I’m so lucky to have a job that brings me happiness. I know it’s not a permanent one (unfortunately), but to be paid to do something that doesn’t even feel like work is freaking awesome. The summer session of stats is over this Thursday. Now that I’ve (almost) finished teaching three sessions of intro stats, I think I’ve figured out the main reasons why I love this job so much.
The obvious one: I love statistics.
I think I kind of always have, I just didn’t know it. When I started college back in the stone age in 2006, I went into psychology not because I didn’t know what major to pick and that’s kind of the “default” one, but because I was actually interested in methods of quantifying intelligence. After I took the class I’m teaching now (STAT 251), I kind of changed my mind and became interested in psychological testing in general. Then it was recommended that I take MORE stats classes in order to solidify my chances to get into a psychometrics program…and, well, we all see where that’s led. I just really, really like stats.
I’m imparting knowledge.
This is a totally cliché reason, I know, but it’s a reason nonetheless. There’s something very satisfying about imparting knowledge to people. It’s like giving them power. I think it’s even more satisfying in the case of statistics because a lot of peoples’ visceral reaction to a stats class is either “god, this is going to be so BORING” or “god, this is going to be so HARD” or a combination of the two. I love showing (or at least trying to show) that stats can be both fun and fairly easy if you get a solid understanding of what you’re actually doing when you do stats.
It’s intro statistics…
Intro classes are broad as hell. A lot of time, in my opinion, they exist to kind of help “weed out” people from certain majors before getting more in depth with the history/materials of whatever the major is (or to put it in a less sinister-sounding phrasing: they’re “survey” classes used to give people a general sweeping idea of what the major entails before they fully engage in it).
STAT 251 is like that too, but there’s actually kind of an extra bonus to that. Since it’s a broad intro class and we have to cover a lot of stuff, we really can only touch on the stuff that’s really, really important. That really, really important stuff is actually the really, really useful stuff—it’s the statistics that non-statisticians use. It’s the stuff that biologists use. It’s the stuff that advertisers use. It’s the stuff that a person working for a big business uses. It’s “hey, you only gonna take one stats class ever? Here’s the stuff that will get you through most of your life.” Because you WILL use something from this class at LEAST once. I’m definitely not saying that more “complex” stats aren’t important…I’m just saying that this is the stuff that even those people who stand at the entrance of a stats class with their fingers in an “X” and yelling “No…nooooooooo!” will probably use. And that’s cool.
…and almost everyone has to take it.
You really get a mix of ability/familiarity with the material in an intro class, I think. In the case of stats, some people are coming right out of high school and have taken AP stats. Others have never heard the term “median.” Both this semester and last semester I had students come up to me who said something to the effect of, “I was terrified to take stats because I knew nothing about it and people always said it was hard (or “I hated AP Stats!). But this class was actually really cool and I’ll definitely be using this stuff in [insert major here].” Seriously. I think one person said they even want to go for a stats minor. That produces so much freaking glee you don’t even know, and that’s actually probably the biggest reason why I like teaching intro so much: you get to expose people to stuff they’ve never seen, and in doing so, there’s always the chance that you’ll spark an interest or fascination (Tests and Measurements did that for me, holy hell). Every time a student tells me they like the material or that they really got something out of the class I just want to jump up and down and hug them. But I don’t. Because then I would get fired for being inappropriate.
I have yet to dread going to work. Even dragging my unwilling body out of bed at 6 AM, my mind’s like, “ooh, get up you lazy fool! Today you get to teach them REGRESSION!” I think that’s the reason, too, why I don’t exhibit any of my usual public speaking anxiety when I’m teaching: I just love stats and I love talking about stats and it’s a really casual thing for me rather than being something I have to prepare for or rehearse 4,000 times. Like…I would teach for free simply because it makes me so freaking happy (but don’t tell anyone that, I need money to keep going to school, haha).