Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Turtle humbled... now where's that shell!??

The reality of "school" has set in. I've discovered my mortality where learning is concerned.

I said "Bring it on!"

And so it was done.

I was faced with a whole bunch of feelings I thought I'd left behind 18 years ago. All the excitement aside, I really felt kinda... scared tonight.

I read the two pieces we were assigned on Tuesday last. Checking the online blackboard, I discovered yet a third reading by one of the same authors, due today as well.

I am a frightfully slow reader - in keeping with Turtle nature. So I blow the better part of the afternoon on this "third" reading, a short story of only about 13 pages if you'd believe that. Dangerously close to class time I finally print out my thoughtfully formulated answers to the black-board-posted questions.

I arrive at class with 15 minutes to spare.

Where are my notes?


So now I feel like Johnny whose dog apparently ate his homework assignment.

I had also checked my notes from last Tuesday to confirm that I did indeed read the correct passages.

"Munro, P. 835" which in fact is "The View from Castle Rock".

This one had me curious because this mysteriously added "third reading" was also a Munro piece.

"Make sure when copying an assignment from the chalkboard here that you get the NAME of the literary piece because often I will mis-quote a page number here or there, but I'm always extremely accurate with the title and author.", says my dear prof.

I've started second-guessing myself too. I just about answered a question tonight but hesitated so as not to boldly open my mouth when I wasn't "quite" sure my answer was indeed correct.

The question was "What parts of speech should you take down when making notes?"

I'm thinking to myself that if I were to break it down THAT literally, nouns and verbs would be pretty safe bets.

Sure enough, that was exactly the answer she was looking for. I couldn't believe an entire class of English students stared at the prof. with a "deer-in-the-headlights" glare! ...myself included! (but out of fear that my simple answer was just too stupidly simple!)

Then, of course full of all kinds of confidence, I proceed to actually answer a question:

"When writing an essay, how do you present your facts?"

I'm thinking this is pretty easy, but I'd better be aware that there's a very stong Philosophical side to this course, so it could be this, but it might be that. So, here's my answer:

"I see two possibilities. I could either state my strongest point first, then my lesser supportive points OR I could start with my weaker points, working up to my strongest, leading into a solid conclusion"

Of course, not thinking ahead to "you must be able to support what you say", I was left hanging when she asked,

"You think you could use both then? Interesting. Give me an example of where you'd use each of these. I'll be back to you in a moment."

It was only after some careful reflection that I hadn't kept my examples to the purely essay-based discussion at hand. Sure, in an essay you want to get right into it - no beating around the bush, state your point and support it, then get the hell out!

My second example, once I gave it some careful thought was the structure for a novel, not an essay. In a novel, let's say fiction for example, you want to build the story so as the reader nears the end of the book you've brought them to the pinnacle, then you can gently (or not) push them over the edge of the denouement... looks much like a ski jump into nowheresville when you draw it out like a graph.

Somewhere along the line the class discussion was shifted and I was not required to support my statement. I will, however send an email to the prof. as a matter of courtesy. I tried staying after class, but close to 8 people were vying for the prof's attention.

So I'm feeling awefully new at the whole "critical thinking" component of the course. I read these pieces, made my comments, but discovered that if I were truly "into" the texts, I might have researched some history on them. Some of the details that were pointed out to us were foreign to me, and I've lived a fairly healthy chunk of life. Up until now, I considered myself fairly well acquainted with English and its bits and pieces.

When it comes to "You might have asked the question..." it makes me wonder why I didn't.

Am I not thinking critically?

Essay writing scares me, to be honest. We have a handout on Essay Form and I'm paranoid. So many little bits and pieces to remember - spacing, column margins... not to mention the content and its layout.

It reminds me of the time I took a study skills class at SAIT. The instructor would dock a third of a grade if the staple in the upper corner wasn't at a 45 degree angle. He did indeed measure it too.

I came away from tonight's class a bit on the deflated side, to be honest. I'm feeling a touch overwhelmed and wondering how a full time student manages 5 or 7 of these courses.


Turtle Guy said...

Funny, too... on reading this post, I've discovered many slips of the pen... time for a nap, I think.

Jeremiah said...

I often let my posts go with typos. That's because, in real life, I make mental/conversational typos anyway, so why not let the written ones live too?

As for the essay anxiety, I've found that, beyond the physics of writing an essay (staple at a 45 degree angle? that's WACK!), I've found that just outlining the thing before you write is a foolproof way of getting your point across. And, yes, you need to hit hard from the beginning, even in fiction. You want to keep 'em reading.

Anvilcloud said...

A certain professor at SAIT was ... well, words fail me.

You write well; you'll do fine with essays because it's the same language.

The kids can take all those courses because they don't work.

I've never heard of anybody researching the history of short story authors. I'm sure that the prof will reveal whatever tidbits are necessary.

Granny said...

I'm with the professor on the 45 degree staple; possibly because I worked in an office for years. It's the easiest way to turn pages and it's strong.

I wish the girls' teachers knew that. They use a new staple for each page and then one in the dead center of the whole mess. I had to purchase a staple puller just for that.

Miss 1999 said...

Don't beat yourself up! Going back to school is never easy, at any age. I have to applaud you for doing so- and putting forth such effort. Of course, we're going to mess up from time to time, and be insecure. I screw something up daily- but don't be afraid. Chances are good, someone in your class is in the same boat you are :0)

smiley said...

Well I can relate to you about going back to school being tough we started with Economics and Management Analysis and half the class is so involved and giving real life example for the questions, while I feel a bit lost cos my background is in Engineering. But don;t worry we'll both get along fine :)

Badoozie said...

ok, you are going to do fine. essays are a complete cinch.

you have your opening which includes your thesis, or your main point, and then you spend the rest of the paper supporting this thesis through various citings, and after each citing you paraphrase it in your own words, or interpret it as to its relevance in support of your thesis. then, you conclude with a summary, wrapping up and convincing the reader, that you just made valid points that are supported by facts, and you in fact RULE.

thats it. simple. and at our age, the thing that made it even easier for me is the tons and tons of life experience i have to lend to making my points, and supporting them.

do'nt let the essay scare you. once you figure out your thesis or "hook", you just start rambling. then you go back and clean it up, adding your supporting facts/citings.

if you want some examples, i'd be happy to email you some of my better ones. i can rattle off an essay in about 2 hours, start to finish. and since my masters program consists mainly or writing, i'm looking forward to it. any other questions? just blurt it out, no need to raise your hand!!!

and about recommending blogs, i'm glad you said something over at jeremiah's because me being the airhead i am, i forgot how i got there!! and also, i think you should check this guy out, he is someone you might thoroughly enjoy

pissed off patricia said...

You'll be fine. Remember how you felt as a little kid on the second day of school. Now all the excitement was over and school was really in session. That too was always a bit of a start to the mental processes. Once you fall into a routine, you'll be sailing along. Never fails.

Chrystal said...

The advice I always give my kids about essays is to put some personality in it...just like you are having a conversation. Don't be afraid to express your opinion, it shows that you have really learnt/thought about the subject that you are writing about.

As well, the very fact that you are giving this topic so much thought shows what a great student you are :)

Heather said...

Good for you for going back to school. It takes guts. My husband just finished his first degree at 41 years of age - old enough to be a father to some of the students. :-)

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Sarah Elaine said...

I had a prof in graduate school who measured the margins of your essay. If they were not exactly 1-inch all around, the work was returned to you, as he refused to even read it until it was submitted with "acceptable" formatting.

School is supposed to be challenging. Critical thinking is supposed to be an evolutionary process.

Do what you do best... Be a turtle and proceed with caution... but proceed nonetheless.

Janice said...

Hi Dave,

Where are my notes?


Aw, that sucks! Hang in there I'm sure it'll get better, and your love of school will come back along with your confidence.


ipodmomma said...

babe, you're in school. that's way more than I'll ever accomplish!

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
English student, Pottery enthusiast, Yoga novice and lover of all people. I make friends over a warm handshake and a beverage. I discover, every day, someone willing to help me along my path.