Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wait a Minute . . .

I have been going great guns for several weeks now because of school, my daughter's volleyball and the Electrical Engineering workshop I helped with. I finally have a chance to stop and take a breath. The workshop is over, daughter's volleyball team is on their way to the state tournament, and I will have some quiet study time this evening.

My oldest son, Aaron, is working on his Master's in Communication Studies here at UT. On his day off last week, he made the comment that when he finally had a day off and dropped out of warp speed, he realized how tired he was and how much he had to do. He is like me - we function best when we are moving at warp speed. Drop out of warp speed and the rest of the world catches up to us.

Aaron's comments made me realize that, as busy as we can get as nontrads, we need to take the time to drop out of warp speed every now again, we need to wait a minute. Wait a minute and take a deep breath. Wait a minute and watch the sunset. Wait a minute and hug your children or spouse for just a little longer. Wait a minute and share a laugh with a close friend. Wait a minute and just stop, close your eyes and listen to the birds singing in the trees.

It is good to stop and wait a minute. I have an Aaron Copland CD that I listen to when I am stressed. My favorite tune is in "Appalachian Spring". It's a piece called, "The Gift To Be Simple". I love to close my eyes and just let the music wash over my weary mind. What better gift can we give ourselves than the gift of waiting a minute . . . to experience the simple things in life? Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Study Group

Last night, I had two study groups to attend. They overlapped, so I stayed longer at the one for the class I had an exam in today. I believe it helped.

I put an announcement on the board on Tuesday in Cultural Geography. My prof walked in, saw it and said that's the kind of thing she wanted to see in her class. Today she asked me how many people attended the study group. Out of a class of 25, we had 8 people, so that's about 1/3 of the class? She thought that was pretty good.

I don't mind studying solo, but there's just something about the interaction back and forth with other people that helps me to retain information longer.

How about you? Do you so well in study groups? They are another tool that's good to have in your "Success in School" toolbox. Use it! Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Interesting Observation

First off, I want to give a shout out to the Karns Lady Beavers volleyball team who beat the Farragut Lady Admirals tonight to take the Division 1, 2-A regional volleyball title. Great job, ladies! Jai-Ho!

That brings me to the reason for this post. I wore my Karns Beavers volleyball wear to school today - my royal blue t-shirt and matching sweatshirt. As I sat down in my History of Mexico class, the guy sitting behind me asked, "So, did you play volleyball at Karns?" I thought, "How old does he think I am?" I said, "No, but my daughter does." His eyes got wide. "How old is your daughter?" he asked. "Oh, she's a senior this year," I responded, smiling as I turned away. I thought he was going to fall out of his chair. I guess when you don't look like you're almost 50, people don't think you are.

That seems to be a common reaction when I tell people I have children - grown children. Their chins hit the floor. I guess I have been blessed with good genes. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

The observation is this - and it comes from a friend of mine: you are as young as you feel. There are some days when I feel very old. Those are the days when I don't feel good, have a ton of stuff to do, or realize my oldest will be 23 soon. Yikes!

One reason I enjoy being a student so much is that it keeps me young. There is a certain energy one picks up from being around younger people. I find myself saying "like" as a filler in my conversation. That's a bad habit I need to get rid of. I also find that life can be very exciting and full of promise. So what if I'm almost 50? From what I hear, 50 is the new 30. And 30 is the new . . . whatever. I appreciate a beautiful day, an umbrella without holes in it and a Grande Non-Fat Decaf Mocha Latte with a shot of raspberry.

I also appreciate it when a professor acknowledges my "profound" comment in class or the way I've crafted a point in a research paper. I appreciate it that the much younger students in my Geology class have included me in their study group. I plan to bribe/reward them with brownies the next time we get together. I appreciate it that my Environmental Geo prof from two years ago still remembers me!

I've heard it said that being young is not necessarily age, but it is the attitude of one's heart. Yup. Like, I am really starting to, like, get the hang of this full time student stuff, dude. :)

"You're as young as you feel." How do you feel today? Stay tuned . . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

What's YOUR Excuse?

I recently read a post by University Mama about how she uses homework as an excuse to get out of doing those things she really doesn't want to do. I laughed, because I have been there, too. My homework is such a convenient excuse! Most of the time, it's a legit excuse as well.

For the past two years, my backpack has been my constant companion. One friend of mine used to call it my "appendage". These days, however, my backpack isn't my only buddy. Larry the Laptop or Myrtle the Mini are also close at hand. I like Myrtle because she's small and doesn't say much, but she's very handy. Myrtle also doesn't weigh as much as Larry, so hauling her around is much easier on my back and shoulders.

My daughter is on her high school volleyball team and she has played club volleyball for the past two years as well. That means I (and Larry or Myrtle) go to lots of volleyball games and tournaments. The parents on the team have gotten used to seeing me with my "appendage". They know when I am holed up in a hotel room or in the corner of the gym at the top of the bleachers with my computer that I am studying and don't want to be bothered. I am only social when I want to be. I don't lolly-gag around making small talk, etc. I am a woman on a mission.

There have been many times when my husband has had to do the volleyball parent thing because I have had a paper due, an exam to study for or a project I had to work on. I, too, am wondering what life will be like without homework. What will I use for an excuse then?

I am not an academic stick in the mud, though. I have been known to break down and do fun stuff. It's just that I REEEAAAALLLLLYYY like being a student! Hmm - now there's a thought. Maybe I can become a professional student! How's THAT for an excuse??!! Stay tuned . . .

Fall Break

Campus looks like a ghost town! It's fall break here and campus is deserted. It's been cold and rainy. The wind is blowing the leaves around like tumbleweeds as the lone car on campus putters down Volunteer Boulevard. One can almost hear the theme from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" wafting through the hallways as the eagle screeches overhead.

Okay, so I've watched too many westerns. I grew up in Arizona, home of the original Old West ghost towns. There are still people and cars on campus, just not as many. I think there was more activity on campus during the summer than there is over fall break! I know Christmas break will be even worse! Such is life.

I am working over fall break because a) my counterpart decided to take off for three days, b) my boss is off on Fridays and needed me here and c) if I stayed home, I'd do absolutely nothing! This way, I get a chance to catch up on homework, work on Electrical Engineering workshop logistics and catch up on homework. Did I mention I was catching up on homework? Such is the life of a student.

It's good to have a break from classes. Everyone needs a little mental health time now and then. Come Monday, we jump right back into school and mid-terms. Yea! Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Does Your Education Mean to You?

What does your education mean to you? A chance to influence the future by being a teacher? A second career after "retiring"? A better job from updated skills? A chance to pursue a lifelong dream? For one young man, his education, or better yet, lack of education, meant life for his small community.

You can read about this remarkable young man, William Kamkwamb, at http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/africa/10/05/malawi.wind.boy/index.html. William was kicked out of school because his parents couldn't afford the $80 to send him to school. William began to spend a great deal of time at the library. A book about energy and harnessing the wind caught his eye. William built a windmill on his family's farm. He used bits and pieces of whatever he could find to build the simple apparatus so his family could have electricity and water. William was 14-years old at the time. Now, at 22, he is a student at the African Leadership Academy, an elite school in South Africa for young leaders. William's family and villagers thought he was crazy when he built his first windmill. That soon changed when his creation started generating electricity and pumping water, first for his family, then for his village. And all because of one young man's curiosity about the wind and his determination to make life better for his village.

As nontrads, we have something our younger counterparts don't have - life experience. We know what the "real world" is like. Many of us are juggling families, jobs, aging parents and the cost of life in general as we pull all-nighters in order to finish research papers and study for exams. That's what our education means to us.

Like William, our families and friends may think we are nuts in our pursuits. Yet, it takes courage, determination, hard work and good old-fashioned spunk to return to school in the midst of life. Perhaps you're questioning your decision to return to school because it's overwhelming or you failed that last exam or you're having writer's block on that research paper or you're the oldest student in a class of pre-20's.

William took what little education he had and silenced the naysayers of his village. He pressed on. You can, too. Press on and press in. Your education means your future. Be a windmill. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, October 5, 2009

What's Another Semester? Or - Adding a Minor

I have decided to add a Geology minor to my History major. That would mean I will graduate in December of 2010 instead of summer of 2010. Some of you may be thinking, "What value does a minor have? Do I really need to add a minor? What if I don't have time to add a minor?"

First of all, if you are up against financial, job or time constraints, don't add a minor. However, if you are not limited by any one of those three factors, it may be worth considering a minor.

Why add a minor? Depending on the minor you choose, it can make you more marketable and create more opportunities for employment. In my case, I am adding a Geology minor because a) I love the subject, but hate the math involved in a Geo Major, and 2) my History major will show prospective employers I can communicate while the science minor will show I can think critically/logically. Communication and critical thinking skills are a good package.

Do I really need to add a minor? No. You don't have to do anything. However, unless you are majoring in something quite lucrative, adding a minor would be a plus. In addition, the value of a minor depends on the minor itself. If you are an Education major, a science, social science or math minor would increase the spectrum of classes you are qualified to teach. If you are a liberal arts major, like English, History, Classics, etc., a science minor would open the doors to further writing, researching and analytical positions. The best thing to do when considering a minor is to speak to an advisor in your minor department. They would best be qualified to give you direction as far as how your minor would fit in with your major.

How do I know what to minor in? The first person to ask would be an advisor in your major department. They may ask you questions about your interest, what classes you've taken that you really enjoy, etc. An advisor can help you whittle down the choices for a minor.

How long will it take to get a minor? Most minors are about 15 hours - that's one heavy semester or two light semesters. My Geology minor is 16 hours (due to labs). I am going to split it up between three semesters (along with the classes I need to finish taking for my major)- spring 2010, summer 2010 and fall 2010. I will be taking 16 hours in the spring, 3 hours in the summer and 13 hours next fall.

With the job market the way it is, staying an extra semester in school will be to my advantage. Adding a science minor may also make me more desirable for grad school. A minor should never be a hindrance or a detriment. It should only be a positive thing in your college career.

So, what's holding you back? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, October 2, 2009

Shout out to PSCC Non-Trads

Borrowing a page from Tina Fain's Sara Palin playbook, I'd like to give a shout out to the PSCC Non-Trads. Hey, Y'all! Betsy leads a non-trad support group at one of the local community colleges. We have exchanged several emails about "older students", non-trads.

Deb Peterson has blogged about the opportunities available at the community college. I, too, have extolled the advantages and virtues of the community college because I have been a community college non-trad as well. There have been several times over the past couple of years when I have taken classes at the university AND at the community college. I've been a bi-schooler. It is doable!

I applaud Betsy and her desire to walk through the non-trad experience with so many people. It's not easy being a non-trad when you have a job, a family, a mortgage, aging parents, a special needs child, etc. It takes courage to go back to school when life is happening all around you. The best thing to do as a nontrad is to get into a support group, to be in a like-minded community.

Thank you, Betsy, and all the other Betsys out there who are willing to walk down this road with us. God bless you! Stay tuned . . .