Things I completely forgot about being a student

backtoschoollogoDespite the fact that the instructor (teacher? professor? I’ve been a first-name-basis kind of gal since I was an undergrad, so I never know the proper terminology to use there) and I are essentially peers–we have similar tastes in stories and television and share a mutual friend, and we’re about the same age–I revert to a lil ol’ student for two hours and 50 minutes every Tuesday evening.

And with that comes the sort of things I completely forgot go along with being a student.

  • For one, free days off = awesome. Yes, I’m taking this class for fun, and yes, I am actually having fun. But to have a previously dedicated space of time open up out of the blue? It’s just delightful. (Though the reason, a person I like coming down with the fall plague everyone seems to get during the season change, is less than delightful.)
  • Students get more days off than administrators. For Thanksgiving, my office gets Thursday and Friday off. For students? It’s nearly the whole dang week (Tuesday to Friday).
  • That guy (or girl) who looks down his (or her) nose at you. I think every class has one, someone who’ll inform you that you’re an idiot when you voice an opinion that is contrary to the consensus of the class. The snark of social media in a face-to-face setting.
  • The ick-factor of working in groups. As an overachiever since I was 9 months old, few group members are going to be as engaged as the likes of me. The one time we’ve broken into small group discussion, it resulted in me talking a lot, asking questions, trying to get the other two young women to say a) answer a question with more than four words in b) a decibel loud enough to be audible to the human ear.
  • How strange it feels as you near the end of the semester. One of the best things about working for a college is getting back on the academic calendar–I’ve always loved having the year broken up into fall, spring, and summer semesters–and that feeling is exacerbated by being in class.

Four classes to go. Man, that was fast.

Entering uncertain territory in the creative writing class

Back to School is an occasional series about this grown-up’s experience taking a class for the first time in about a decade.backtoschoollogo

As I eyeballed the course schedule back in my first class, a lot of it made me smile.

Poetry–I did an honors thesis on that for my degree. It was fun, and my alma mater gave me something like 10 credits for it. Cool.

Creative nonfiction–Basically column writing, which was always one of my favorite parts of being a journalist in my past life.

Literary criticism–OK, I think that means I read things and write about them? A fancy phrase for “review”? I can handle that.

Fiction workshop–Oh, dear. Fiction.

Though I’m a huge reader, I don’t read many short stories, and I have zero memory of any short stories I wrote in college. The form just never stuck for me. We’re partway through fiction in class so far, and it has consisted of reading some short fiction (um, are you familiar with Raymond Carver’s “Popular  Mechanics”? So amazing, mind=blown) (if you look it up, a warning: It’s way dark), reviewing a published piece by the instructor, and some in-class assignments, like penning a series of six-word stories and turning one into a 100-word story. Tuesday, we turned in the first drafts for our short stories.

Brooding Carver

Electronically, of course.

Six classes in, I still can’t get used to not turning in hard copies and finding homework assignments online; it’s probably the only thing that makes me feel ancient as one of the old people in the class. But I’m still looking forward to Tuesday night each week, and I’ve even made a friend, a woman who makes my mouth drop at all she’s juggling: single motherhood with three kids and a full-time class load.

To you student magicians out there who do it all: Kudos. You’re fantastic.

I think I’m an ‘old person’ in my class this semester

backtoschoollogoI walked into the room and took a seat near the front, because I was always a front-sitter and, apparently, I still am.

“Why do I have a computer for creative writing?” I thought, eyeballing the monitor in front of me.

The last time I took creative writing, more than a decade ago, the desks were pushed to form a large table in the center of the room, and everyone sat around it. The better to workshop with, my dear.

“Do you know how to raise this up?” the girl next to me asked, fiddling with a plastic piece on the table.

Did she want to raise the desk? The monitor? The keyboard?

“Um,” I said.

I am what you would call, I suppose, a non-traditional student. I’m 32. I’m married. I haven’t sat in a class since 2005, when computer labs were rare and the “old person” in the class did not stare back at me from a mirror.

“Is the syllabus online?” the girl next to me asked.

“Um,” I said.

Ivy Tech Northeast’s student body is an average of 27 years old, so I suppose it is traditional for me to be non-traditional, at least here. That somehow doesn’t make it any less … strange? No, that’s not the right word. Different? Unusual? New?

Yes, that’s it. Despite the fact that I’ve done this before, this feels new. Which means I’m excited–I’ve been looking forward to this class for months–but I’m hesitant: I am in this class because I love to write, but most of my classmates, I suspect, are still figuring out if they like to write. And I want to let them answer, and I want to see them succeed. But I’ve never been one to sit on my hands when a teacher asks a question, and, apparently, I’m still not. This week, I was excited to volunteer to read Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” aloud to the class. Familiar with it? A good chunk of the words are totally made up, which made reading it aloud a challenge, but a fun one.

Throughout my 16-week class, I’ll occasionally share updates with you about what it’s like to be “back to school.”

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts: Are you a non-traditional student, too? What was your first day like? Are you a 19-year-old who noticed that some of the folks in your class are your parents’ age? What was that like?