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friday, september 28, 2001

contrary to popular opinion, i don't believe that school is supposed to hurt. as i mentioned last time, as an older student i have learned to enjoy learning, especially discovering the interconnections between subjects. and my first quarter back was great, i went in shaky and came out confident that i could do this. spring quarter went pretty well too.

this quarter has had its share of snafus, not the least of which was late books (next quarter we order early). but now i am finding myself just plain...achy as well as behind in almost all my classes. i mean, my body hurts! most of that is just the way things are for me, i have bad knees, hips and ankles and a spot in my back that just causes me a ton of problems. since the quarter started, everything hurts. my feet ache, my back is in rebellion, my shoulders hate the backpack and laptop. last night one of my classes changed rooms and i was forced to sit in one of those tiny constricting desks that make no sense when you consider that americans overall are getting larger. it was bad enough that my waist was being compressed and it was impossible to get comfortable. and it was bad enough that i clung to the book and laptop to keep things from falling. about the middle of class time, my left hip made its displeasure painfully known. i left.

while waiting for the bus i realized that i must have pushed myself far too hard this week. i started shaking. this is not good.

so this morning i got up, determined my son needed to stay home, gave the kiddos their meds and crawled back into bed for a few hours. this afternoon (it's almost 2:30 and i've gotten nothing done) i plan to work on my game (in which i hope things get resolved so that i can actually enjoy running the thing again), tonight i plan to play. this weekend i will work on catching up, with no late nights if possible, and definitely no all nighters. and i know i need to keep an eye on myself, eat right, keep on top of the homework so i don't have any all nighters during the rest of the quarter as well, and take my meds every day. it is obvious my body isn't going to tolerate any stupidity on my part this time around. thank god the next 2 quarters should be easier to manage.

one adjustment i have to make is to keep better tabs on my liquids and make sure i take a large glass of something to drink with me everyday. the heat is back and in full force. monday i came in and checked my weatherbug and it said it was 106. 106! i thought temps like that were finally gone! i am not expecting much below 95 for another month and a half, give or take, but 106? and the next couple of days after that were in the 102-104 range. between going to and from bus stops and between classes, i could be dehydrating myself in temps like that. so, for the rest of summer, i take a large mug/glass of soda or punch with me to the classes (i don't drink the water, it may not make you sick but it is the nastiest tasting stuff!).

as for the classes themselves, most are going well and i am enjoying my professors..for the most part. i did manage to finally get the one class i needed, thank goodness, although the workload is making my brain hurt. however, there is one problem with being a senior in my final year with no electives or room to negotiate what i am taking: if you do get an instructor you aren't quite comfortable with, you're stuck.

and, yes, i am stuck. worse, i am stuck in the class that i should be enjoying the most, and instead of enjoying it, i have to get used to it and just get through it. my intermediate writing instructor will drive me nuts, i can already tell. maybe because he already has me halfway there.

first, we have no syllabus. he's promised us one, but it hasn't been made yet, something about trying to see where we're all at before deciding what he's going to do. in a way this does make sense, but we only have 10 weeks. one down so 9 weeks left. i know how it goes with heavy academic loads. by mid quarter (if not earlier), my class syllabi become a lifeline. when things are so busy, i use the syllabi to determine what i need to get done NOW (because it's due first or the test is coming up) and what can be pushed back a bit. since he doesn't have one, it is hard to determine what's going on with his class. i had another professor do this and i eventually dropped the class. i don't have that option this time.

second, he wants us to photocopy the readings each week instead of doing what the other instructors do and create a packet that can be printed at the campus print shop and purchased all at once. we're low income. money goes out as fast as it comes in here. extra change for photocopying costs as we go is a pita compared to just buying it all at once in one packet. i am annoyed, to say the least. and i fully expect at some point to be unable to photocopy something and having my grade affected by it. this also smacks of being an unprepared instructor (as does the syllabus issue).

but the kicker has to do with his attitude towards literary interpretation. in general, most instructors will help the students draw their own conclusions about the pieces we read by asking open ended questions. often a teacher will point out history, particular word phrasing, and so on, but most do not impose an attitude of 'there is a single answer' and do everything they can to direct students to that one answer. this is probably one of the few things i like about older literature: even though the writer may have had something in mind (and if s/he did, you usually can tell), most literature is open to interpretation. in a way this only makes sense as no two people will interpret what they are reading (even if in the simplest terms) the same. if you don't have the author to consult, then you are kind of stuck with that interpretation. this does not mean that an instructor let's some student interpret "john please buy milk on your way home" as "the horse ran away" (weird examples, but they make the point). nor do they let students make statements about their interpretation without backing it up from the piece. this is one way students are helped in their analytical and critical thinking since they have to pinpoint what it was that made them think they way they do about it. and i have enjoyed the discussions, if not the literature, in most my lit classes.

not so with this particular instructor. the only interpretation that is correct is his, period. even if we can back up a different viewpoint, if we don't mesh with his view we're wrong. this constrains students since the questions he asks have specific answers. in our thursday meeting, one student came right and said (after us kicking around 'wrong' answers for a good 15 minutes), "so just tell us what it means." he didn't, of course, but what's the point in even participating in the discussion if your viewpoint will always be wrong? i can't read minds and it is obvious from the class on thursday that no one else in the class can either, but he somehow wants us to reach his conclusions. only two of us kept with our interpretation despite his insistence that we were wrong. the other student went to argue the point, i left for my next class.

there's no point in arguing with a closed mind.

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