Friday, November 24, 2017

Classes


In Reba McEntire’s video Is There Life Out There? Reba plays a returning, non-traditional college student trying to manage family, work and school. At the end she turns in a paper that is covered with coffee stains. When the professor returns it he gives her the lecture about being neater about the work she turns in. The response she gives back is “I’ve learned more from the stains that I did from the 
paper.”

As many of you know, I’m going back to school to finish up the history part of my degree. When I graduated twenty years ago, I never really thought about going back. However, after twenty year away from being in the classroom, I returned to Lock Haven University.

The first time through college I was the typical student: I showed up, did my thing, was given my diploma and sent out to face the world. I ended up in a job not in my field, but a job that allowed me to do what I wanted. I had the power to go and explore and then blog about it.

When I made the decision to go back to school I was terrified. How was I going to balance work, school and trying to have a life? Part of my “plan” was to return to the way I cruised through school the first time around: I would show up, get my work done, do “my own thing,” and go home.  I would “do my own thing” because how could I expect to relate to other students who were young enough to be my own children?

That was the mentality I had going back to school. I would show up, do what I needed to do and go my way.

The first day of class arrived and I showed up and slipped into a seat near the back at the back of the classroom. Though I knew the professors knew me, I did my best to avoid the rest of the class. The first class of the day was all freshmen and sophomores and everyone of them gave me a strange look as they entered into the room. Despite the odd looks, I managed to get through the first day.

It was the second day that almost did me in. The first class of the second day was ok, but the second class…the second class I really felt like the outside. As the rest of the class filtered in, it was very obvious that they all knew each other. At that moment I really had my doubts and I wanted to walk out, to escape the fact I was the stranger in this class. For the first time I wondered if the words so many had told me were coming true: “You should just take online classes…you’ll be happier and you won’t have to deal with the younger students.”  I went home that night and seriously debated just dropping the classes and waiting until spring to do the online classes.

But I didn’t.

The first few weeks I managed to not get involved. I showed up (put my earplugs in to block out the consistent chatter before classes), did my thing and went my way. I spent my time not in class hiding in the library doing research, hidden away from the rest of campus. In the first three-four weeks I had a better connection with the cleaning lady in the library than I did with my fellow students.

And then it happened. My fellow students started talking to me. *GASP*

Slowly I was brought into their world. For the first time, in all the time in I had spent at Lock Haven, I actually felt a connection with my fellow students who I call friends and peers. I discovered myself having stronger connections with my fellow students this time around than I did my first time through college.

I realized as the semester continued I was learning more about myself, something I would have never learned had I decided to do the online classes. I have learned compassion and understanding, how to listen (not just hear, but how to really listen to others), how to be a mentor and an example (which is very scary knowing that others are looking up to you because you are the adult), but most importantly how to be a friend.

As the semester is drawing to an end, I can look back and I see how much I have personally grown. While my fellow classmates may not fully realize it, they have changed me. I can say that I am a much better person because of them. Sure, many of my classmates will deny it (some of them may not even realize the impact that they’ve had on me), but they created the personal growth of this semester, something that no professor could have ever taught me.

Honestly, I could fail all my classes (which, for the record, there’s no way that that could possibly happen) and I can walk away from this semester knowing that I have become a better person.