The first few weeks of the Spring Semester

In my last post the new semester had started, but I had not actually made it to class due to having a stomach flu. That first week I made it to class two whole days – Wednesday and Thursday. I at least got to meet most of my professors, but did not meet my professor for Introduction to 2D Design until the following week as she was out due to having, you guessed it, the flu. There seems something rather symmetrical in that, actually. Just to round out the fun of the first week, I ended up going to the emergency room on Friday with gastro-intestinal issues related to the flu with which I though I had finished.

I can recall with clarity my youth when I loved to be home sick instead of at school, especially when I had something as iron-clad as a trip to the ER to back me up on my legitimate absence. Now I find myself somewhat resenting my body for getting sick and I’d really much rather be in even my least favorite class than at home sick. Around the time I arrived in the ER, I was actually supposed to be interviewing for a on-campus job with technical services. I think it’s more than fair to say that I really would rather have been at the interview!

Fast-forward a few weeks and I’m firmly settled into my new routine, including that tech services job. (Yay for Semi-gainful employment!) Monday and Wednesday are my ‘long’ days – starting with my first class at 10:00 with my last class ending at 20:00. The new job has me here a few extra hours, but for some of those hours I was just hanging out in the LGBTQ center chatting with people anyway. (I do still get one day a week which I get to do that. This makes a good balance between being social with other students and getting a little income.)

Being here in Wisconsin it should come as no surprise that we’ve had several days of very hard snow. Thus far, I have only had one class canceled due to snow and that was a decision by the professor, not the school. While the school has closed due to snow twice this semester, both closings were for evening classes and neither affected me directly. The one canceled class did allow me time to catch up on some non-school related activities, although to be honest I kind of wish I had not already been dressed when I saw the email about the cancellation — I could probably use the sleep!

I should also post thoughts on individual classes, but I’m not going to do so right now. (I’m writing this during some down time at work and I’m off to do a walk around before I go home for the evening.)

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More Studying May Be In Order

It’s been a quiet week in Lake George … Wait, no it hasn’t!

My final exam of the semester was on a Friday evening at 17:45 (that’s 5:45 PM for most people) for a class that was usually held on Monday and Wednesday evenings. This in and of itself wouldn’t have been so bad, but we were expecting family to arrive at our house that evening for our annual Yuletide (Winter Solstice) celebration the next morning. Due to various conflicts, we were holding it on Saturday the 15th instead of closer to the actual solstice on the 21st. The upshot of this being that not only was I spending a good portion of my Friday night taking an exam, I was doing so while loved ones were supposed to be arriving in my home, some of them driving a considerable distance to do so. There were several students that didn’t bother to show up for the exam; presumably they either had sufficient grades they didn’t need to do so, or they arranged at alternative test time. Best of luck to them, I guess. I suspect the time and day of the exam had a lot to do with these absences!

Walking around campus afterwards was like walking through a ghost town! The place was utterly deserted and eerily quiet.

So here we are a few weeks later and of course I’ve received my grades and everything …

Well, at least I passed. My final grades for the two classes in my first semester were a C for Discrete Mathematics and a B for Computer Science II. This gives me a current degree GPA of 3.566 … which is a bit of a drop from the 4.000 with which I started. (It also leaves me with just under 100 hours more of credits required for my degree.) While these grades came as a bit of a shock when compared to the tech school where I was getting a 4.00 with every single class, I’m actually more proud of these grades because I felt like I actually had to work for them!

When I transfered into UWP I expected the classes to be harder. I wanted the classes to be more challenging as I felt like I wasn’t really getting full value from my highly-inflated tuition costs from that other school. I think it’s time to speak of that experience a bit. When I first started to pursue my degree, I was just turning 40 years old. Except for the occasional short class for some work-related functions, I had not been in an actual classroom for more than 20 years. My high school grades weren’t really great, particularly my senior year, and I had no recent history of academics to present as an example of my interests for potential admittance. I was desperate to do something, anything really, in order to make my situation better and I didn’t think I had a chance in hell at getting into a traditional college.  In other words, I was perfect prey for a certain type of school with low requirements and high-pressure sales.

Out of a desire to not incur any kind of lawsuit, I will not specify which one, but if you’re in the United States you’ve probably seen their commercials. They’re the ones which had an image of the VLA radio astronomy observatory with voice over about a railway communications system. They are usually identified with three letters and their former parent corporation was involved with telephones and telegraphs. Yes, that one, much to my chagrin.

I ignored that initial uneasy feeling for a very long time. I must make it clear that I cannot fault my teachers nor most of the administration staff at the campus which I attended. I think most of them really did have a desire to educate and help others, although I should have taken the hint at how many of them would refuse to directly discuss the negative publicity the school was receiving in the local and national press. (I’ll note that a few did make veiled references to the fact that the school has the highest tuition rate of any school in the industry, but would then change the subject, possibly after noting that it sure didn’t go to the teachers!) I cannot say that I learned nothing there, but the classes were amazingly easy and much of the learning came from my own love of the subjects and not from the required material. Again, the teachers were usually helpful with questions and my desire to go beyond the material — apparently students who were actually actively engaged being somewhat of a rarity there, but the official materials tended to be barely above the high school level at best.

After two years I couldn’t ignore the fact that I’d made a serious mistake in going there and I began to look into traditional schools. I really wish I had done so initially, although I don’t know if I could have gone straight into that without the first experience. As poor as their academic standards are, at least they did get me back into the habit of doing homework, taking tests, attending classes and other school activities that we as adults do sometimes blow off all too easily. (While loudly proclaiming these activities as important for our children, of course!) I think I’m now in a better position to appreciate that I will learn more from a class with harder material and more stringent project requirements: I want an actual education and not just a piece of paper!

It’s still been made clear to me that I’m going to need to make school a higher priority and juggle my work load from other sources around such to accomplish this. That’s certainly going to make it interesting for client projects! I’m looking into other funding sources, including setting up a donation page on gofundme. I’m also seeking a campus job with the thought that they’re far more likely to be understanding of “I need to study for an exam this week” than my clients! (Not to mention that it’ll seriously cut down on my commute time.)

Finals week …

This is made a lot more interesting by the fact that I’ve also got a work project ending this week. In some ways, this is good, because fewer total classes this week means I have more time to work, but the work pressure means I’ve got a lot less time to study. (The fact that the class I need to study for most has an exam on Tuesday really doesn’t help!)

Time is running short!