Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Blessed are the Flexible, Part II

Once again, flexibility is a virtue! I had to give an oral presentation of my Geography research paper today. I had a great Power Point prepared, complete with cool videos, BUT the projector in the classroom was broken. So, I had to give the presentation without visual aids. THEN I got to my history class to discover I had forgotten about the oral report I had to give for my paper in there. That was a bigger "flex" since I was totally unprepared.

So, what did I learn from this?
1. Hard work does pay off, even if it's not always immediately noticed. My Geography prof was impressed with my information.
2. Always have your flash drive and computer with you!! That's what saved my backside in History today!
3. ALWAYS be flexible!! 99% of the time, life does not go as planned. Suck it up, laugh about it, regroup with Plan B and move on!
4. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with something else!

Whew! School is almost over. Fingers crossed that I will indeed graduate! Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blessed are the Flexible

My life motto is, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend and not break." If I do indeed take that to heart, I should be a circus contortionist by now and be able to fit into one of those little plexiglass boxes.

I found out on Thursday that: I have another week to work on my history paper, I have to write a 10-page paper for my Geography final (I an not taking the final at the same time as my classmates), and I will be presenting my research paper in Geography on Tuesday which will require a 10-minute Power Point presentation. Good thing I love to write and am not afraid of words!

As a nontrad, one of the best qualities to possess is FLEXIBILITY. Life does not always go as planned, "surprises" pop up now and again, and you have to be able to roll with the punches. There are several instances in my nontrad life where I have had to be as flexible as Gumby - missing a week of school when my dad died, not being to take Intermediate Spanish II during summer school, spending every weekend this past fall on the road to volleyball tournaments for my daughter and losing valuable study time, changing my minor, etc.

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray." I think that saying ought to be "The best laid plans of mice and men ALWAYS go astray." When your plans don't work out, you can respond in one of two ways: get really angry and stomp around, shaking your fist at the sky, OR take a deep breath, regroup and ask, "What do I do now?" and move forward with Plan B. I am a big advocate of Plan B - and Plan Z if necessary. Life is a learning experience and learning to be flexible is a great lesson to learn.

As you face the end of the semester, do you need a Plan B? Or do you need to be a tad more flexible with school, work, or home circumstances? Learning to be flexible will take you a long way. You won't get as frustrated and you may just find out that Plan B was the better plan anyway. Stay focused, but stay flexible and stay tuned . . .

P.S. I also wanted to share this short film called "The Butterfly Circus" that was shared with me by a very wise woman - Betsy Boyd at Pellissippi State Community College, Blount County campus. It is about making the most of what you have and who you are. It's well worth the watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtxANzN2Woo

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gettin' There

I'm almost at the end of this journey. All that stands between me and that diploma is: Spanish oral and final exams, a History paper, a Geography test and three unpaid parking tickets. How ironic that graduation is Friday the 13th (of May). Isn't that a fitting way to end my nontrad journey?

I found out that I did indeed get the job in the Math Department. I will start that after I graduate. That's another irony - that me, Miss No-Numbers, will be working in a numbers department. My mom said she hopes some of "it" - the ability to do math and do it well - will rub off on me. Perhaps by osmosis I will be able to derive the quadratic equation in my sleep. Fat chance. Give me words any day!

I am sure there are those out there in nontrad cyberspace who may be waiting with baited breath for some profound words of wisdom as I come to the end of my journey. I am not one to disappoint, so here goes:

1. Just do it!! Don't sit around and debate whether you should go back to school or not, just do it!! Time is short, grants are being cut and who knows what the next few years will hold economically? Grit your teeth, close your eyes and JUMP!
2. Plan. Sit down with your family and make a family game plan for meals, chores, etc. Learn how to manage your time well. Explore funding resources such as scholarships, grants., etc. Apply early and fill our your FAFSA early. The early bird really does get the choicest worm!
3. Pace yourself. Rome wasn't build in a day, neither should your degree be built in a day. Start out slow and small at the community college. That way your pursuits will be less of a shock to you and your family.
4. Get support. Join an online or on campus nontrad group. No one but another nontrad knows the joys and disappointments of being a nontrad.
5. Be realistic. It may take you some time to get back into the swing of researching, studying and writing again. Give yourself some grace. This is another reason to start out slow - to ease you back into the flow of being a student again.
6. Explore ways to save money. Check out textbook rentals, recycling school supplies, taking the bus to school, etc. Be creative.
7. Take some time for yourself. Going back to school may be a shock to you and your family. Take some time alone to refuel and take some time with your family to let them know you have not "forgotten" about them. Declare at least one day a month as a "no study day".
8. Show appreciation - to your family, to your support group, to your professors, to your classmates, to yourself. It's rough being a nontrad when life is happening all around you. Thank those in your life who step in to make this time a little easier for you.

Above all, remember - YOU CAN DO IT!!!! I have faith in you. Deb Peterson has faith in you. Elizabeth Shepherd has faith in you. Dozens of other nontrads have faith in you. In the midst of the mortgage, the school plays, the three dozen cupcakes or cookies, your spouse being on travel for a week, the college visits for your 17-year old, and the calls from your mom, tell yourself, "I WILL do this!!"

There are three important things to remember: take a deep breath, walk before you run, and just do it. I did it. You can, too. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crunch Time

It's that time of semester again when we experience the crunch of final projects and exams. There is a policy here at UT that says a prof cannot give a test/quiz/project worth more than 10% of a student's grade within 7 days of the final. Sooo, that means all the profs are scrambling to get all their remaining tests/quizzes/projects completed within the next two weeks. When the profs scramble, the students scramble even more. Needless to say, there's a lot of scrambling going on at UT these days. My only comfort is that this semester's end is not like the end of the fall semester where we are not only dealing with finals, but the holidays as well. However, Easter is rather late this year . . .

What are your best tips for dealing with "crunch time"? This is my eighth and final semester here at UT (provided I pass Spanish) and I have learned a lot about dealing with semester end. Some things I've learned are:
1. Pace yourself: Don't wait until the last minute to get all the projects. papers, etc. done. You will needlessly wear yourself out. Learn how to effectively manage your time.
2. Don't panic! Take a deep breath and knock out one thing at a time. Three papers due on the same day? Work on one at a time and when it's done, it's done. Move on to the next one. Same thing with study groups - one at a time.
3. Review: take the time to read over your notes for your class(es). This is helpful when the prof springs a last-minute quiz on you.
4. Get a good night's sleep: It's useless if you can't stay awake during class - 'nuf said.
5. Take some downtime: Even if it's one afternoon or one night during crunch time. You need time to refuel and de-stress. Declare that time a "study free zone".

Every semester comes to this - final exams, projects and papers. How well you end the semester is up to you. Are you going to panic during crunch time or are you going to take a deep breath and pace yourself? Good luck as you finish the race that is this semester. Finish strong!! Stay tuned . . .

Monday, April 11, 2011

Something Different

I had a great time with the Pellissippi State Community College nontrad group, STARS, today. We ate lunch at Mellow Mushroom on the strip, then took a tour of campus. I was excited to see how Chris and Courtney were progressing and jazzed to meet some new nontrads. Their stories were all very different and very exciting. I wish you all the best as you accomplish your goals!

A couple of things came up that I'd like to address.
1. Transferring from a small campus to a large one.
This can be very intimidating, especially if you are someone who thrives on the smaller campus. Keep it all in perspective. Chances are your "world will shrink" (thank you, Betsy!). Your sphere will only be those areas of campus close to your college (Business, Arts and Sciences, etc.). Don't panic!
2. How do I find my way around? Get a map of your campus and explore on a day when it's not so busy - like during the summer. Grab a cold drink and your map and just meander through campus. You can do this more than once to make sure you feel "solid" and not lost when you get onto campus for your classes.
3. "Bi-schooling". You can take classes at both the community college and the university at the same time. Just make sure your schedule allows for enough time to get from one campus to the other and find parking, etc. Also make sure the classes you take at the community college will transfer to the university. Most will, but check with your advisor at the community college.
4. Questions, questions, questions. The following are the places you need to go to find out what you need to know. Admissions office - the beginning (admission) and questions about housing,etc. Financial aid office - how to get money for school. Registrar's office - your student records. Bursar's office - pay fees, disbursement of excess financial aid. Your college of choice - advising and how do I get there (a degree) from here (where I am currently in my academic journey).

Check out the university website as well. Learning to navigate in academic cyberspace is a great benefit. Follow up on applications, etc. And above all, ask lots of questions! That's the only way you'll learn what you need to know.

Good luck to the Pellissippi STARS as they look forward to reaching their goals! Stay tuned . . .