Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Plan B

I have learned that one must always have a contingency plan or a Plan B. My original plan for school was to graduate a year from now and pursue my Master's in Public History. Hmm. Plan B.

Due to a recent family crisis, I am resorting to Plan B, which was formulated this morning. I am reducing my class load from 16 to 12 hours next semester, which will extend my schooling out another semester or more. But that's okay. I will also be working 30 hours (75%) so I can get benefits and tuition reduction (keep your fingers crossed).

Sometimes, things don't always go as we had planned. I believe the mark of a mature and growing person is how we deal with those detours in the roadmap of life. (I know that sounds a little cliche!) Flexibility is so important. My life motto is "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend and not break." The only time constraint I have on getting my degree is self-imposed. As long as I am making progress toward that degree, all is well.

So set goals and make plans - those are good things. However, always have that ace in your pocket, that Plan B, just in case life throws you a curveball. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Using the Resources Available

Once my semester winds down, I like to do a self-evaluation. How did it go this semester? What did I do well? What could I have done better? How will I apply that to next semester?

There are plenty of resources on campus to make sure you, as a student, succeed. Granted, these resources are more used to seeing 18-20 year-olds than nontrads. Part of the tuition is an activities or services fee. The resources are there, are either cheap or free, and are convenient (on campus).

Some of the resources available to you are:
1. Tutoring: each department should have a pool of tutors. Some of the more difficult subjects (Math, Chemistry, etc.) will have a more visible tutoring presence on campus. Sometimes the tutoring is free. If there is a fee for tutoring, it is often negotiated between you and the tutor.
2. Writing: There is an office located either in the library or in one of the more visible buildings on campus. The folks who staff this office, very often student volunteers, are there to help you learn to write better. They will critique your paper and give you suggestions, but they will not write the paper for you.
3. Research: the library will have librarians who are solely dedicated to one topic. They are quite helpful when it comes to looking up resources for research.
4. Counseling: the student counseling center on campus is another free service. It's good to know they are there if you need them.
5. Office of Information Technology: Having a problem with your computer? This is the office you want to go to. This office may also be staffed with work-study students, GTA's and several university employees.
6. Gym: Your student activity fee covers this one, so make sure you take advantage of all the exercise equipment, exercise classes, etc.

What other resources does your school offer? Whatever they are, take advantage of them. They will be part of your success as a student. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don't Forget the Most Important People

Studentmum had an excellent blog yesterday. She talked about getting her priorities straightened out over the holiday.

"I don't know of any other way to plan it to be honest, family has to come first at Christmas and I don't want to shut myself away all holiday, I think we need to spend time and go about as a family we have been remiss in that area lately, pressures of homework, studying, habit etc and have got into bad habits of doing our own things at weekends instead of planning trips out. I sense a New Years resolution coming on!"

As nontrads/mature students, we can get so caught up in the demands of school that we overlook time spent with the built-in support group of our family (whether it's spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc.). Studentmum is right - our families must come first over the holidays. Resolve to minimize your time with your laptop, schoolbooks and studying (or not do any of it all!) in order to spend time with your family.

For the most part, you will find that as you unwind with your family, you will gain a sense of renewal and refreshment. Take this time to build memories. Will the children remember that Mom went back to school to get a better job to be able to provide better for them? No. They will remember that Mom tossed her schoolbooks and laptop into the hall closet in favor of going outside and making snow angels with them. Your spouse will remember that you curled up with him before going to bed instead of curling up with a textbook. The children will remember using your laptop to put together a photo album of funny holiday photos instead of using your laptop to type out a research paper. Your family will remember that you went ice skating with them instead of retreating to the library.

There is a reason we have a Christmas break - to enjoy time away from academia. Keep your school stuff to a minimum over the break. But keep you family stuff to a maximum! Don't forget the most important people - your family. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Take a Deep Breath

Deb Peterson blogged recently about how to "Relax Through Your Finals". She reminded us that the holidays are stressful enough without throwing finals into the mix. How true! I blogged about this topic on Nov. 16 in "Chicken Little and Feeling Overwhelmed".

I think one of the best ways to NOT feel overwhelmed during this holiday/final time is to organize your priorities. Right now, your number one priority is getting through finals. When that is finished, you will feel as if a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. What are some other ways to relax through your finals?

1. Simplify. As nontrads, we have to realize that the minute we stepped onto that college campus or got onto that website for the first online class, our lives became incredibly more complicated. Do not place the unrealistic expectation on yourself that you will still be able to have the same elaborate holiday you had before you became a nontrad. It's okay to simplify and not do all that you have done in the past. You may find that a pared-down version of the crazy holiday season will fit better into your lifestyle.
2. Delegate. Is there something that absolutely MUST be done? Let someone else do it! Delegate that thing to your spouse, your children or pass the tradition on to a younger sibling. Take this time to create unique "family bonding" experiences. Was the Honeybaked Ham forgotten about and now you have run out and get the grocery store version? It's okay. Take the kids with you to help pick out the "best" ham.
3. Be creative. Don't have time to get those Hungarian Nut Horns made? Get some Pillsbury sugar cookie dough, cut out the crescent shapes, and sprinkle the dough with chopped nuts. Call it the abbreviated version of the Hungarian Nut Horn and name the cookie after your family - the Jones Nut Horn.

Christmas is not supposed to be a time of running ourselves ragged, especially if we have had an exceptionally challenging semester. Christmas is a time of remembering that a very simple Man came into our world in a very simple way. It's a time of remembering those we love and giving the gift of our time to them. This is supposed to be your semester break, a time of rest. Don't go back to school exhausted from the break. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, December 11, 2009

Regrouping or Lessons Learned from Failure

I just found out that my attempt at a senior thesis was not accepted. I will not be allowed to continue on in the program. I cannot decide if I am angry and disappointed or relieved. Any anger or disappointment would be at myself because I took on more than I thought I could handle. I guess I am not supposed to be an academician. I am a bit embarrassed as well.
I feel like I still need to prove myself that I can be a serious historian. Not sure how to do that.

At this juncture, all I can do is step back and regroup. At least I did not get an F in the class, but the C will pull down my GPA. I am incredibly anal about grades and my GPA. A C also counts toward my credit total since it is still considered a passing grade (so I guess there are some positives in this whole fiasco).

So how does one handle failure and disappointment as a nontrad? I am desperately trying to find some lessons to share from this. This is the best I can come up with on the spur of the moment:

1. Admit your weakness. It's okay to say, "I tried. Perhaps I did not try my best, but I tried."
2. Cry if you have to, but don't dwell in that disappointment. Talk to a trusted friend or a counselor about the situation and your feelings. Give yourself time to mourn the situation.
3. Understand that you will live to see another day and failure and disappointment do not mean your college career is over.
4. Ask yourself, "What have I learned from this experience?" Everything we experience is a chance to learn and grow.
5. Do not burn bridges. Look at the situation for what it is, then let it go and move on. Take responsibility for your part of the situation.
6. Do not allow anyone to make you feel worse than you already do. Give yourself grace to fail. We fool ourselves if we do not acknowledge our humanity.
7. Turn the situation into a positive. Was this the kick in the pants you have been needing?
8. Realize you are not unique. Everyone fails at one time. Thomas Edison failed many times before he found success with the light bulb. He did not see his failures as failures, but as experiments that did not work. One day, he finally got it right.
9. Ease up. Were you putting unrealistic expectations on yourself?
10. View this as a chance to redefine and refine your goals. Failure may not have been the method of choice to do this, but here it is - use it.

I am sure I could come up with several more lessons if I sat here all night. That's not going to happen. I am going to mourn the situation and move on. My school schedule has opened up (since I will not be in History 408) and I can take a Geology class that will count toward my minor and toward my upper level distribution requirement.

Lesson learned from failure? Never give up. Stay tuned . . .


I am finally finished with school for the semester. Still waiting on History prof's decision about my senior thesis. Hoping that decision will come sometime today. There is a saying; "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" If I am unable to continue on in the history honors program, I will regroup and find direction elsewhere. I know it will not mean the end of my college career.

I am looking forward to some much needed down time - spent with my family and friends, getting my house and garage organized and just not doin' much o' nuthen!

When I walked to the bus stop yesterday, I discovered my Geography prof was also waiting there. We had a nice chat about my future plans. She is a great teacher - very enthusiastic about her subject. I told her that, too. I believe that if I have a prof/teacher who is good at their job, I need to tell them. I'm sure they get more than their share of complaints. It is as important for the students to encourage their profs as it is for the profs to encourage their students.

I started my new job for the Electrical Engineering Department. My boss said she, the department head and I will be meeting after the first of the year to give me some more direction on this project. In the meantime, I am researching other EECS websites, making notes, and formulating a new layout for the UT EECS website. I am taking advantage of this time to get my ideas organized so I can present them in a coherent manner and make a difference in the department. The researching skills I am learning in school are coming in handy for this project.

I hope to have some answers about my senior thesis soon. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winding It Down

Reading a few other blogs, about sharing this season, brain food, etc. I soon will have time to stop, breathe and read other blogs. Cool!

I have one last final tomorrow - Medieval History. This has been a challenging semester - some semesters are more challenging than others. This semester was challenging because I was on campus full time for the first time in almost 30 years. It was also a financial challenge because I quit my full time job, so our household budget took a bit of a hit. Still, it has proved to be a good thing. I start a part time job with the Electrical Engineering Dept. ASAP, but will still be hanging out here in the Computer Science Department. The new job is twice the pay, which is good. It will most likely work into something full time once I graduate. That's good, too.

I am reassessing the Master's Degree thing. May stay on campus and get a Master's in Adult Education. That's something I looked at a couple days ago. Not sure yet, but like my Mom told me recently, "You have your whole life ahead of you."

I am looking forward to the quietness between semesters. I am looking forward to spending time with my children. I am looking forward to finally getting around to cleaning out my garage (groan!). There's so much I need to get done that has been waiting for me. Time to start paying attention to stuff on the homefront.

My youngest son, who recently broke his ankle in two places (long story), likes to pick out a theme for Christmas. This year, he suggested a "Smooth Jazz" Christmas. Should be interesting. Not quite sure what he has in mind, but I'm sure we will soon find out! I am looking forward to his creativity.

What are your plans for the holidays? What are you going to do with your semester break? I hope you take this time to recharge, refresh and renew. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wrapping It Up

As I write this post, fire trucks are screaming through campus. Most likely a bomb threat pulled by someone who does not want to take their final exams because they chose to party instead of studying. That always happens, unfortunately. Speaking of final exams, I had my second final today. Two down, one to go (on Wednesday). I've made it this far.

I have to talk to my history mentor tomorrow. Not sure how that will go - all I can do is take him what I have (for my senior thesis) and see if that dog'll hunt. (Sorry - gotta have an East Tennessee sense of humor.) I have always told my children that when they go through a difficult situation, they need to stop and ask, "What am I learning from this?" So, what have I learned from this? The most important thing I have learned is to ask questions, get clarification, speak up if things aren't going like you think they should be going. I was frustrated and exasperated with the lack of progression on my senior thesis. I thought I was doing what I should have been doing. I am still in the process of analyzing this whole situation.

I guess the lesson I need to learn out of this is not to depend on other people, even when I am not sure what is going on. My educational experience is just that - MY educational experience. I am the one who needs to make it happen.

Mmmm - nice lunch of crow and humble pie! Chalk it up to "experience" and move on. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, December 4, 2009

Salvaging the Senior Thesis

I blew it. I will let you know if indeed I can salvage the thesis and stay in the program. Quite a humbling experience, to say the least. Stay tuned . . .