Friday, December 25, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It. Is. Finished. The semester, anyway. It is such an incredible relief, I can't begin to tell you. I turned in my research paper Wednesday night (the one the prof. never bothered to get back with me about) and then I was free. I am absolutely beside myself.

Now, instead of being in a school-induced frenzy I am in a house-cleaning, getting-ready-for-Christmas frenzy. It feels good. Christmas is almost here, and even though I'm not ready, I still have time to enjoy the season for a little while.

Semester recap:

British Empire - Interesting class, but it is hard to sit still and stay focused for three hours on a Monday night. Nonetheless, I believe I now have a good overview of the British Empire (first and second) and though the professor was not an exciting speaker, he was interesting, consistent, and always provided feedback on essays. I would like to take him again if there is ever opportunity.

Latin American Civilization - My favorite class with the most interesting and enthusiastic professor. Unfortunately, we only covered two-thirds of the material on the syllabus because he was always gone. In addition, I am not happy that, though the syllabus required him to return our final research paper to us with suggestions for improvement, he never bothered to do so. Great teacher, interesting class, but gone too much and frequently too busy for his students. Unfortunate. I was hoping to take him for my senior seminar, but now I'm not so sure.

Spanish Proficiency Skills - Well, I'm not sure how proficient I am, but I survived the class. There was method to his madness and, aside from the first few weeks when I thought he was the devil incarnate, he turned out to be a decent young man who sincerely wanted his students to learn and was willing to go to great lengths to make it happen. Even though he knew of my aversion to public speaking, he still chose me as one of the students to give a short presentation, during the last class session before finals, over two Spanish videos that we had to watch outside of class. I wasn't sure why he picked me, but I managed to make my presentation, whereas several classmates failed to show up for class to give theirs and one young lady said she couldn't (and wouldn't) do the presentation. (I didn't know you could say such things to a teacher?!?). This assignment enabled me to make an "A" on the final. Enough said.

Introduction to Ethics - A philosophy class is a requirement for a BA and I took this class online at the community college. I knew what to expect from this teacher so there were no surprises. I learned a little about several philosophers, but what sticks in my mind the most is Jeremy Bentham, stuffed and on display in a box somewhere in England. You can't make this stuff up.

So that's it. Another semester conquered and another coming up. Many thanks to my on-line friends for their support. Now we can relax and enjoy the holidays!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Race to the Finish Line

I'll do anything to avoid starting this paper. It only needs to be 3-5 pages long, and it is due tomorrow, but I would rather blog.
I have three finals to take Blackboard, which I am hoping to accomplish this weekend. Monday is my Spanish final, which doesn't bear thinking about. My terror will be limitless. Three tests, a paper, and an in person final. Then I will be finished.

Oh wait. I forgot about the research paper. I worked relentlessly over Thanksgiving holiday to complete the rough draft that, according to the syllabus, is a requirement. When I turned it in Monday, my professor was completely astonished. I reminded him that this was a requirement that, according to his syllabus, would be part of our final grade. He promised to look it over and get back with me about any needed improvements. Well. Hasn't happened yet. Yesterday was our last day of class, and once again he promised to e-mail me with links to some primary sources (to add a couple of citations), which he said was all I needed. He told me, "Basically, you are through". I was thrilled to hear that, because quite frankly, I will be surprised if I ever hear from him again.

Enough stalling. I had better get back to my paper about the consequences of Spanish conquest on indigenous cultures of Meso- and South America.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving is over and for that I am thankful. It is so much work and stress for what ends up being a two hour period when we are all together and I just have to wonder, is it worth it? Not really, not when I have so much homework. It's hard to enjoy the holidays when there are so many other things hanging over my head. So here I am on a Saturday night, trying to finish my Columbian Exchange paper so I can turn in a rough draft on Monday. Really, I need to get a life. In slightly less than three weeks the semester will be over and I will stop complaining. Really.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

End-of-Semester Blues

I miss my friends. I used to have some. I used to have a life. I miss hanging out with the girls, watching chick flicks, laughing and acting silly. I can't remember the last time I had a chance to do something like that. It seems like all my friends have scattered, with busy lives, busy families. I'm certainly no exception. Will there be a life left for me when I finish school? I read a magazine article recently about how hard it is to make friends in your forties. Some were of the opinion that it isn't just a matter of being hard to make friends; others believe it is just harder to find other women with whom we have common ground. Both may be true, I'm not sure.

I've spent all weekend working on a paper for Latin American Civ. I'm nowhere near finished. I need to have about another ten pages in order to turn in a rough draft right after Thanksgiving. My Spanish teacher is prepping us for our final, which will be a two minute presentation to him in his office. We have to find two articles in Spanish, both with similar themes, and then tell him, in Spanish, a summary of both articles. Slightly scary, but at least it we don't have to do it in front of the class.

I'm really looking forward to the end of this semester. It has been a long, hard 16 weeks. I can't wait to have time to read for fun, to read as many blogs as I want to without feeling guilty, to watch a movie in English (or in Spanish, if it has Javier Bardem), or just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling. It doesn't really matter. Just rest and no stress. It's good to have something to look forward to.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My great-grandfather couldn't read or write. He worked hard all of his life, had a driver's license and drove a car, voted in each election, and traveled throughout the city and county, yet he couldn't read the street signs or sign his name. The most he could do with a pen was make a scraggly X on documents in place of his name.

I'm reminded of his illiteracy when I'm in Spanish class, and as usual I only half know what is going on. I don't understand everything I hear or see. This is actually a big improvement; at the beginning of the semester I never knew what was going on; now I understand at least half to three-quarters of what he says. I no longer cringe quite so badly when he calls on me to speak. I'm becoming a little more comfortable with trying to speak the language in front of people who are able to speak Spanish so much better than I can. In short, I'm learning and improving as time goes on.

My great-grandfather never improved, he never got any better; he spent his entire life unable to read anything. He never complained and he never seemed to feel the lack. He just carried on doing what he had to do and coped however he could. Like Grandpa, I have found ways of coping when I don't understand what I see and hear. I watch and listen intently to the teacher. I watch my classmates. I follow along as best I can and if I'm heading the wrong way, someone will tell me. Grandpa had his own ways of coping. When he went to vote someone would read the ballot to him. Medical and legal documents where read to him before he made his X. Whenever he needed to drive somewhere new, he was given directions based on landmarks, or someone would go with him the first time. He then found his own way to get back home, usually taking a more scenic route that was more complicated but involved less traffic. He wasn't stupid, he just couldn't read.

I don't know how much stress his inability to read may have caused him throughout his eighty-five year life, or how he may have felt about being illiterate. It was just the way he was, and growing up the way he did, maybe he never expected anything different. I didn't give it much thought when I was young, but in retrospect, I admire the way he lived his life in a world he didn't fully understand. He always did it without complaint and without blame or bitterness. And seemingly without fear.

I registered on Monday for the spring semester. I've already dropped one class and added another. It is still subject to change, but right now my schedule includes Spanish Composition, American Religious History, East Asian Civilization I, and People and Cultures of the Caribbean. I am so ready for this semester to be over so I can give my brain a brief rest before diving into the next semester. I just tell myself that I will be one step closer to the finish line!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

And so we are in the homestretch, and we are all tired. At least, I know I am. I finally have an outline for my Latin American Civ. paper and I'm hoping to get a good chunk of it written next weekend while my husband is out of town. I have a test in British Empire this week; an Ethics assignment due Thursday. The Spanish teacher chewed us all out Friday for not talking. Half the class skipped (probably because it was such a beautiful day)and the rest of us apparently didn't have much to say, at least not in Spanish. I was just glad that for a change I wasn't the only one not talking. Please let it be over soon.

On a positive note, I'm happy to have found others like me, non-trad students. They are all on-line, as I never see any on campus. ( I know they are there; I think they are all in accounting or in some other more practical major.) I take comfort in this virtual club when I'm in class with a group of twenty-year-old students who are complaining about being tired and not having enough time to get their homework done. Occasionally when I hear these complaints, one of them will realize who they are talking to and have the grace to look embarrassed. Most of them don't have a clue.

Tomorrow is my designated registration day. Decision time, although I'm feeling quite wishy-washy right now. New classes are frequently added to or removed from the schedule, so my options could change before registration ends. This could be good or it could be bad. There are so few history classes offered each semester already, it makes it hard to plan my schedule so that I am on track to graduate in spring 2011. What a day that will be!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Well, I somehow survived the Spanish Inquisition interview last week and even more surprising is that I received a good grade. He asked a question that was not on my list, but I think I managed to answer it well enough. If it seems that I spend a lot of time ranting about this class, it is because this is the only class that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. A few people in class have been complaining about their grades, and I just don't understand why they are not getting A's, because they actually know how to speak. When he calls on me, I feel like all I can do is stutter, yet my grades are good. I don't get it.

Registration begins later this week, so I'm going to have to make a few decisions about the Spring semester. Will I be able to survive in the next Spanish class? Should I take four classes again, or cut back to three? If I only take three, will I have to make up the other class next summer or squeeze it in during another semester? Summer classes don't offer many options, and not counting the short summer semester, I have three semesters remaining before I plan to graduate. I have to find a way to fit everything in my schedule and still keep my head above water (and actually have time to learn something from my classes).

This weekend I bought the latest book by Diana Gabaldon. Unfortunately, I absolutely can not touch the book until school is over in mid-December. It is several hundred pages long and if I start it I will have to finish it, to the detriment of my history paper that will be due all too soon. Delayed gratification is no fun.

I don't remember what it was like to have a life. What will life be like when I finish school? Will I need to find a new goal, or a new purpose for my life?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An easy enough night. I only have to continue practicing my answers for my phone interview in Spanish tomorrow and then read almost 500 pages of Bernal Diaz del Castillo's account of the Conquest of New Spain. No big deal.

I gave up five extra credit points tonight for Latin American Civ. because I did not want to participate in the Atlatl throwing demonstration in the rain. It was probably cancelled again, anyway. October is typically mild and sunny, but this year the entire month has been nothing but cold and rain. Bleak.

My Spanish teacher promised us that he does not wake up mornings thinking of new ways to torture us. I don't believe him. I'm still not sure why we spent almost four class sessions watching a movie that most of us could not understand. Maybe he wants us to get used to hearing the language, which is a good idea. I'm in a Spanish conversation class, which means I forced to speak occasionally; unfortunately in my previous classes I was never required to speak Spanish and rarely heard the language spoken. Hence my complete terror when I have to go to class three days a week and attempt to say something less than idiotic in Spanish. I've joined a site called Livemocha, which is a lot of fun and I think will be helpful, at least it will be just as soon as the semester is over and I have time practice.

I absolutely have to have an outline for my Columbian Exchange paper by this Sunday evening. That will leave me six weeks to write a rough draft, turn it in to the prof. to receive a preliminary grade along with some (hopefully) helpful pointers for improvement, get it back, touch it up, and finally turn it in the last day of class. Six weeks. It's almost Halloween and I'm really feeling frightened!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's fall break so I have spent the last few days doing nothing but homework. A magazine article about John Stuart Mill to produce for my Ethics class; a test to take online for Latin American Civ., as well as a paper to write for the same class. I was having terrible writers block last night when my husband told me to stop thinking and start typing. Good advice, because it worked. I had five hundred words typed about Mayan culture before I knew it. Now on to the Aztecs and Incas.

I've felt quite overwhelmed with school lately. The semester is now half over things need to get done. I still have no outline for my big paper (10-20 pages)about the Colombian Exchange. I got an A on my Ethics mid-term and a B (very disappointing) on the history test I took Friday. I still don't have a grade on the British history test from two weeks ago. That's OK, because at this point I feel like no news is good news.

I don't even want to talk about Spanish class. We've been watching a Spanish movie (with no subtitles) and I don't understand a word of it. I don't know where he is going with this, but it can only be a bad place for me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Six weeks into the semester and school has become a little overwhelming right now. Everything seems to happen at once. A quiz in Latin American Civ., a test in Ethics, a Spanish article to explain in class (in Spanish, of course), and now my first big exam over the British Empire. This is a seated class, but the test is entirely on blackboard. I guess even seated classes don't want to have tests in class anymore. Is it considered old-fashioned to take test in class?

I hate to say this because I'm afraid it makes me sound old, but things sure have changed since I first went to college 20 years ago. No one had home computers back then; papers were typed on a typewriter at home(mine wasn't even electric!) and turned in, or written during class in a bluebook. Do bluebooks still exist anymore?

Teachers can now send e-mail notification to their entire class at once, about class cancellations or upcoming assignments. Back in the day, you had to actually show up at class before you found out by the note on the door that it had been cancelled. I can find a class syllabus or exam review online and don't necessarily have to have a printed copy anymore. No need to waste class time watching an instructional video when you can find the link on Blackboard and watch it at home whenever you have time. It's also nice to be able to e-mail the teacher to let them know why you have to miss class and to find out about any missed assignments.

Even tests can be taken at the students convenience. We have a three day window in which to take the British Empire test. I just wish we had longer than an hour and 15 minutes. That just doesn't sound like enough time for me to write an essay.

Even finding research material for a paper has changed. No more going to the library and looking through a card catalog; it's not necessary to actually go to the library at all to find a book. Just go online to the school library website, find the books you need, and have them reserved. You will be notified via e-mail when they are ready to pick up. No, they still don't deliver, that is one thing that hasn't changed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ranting in Spanish

Necesito practicar hablar y escribir in espanol. Por ese, yo estoy tratando a escribir un breve blog in espanol. Yo espero que esto me ayude a habler en espanol.

I hope this makes at least a little bit of sense. I don't know how to add correct Spanish punctuation.

I never know what we are going to do in Spanish class until I get there, so there is no way to prepare. I like to know what I am facing so I can be prepared. That isn't possible with this class, and this greatly increases my stress level.

Necesito practicar el vocabulario porque iremos tener una prueba.

Mi bisabuela era aleman.
El maestro de espanol siempre escribe muchas palabras en la pizarra.
Siempre tengo hambre despues de mis clases.
Necesito una perfil para mis blogs.
Yo vi muchos los logartos cuando visite Louisiana.
Es el calentamiento global un problema real o no?
Es el reciclaje una solucion para el efecto invernadero?

Bastante por ahora.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rant #5

I was in the depths of despair (remember Anne Shirley?) Friday as I drove to school. I was mentally calculating exactly how many more times I would have to go to Spanish class over the remainder of the semester, eleven more weeks. Twenty-nine more times x fifty minutes per class equals a whole lot of misery. But it's too late to turn back now.

When I got to class, I told CP that I if the teacher yelled "Venga,Venga" or "Rapido" one more time, I just might have to kick him in the shin. She pointed out the he had been really "pissy" lately. I thought that was an understatement. I usually don't know what is going on in class anyway, and an angry, impatient teacher does not help. Whatever I do know how to say in Spanish gets buried under the terror I feel when required to speak in this class. As a result, something stupid usually comes out of my mouth, and I know it as soon as I've said it, but it is too late to take it back.

Fortunately, we had a new teacher in class Friday. He looked just the same as the original teacher, but he was much nicer. He smiled, he was friendly, and he didn't yell, not even when he said "Rapido". And most shocking of all, he spoke English! Not much English, but a few sentences. It was more English than I have heard in class since he read the syllabus to us the first week of school. If this nice teacher stays, I just might survive the semester with my sanity intact, and he won't have to fear for the safety of his shins.

It's no big surprise that I'm the oldest student in class. And I'm older than the teacher. All the students are about twenty, and for the most part, have taken Spanish all through high school, which wasn't very long ago for them. I can't even begin to speak as well as they do, and I feel very intimidated by this fact. Added to this is an intimidating teacher (and I'm not alone in this feeling)and my overall feeling is that I'm swimming in the ocean with no life jacket.

I respect his decision to forbid English being spoken in class, and he is entitled to hand out avisos (warnings) to anyone who does. And it is not entirely his fault that I feel so terrorized in class (partly his fault, but not entirely). It's not his fault that I apparently don't perform well under pressure. When we have the nice teacher, he calls on me to speak, I guess to try to draw me out of my wall-flower mode. This is when I become paralyzed with fear and say stupid things. If only there was a rewind button. I don't know if my age is an issue, or if it is my overall lack of experience with speaking the language, but it takes me a little time to get my thoughts together in Spanish to be able to answer a question. I have to think about it longer than the other students; I can't just spit out sentences like they do.

It isn't all bad news. I'm actually getting good grades on the quizzes and on the skit we had to write and perform in class. That was terrifying as well, but at least I knew in advance what I was supposed to say. We had very little time to prepare, but we pulled it off anyway!

Only eleven more weeks.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rant #4

No, I am not going to teach. Thank you for asking.

This is the one question I always receive when people ask about my major. I know better than to say "never" about anything, but teaching is not in my plans. Most people seem to think there is nothing to do with a history degree besides teach, but there are many other options for history majors. Many go into politics or become attorneys. Also not in my plans. Many work for museums, libraries, or the National Park Service. These options are more interesting to me.

The truth is, I don't know what I'm going to do when I graduate. That isn't my focus right now. I'm not going to school because of what I might be able to do with my degree when I graduate. I'm going to school because I want to complete the education that I didn't finish when I was young. It's about the education itself, it's about the completion of something important to me. It's about learning and learning how to learn. It's about learning to think. That's all it's about. At least, for now. I don't have time to think about what comes after.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rant #3

And so I have survived two weeks of school.

The history classes are interesting, although I find it hard to stay awake in the three hour evening class. The Spanish class is a terror. Being quite determined that we learn to speak Spanish, our teacher absolutely insists we speak nothing except Spanish in class, and I only understand about half of what he says. That is why I found myself wandering around the room one afternoon, not knowing where I was supposed to be. I knew he had split us up into groups, I just didn't know what group I was in or which side of the room I was supposed to be on. As it turns out, I didn't need to move from my seat at all; I was already where I needed to be. So I had wandered around the room like an idiot for nothing.

My Spanish teacher thinks I brought a sex book to class. It wasn't a sex book. Really. It wasn't. It's called "A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband", written in 1917, and it is a cookbook. Most editions go on to say on the book cover "...With Bettina's Best Recipes". My edition does not.

Our assignment was to bring to class tres cosas (three things) that were important to us. I agonized over my choices, finally selecting a picture of my grandson, my great-grandmother's birthday book, and the first book in my collection of old cookbooks. (Many students chose their phones and iPods; talk about a generation gap!). We then broke up into groups of four and were instructed to tell each other about our tres cosas and ask each other question about them (all in Spanish, of course). Chins hit the floor when I held up my old cookbook, and the entire group started laughing. As I was holding it up, my teacher was looking at it intently (from several feet away), and I guess was reading the cover. He then quickly turned away and headed rapidly in the other direction. Apparently he did not want to know about my book or why it was so important to me.

I wasn't worried about what he thought because I knew we would all soon have a turn in the front of the class telling everyone about our tres cosas. Of course, I was too chicken to rush up front to take my turn before I absolutely had to and then, guess what? My turn never came. We ran out of time and at our next meeting we moved on to the group thing where I wandered around the room like an idiot. So now he thinks I'm an idiot who brought a sex book to class.

I can always count on Spanish class for adventure and outright terror. And whenever I feel the need to make a fool of myself, I know exactly where to go.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rant #2

Today, for the first time since I began my adventure as a non-trad, I felt like a real student. I've always been an evening or online student and have missed out on a large portion of the traditional college experience. Today was my first day of daytime classes, and somehow it made me feel like a real college student, at long last. It was an exciting and satisfying experience.

It was also quite terrifying. Spanish class was as bad as I expected; the instructor spoke nothing but Spanish. In fact, he kept reiterating, in Spanish of course, that in this class there would be no text book required, as we would be spending our time actually speaking Spanish. Yikes!!!!

Fortunately, my companero from Spanish 202 is in the class with me. CP is a sweet young 20 year old girl who spent a year living in Mexico, so she has a handle on this Spanish thing. I guess I'm going to have to find my own handle; after all, it is my minor.

Latin American Civ. is the class I've been most excited about, and I think it will be a fun class. The teacher will not be boring, as was evident this afternoon during the introduction. I've never heard a college professor use the "F" word in class! Oh boy, it's going to be an interesting semester.

After surviving my first two day classes, I went on to the gym and spent 1/2 hour on the treadmill, then went to Taco Bell with H. Then back to school for a three hour marathon about the British Empire. Actually, we got out early tonight, which was fortunate because the professor was very dry and by this time I was very tired.

One of the differences between traditional and non-traditional students became apparent to me today as I was making my way across campus amidst all the students - I was carrying a purse and I don't think I saw any young college girls carrying purses. Just one more thing that sets me apart. I have never noticed this before, since I'm used to evening classes when the campus is fairly quiet with not many students around.

I found out today how busy the campus really is during the day when most students are in class. I hadn't factored in all the people when I was calculating how long it would take me to get from Siceluff to Strong Hall. In fact, I barely made it on time. It takes every bit of the ten minutes that I have between classes to get there, as it is a long hike between buildings.

All in all, it was a big adventure and despite my many fears, I can't wait to go back again on Wednesday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rant #1

It is official; I have lost my mind. What makes me think I can work full-time and take 12 hours of school is beyond me. Today is day one for my OTC class, Introduction to Ethics. It is a requirement for my history degree at MSU, but costs about half the price at OTC, so I rashly decided to take it online this semester whilst taking 9 hours at MSU. I would have taken Intro to Philosophy, but the guy who teaches the Ethics class is a teacher I have had before, so I decided to go with the devil I knew. I think it will be an interesting class, and he gives unusual assignments.

I've already completed our first assignment, but I wasn't the first one. There is always at least one person in an online class who seems to sit on top of the computer waiting for an assignment to be posted so they can hop right on it. As I am at work all day, I am not that person. But let's not talk about work; this blog isn't big enough for that rant.

My classes at MSU are: Latin American Civilization, British Empire, and Spanish Proficiency Skills. I'm quite nervous about the Spanish class. My previous Spanish instructor was an easy "A" and we weren't usually required to learn much vocabulary. Those of us with a Spanish minor where very aware that we could be in difficult straits when we had to move on to another teacher. That time is now. If he speaks only Spanish in class, I am doomed.

I'm very excited about my history classes although also quite nervous. These will be the first upper level classes I have ever taken and I don't know for sure what the work load will be like. Also, I've always been an evening and/or online student and have never before taken a day class. It's a safe bet that all my classmates will be under 21. Even my teachers are frequently younger than I am. I should be used to it by now, but it would be so nice to have a class with someone my age. I know they are there somewhere, I've just never seen any of them.

I guess that is enough ranting for one day. I need to get started on my next Ethics assignment. Somehow I have to stay ahead of the game and not let myself drown. Wish me luck!