. Brevity. Humility.

Then, slowly, you force them to learn confidence by forcing them to stand up for themselves. Repeatedly.

Eventually they start to argue with you again, but now they do it more effectively.

You are proud. You take credit for their progress, although what you've done was not always pleasant for them.

But it is the way, alas, that it has to be.

Now they are ready to go out and present their progress to others. This is the time when you help them build back up. You praise their good habits to their peers. You pat them on the back.

To them, it seems like little reward for a lot of suffering. If they are grad students, they will get a PhD, and to most people outside, this is the mark of achievement.

Eventually, they will realize it was little reward for a lot of suffering. When they are postdocs, that little pat on the back is all they're going to get. Because by the time they are ready to apply for jobs, the economy will be tanking.

The end.

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5 Comments:

At 3:07 AM, Blogger tnk0001 said...

Somehow the process reminds of the movie Wanted...... at least Mentors usually don't get to punch their underlings though.

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Is it worth seeing?

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger tnk0001 said...

Well, I really enjoyed it....but I had just spent the past 7 days straight on data analysis and write up so I needed some gratuitous violence... when you're feeling fed up with being inconsequential and getting kicked around...and would like to see what a bullet might look like going backwards out of a head...then I would say see it.

 
At 6:50 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

so I needed some gratuitous violence... when you're feeling fed up with being inconsequential and getting kicked around...

yeah, that's always.

but I usually like violence in movies, unless it's both uninventive and overdone, like those stupid fight scenes in the 2nd and 3rd matrix movies. Yawn.

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger chall said...

well, at my PhD place I was told - not only once and not only me - that "the fire cleanses and leaves the people who are standing afterwards more pure".

The obvious was that if you weren't standing then you weren't really worth it I guess?!

Too be fair though, I had better self asteem when I did my PhD then now when I am doing my post doc... then again, the market isn't really the best when one sees the end of the post doc and not really what to do afterwards.

I have hope it will settle but I don't think it will be easy.

 

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