Survivor isn’t just a show on TV.
In just about an hour I’ll be taking the last final of my first semester back to school (in almost three decades!), and also my hardest.
Why my hardest? It’s not because the subject matter is really fresh to me (no, that was statistics, taught by a wonderful but very Chinese professor whose accent took me about three weeks to get used to, all while trying to remember what math was thirty years later).
My “hardest” class is Intercultural Communications – something that you’d think someone like me knows so much about already. I spend my days discussing this stuff online, educating myself, reading like a motherlover. My intellect is geared toward conscious human evolution and trying to figure out how we all get along and save ourselves.
This class is the hardest because my professor there is the hardest. All my professors were great – but my online class in Humanities was an open-book exam. My social psychology exam was multiple choice (I ace those), and she gave study guides before each exam. My statistics exams were always accompanied by an allotted “one page of notes,” which I dedicated an entire day to compiling before each exam. I’d then type this sheet out in size 8 font and .5 inch margins, with bright red section headers so that I could easily scan the page for the information I needed. It didn’t mean this class wasn’t hard, but I always knew I’d pass the exams – and not because I had stored all the information in my head, but because I’d put such a concerted effort into having all the answers at hand.
But Tischler? He’s old school. He’s intellectual, has a Ph.D. in literature and east coast sensibilities. He swears in class and smokes beforehand. He gives the vaguest study guides ever, generally complains about having to do so, and his exams actually require that you study. I’m not talking “rote memorization from flash cards” studying, I’m talking “suck the juice of this down and absorb the vitamins” kind of study.
Learning how we learn
It’s the kind of education I enjoy most because I actually retain something this way. I chew on it and learn. As my plan is, eventually, to head into head into higher education myself, I take notes from all my professors and file it away for the development, eventually, of my own pedagogy.
In college, especially during the first two years, we are required to take a variety of classes to expand our minds and I think people often read that particular phrase without thinking about what it really means.
I’m not a traditional student, so I no longer carry that particular sort of apathy I see in a lot of younger students. For all intents and purposes, I’m pretty much paid to be here, I give a shit about being here, and about how I spend my time and what I feed my mind.
Thus, I had to dig deep to find out why I was taking a statistics class. This class was an emotional challenge for me in all ways. Many years ago, in a less than stellar public education system, I had given up on anything mathematical. Mostly, no one cared, either. I’d grow immensely frustrated, quickly, and shut down.
Perhaps it’s a shame that it took me 45 years to actually develop some of the life skills I now have, but there it is. This time around, I was not only mature enough, but also, perhaps, therapied enough, neurofeedbacked enough, adult enough, that I could see my mental processes for what they were. I’d see myself starting to shut down while trying to grasp something new, and I’d work with it. I’d talk to myself about it and remind myself that perhaps it wasn’t statistics, exactly, that I needed to be concerned with, but all the new neural pathways associated with grasping something so new and so different for me, the idea that I might potentially stave off some late-onset Alzheimers, or even the fact that as a Communications-Psychology-Sociology* student, being able to grasp statistics with deeper insight was highly in my favor – and so, I passed the class. With a 94.
Going back to school at this age is a bizarre and interesting experience, for sure. Without hormones, parties, and newfound adulthood and independence distracting me, a heap of life and learning skills to dig from, it’s a far easier ride than it has ever been. I look forward to the day when I can share what I’ve learned about learning, too.
I’m a dork, absolutely, so I signed up for an intensive sociology course over winter break. It’s the only class I’m taking, and so I have space for some short-term projects through December and January. Get in touch you’re looking for some copy, I’m itching to write something other than a psychology paper! (Additional dork alert: I love learning so much I also signed up for a fun poetry class on Coursera).
*I discovered in a short time of being here that being an English major wasn’t really what interested me so much as important, present-day communication, culture, and how people think, so I switched my major to Communication Studies, and shortly after that realized that within two years I could have additional associates’ degrees in Sociology and Psychology as well, with little additional effort. So, there it is.