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School Violence Hits Home

Today I received an automated call from my grandson’s elementary school.  It was his principal stating that bullets were found on the playground, but everything was fine, nothing to worry about.  Seriously??? 

According to the phone call, a student had the bullets in his coat pocket after squirrel hunting the night before, that he simply forgot about.  His coat had a hole in the pocket and the bullets just fell out. It was only bullets, there was no weapon found after a thorough search.  The county sheriff’s office was called, and thanked for their help. No problem.  No worries.  I am not going to lie.  I AM worried.

I picked my grandson up early today.  In fact, I went to get him immediately after the phone call.  He told me the kids had to leave the playground in the middle of recess, returned to their respective classrooms, and minutes later allowed to return outside to finish recess.  On the same playground the bullets were found.  Their recess is less than thirty minutes.  How long does a ‘thorough’ search take?  Probably more than 15-20 minutes.  He also mentioned he did not see any police cars or police.  Hmmmmm…..I assumed from the way the phone message was worded that the sheriff’s office came to the school and aided in the search? 

The most disturbing part was that we were told there was nothing to worry about because there was no weapon found.  It was just ‘bullets’–which became ‘just casings’ in statements later that day.  The school made an announcement over the PA system telling the students, ranging in age from five years to twelve years old, that if they see anything like bullets on the playground not to touch them.  So, everything is okay.  It’s NOT okay with me.

Am I being over reactive and paranoid?  Probably.  But in light of the recent attacks on school children in this same age group, how can I not over react?

Am I being too UN-trusting of the people that I entrust my beautiful grandson to each day?  Absolutely!  School officials across the country are fooling themselves if they think violence only happens in other schools.

Do I have a solution, or even a suggestion that could stop the growing panic I feel when I realize that violence could happen in our small town elementary school?  Not a clue. But I will do my best to help find one.






Hey! That’s What I Said!

College is fun, but there is a dark side to college that you never hear about.  In my first year, there was a student who sat beside me in class and proceeded to make my life miserable.  I had given her my phone number so she could get in touch with me for a study group we both belonged to.  That was my first mistake.  When the group compared grades on our first assignment, she was amazed at my high scores.  This young woman immediately began texting and calling me at all hours, presumably to ask questions about upcoming essays for class.  But each phone call got progressively more panicked, she did not have enough time, she did not understand the work, she was in danger of failing this class–and school!  It was overwhelming, I felt sorry for her plight, but had a funny feeling about it.  She never came right out and asked me to do her homework, but I have raised three kids.  I know when a kid is trying to invoke pity, guilt, whatever, so you will do their homework for them.  I never fell for it then, and did not fall for it with her.  I tried explaining that I had other classes, a family, and other matters that needed my attention.  I suggested a tutor on campus.  It did not stop.  Each day in class, she would ask the professor for another extended deadline, and ask me so many questions–about her assignment, that I had no time to do my own.  She called and texted constantly, even when I told her I was in another city to watch my daughter perform.  It did not matter to her what I had going on, or what I had to do, she wanted me to do her homework for her.

No good deed goes unpunished.  I wanted to help her, but that ended abruptly when during a class discussion, she presented her research topic–which was actually MY research topic.  I was amazed that she had the nerve to take my idea, but there was not much I could do about it.  When our class listed the research references we planned to use–her list was an exact copy of mine!  She had been sitting beside me at the library and when I left the table to get an article, she copied my research materials.  I felt like I had been robbed.  She fully intended to duplicate my hard work and turn it in as her own.  I called the professor and explained what happened.  We both agreed that I would stop taking calls and texts, drop out of the study group, and write my paper as planned.  I was the better student and knew that I would write the better paper, but still…I was angry.  I had to be purposely vague during class discussions which kept me from getting the valuable feedback from my classmates that could have helped me.  I could not ask anyone in class for their opinion, because I did not trust anyone.  When other students would ask for my advice or opinion, I declined, afraid of having my work stolen again.  She not only took my work, she made it impossible for me to be a part of the class.

At times, the only thing you have in life of your own, are your ideas.  It takes me a long time to come up with ideas for projects at school.  But I can honestly say, they are my ideas.  It never occurred to me that some students do not care if the points they argue are their own or not.  I am just grateful that I can state my opinions and have others consider what I am saying.  I am glad that a classmate, or professor thinks my words are important enough to listen to.  Every grade I get, is a grade that I worked for and earned, not something that was cut and pasted from another persons work.  I may not always get the highest score in class, but my work is original.  I would not want it any other way.

The research project in my English class went well for me.  The peer reviews on my presentation were all positive, I got one of the three highest grades!  The final paper got an A.  And the girl who thought it was easier to copy my work…..I am not sure of her final grade, but she did not look happy as she left the class on the last day.

All Majors Are Major

In college, there is not one major concentration of study that is more important than another.  Each discipline is essential to the world beyond the university campus.  And while all students know that their major is most important to them, most understand it is not the only major that counts.  Problems arise only when a student assigns more value to one major above other majors.  A junior in one of my classes this semester was one of ‘those people’ who thinks their major is the only one worth pursuing.  She prefaced every comment with, “I’m a psychology major…”  like it gave her musings more credibility.  It did not.  She also adopted a superior attitude, making sure that her tone of voice exuded sarcasm for anyone with an opposing view.  This classmate had a bad habit of calling other students, like me, stupid, when she felt our perspective was not worth discussing.   As intelligent as she thought she was, (you know-a psychology major) the best she could say was that something was stupid?  Seriously?  What I first took offense to, eventually left me laughing.

It is a critical error to consider one major requires  more intelligence than another.  While it may sound like you are smarter by saying you are a Shakespeare Scholar, it takes just as much intelligence to be a business major.  In fact, I believe every major at the college I attend requires a great amount of aptitude.  It is not about the scores on an IQ test, but more the ability to learn in a given major and apply the lessons to career or life situations.  A law student is no smarter than an English major, and it does not take a rocket scientist to know that history is just as important as nursing.

All fields of study are interconnected with other disciplines.  In determining that one major is superior to other majors,  the option of  useful collaboration is denied.  When studies are multidisciplinary, the focus is more comprehensive and encompasses a more realistic outcome.  Two minds are better than one.  A law student must be an expert at close reading (English Major) to fully analyze court documents and write briefs.  It is critical for an environmental scientist to  understand the past  (History Major) in order to determine the future course of global warming.  A business major will not be successful if he can not express the company mission statement to co-workers (Communication Major).  I have used lessons from classes outside my major field of study just as much as the course specific requirements.  It is impossible to determine what major is more essential than others, because they are all essential.

A word of advice to the psychology major whose best remark was that the question was ‘stupid’ : Hang out with the English Majors–It will expand your vocabulary!




OMG! It is nearing the end of the semester and finals are creeping up! I have two major research papers to write and a test in Sociology. The holidays are right around the corner, and I have to plan and execute Rachel’s 18th birthday party in Cleveland. But I have a scathingly brilliant idea to use Skype for one on one tutoring! Will catch up after December 10th!!!!

So Much To Do, So Little Time

The toughest assignments are always due at the busiest time of year. It must be the rule of thumb for college. I have guests for Thanksgiving dinner in a few days, Ethan’s 3D scale model of a backyard covering my kitchen table, Eric’s pants to alter, and I am headed to a rock concert with Rachel right after school today. In the midst of all the confusion, my Shakespeare research paper deadline is looming ahead like a thunder cloud on the horizon. I am overwhelmed.

Shakespeare fits nicely in waiting rooms. In the midst of the chaos that is my life this week, Rachel came home from school with hives. The hives, covering her hand, put a screeching halt to everything, while we made a quick trip to the doctor’s office. But the time was not wasted. During the wait, I read an entire academic study of the connections between love and war as it relates to the play, Troilus and Cressida! Complete with notes and citations from the reading! With six out of eight articles needed for my research paper, I am ahead of schedule. And it was a relief to hear that the hives were nothing to worry about, and Rachel can play at the House of Blues tonight.

Combining tasks, sometimes referred to as multi-tasking, is the best way to accomplish many goals at once. I did the holiday baking while helping Ethan glue stones to his model. Eric’s pants were re-sized between endless loads of laundry. And I somehow managed to organize three areas on the stove with everything I will need for the concert, my presentation at the high school, and my classes today. Because I worked on the projects simultaneously, I got more finished. I am sure I forgot something.

As the schedule gets crazier, I am reminded of how old I really am. The effects of age cannot be ignored when my fingers ache from arthritis, or I need a nap at 3:00pm. And it does not help that my 58th birthday is December 22, the day after the world is supposed to end….again. However, as much as my physical being lets me know I am not young anymore, my mind has never felt so alive. I mean, Shakespeare, Thanksgiving, scale models and a rock show, all in one week? Who would not feel excited?

High School Students Scare Me!

Fear is an emotion that transcends age groups.  I was given permission to speak to a group of high school students this week about my ideas on using social media to organize and streamline study.  Their perspective on using social media in high school is critical, in order to understand if my theories can be adapted to their education, and if it would be as successful as it has been in college.  Imagine a group of high school students who are organized and enthusiastic about their studies!  A gathering of young people who discard apathy for excitement over good grades and knowledge.  But I am not going to lie, high school students scare me, for so many reasons.

High school students are smarter than me.  They can absorb and recall large amounts of information at the drop of a hat.  The post-secondary students that I know are adept at using technology for a multitude of tasks, and actually know how the computer performs each action.  And despite all the drama that encompasses interpersonal relationships in high school, these kids learn complex concepts in the snap of a finger.  They are young, energetic, and anxious to take on the world.  So what can I possibly bring to them?  I can (and will) share the benefits of my life experiences.  The very same experiences that led me to discover ways that social media can make education less stressful.  Hopefully, they will understand that, age aside, we can help each other.

The younger the student, the more brutal the honesty.  This group is not going to say nice things about my ideas because I am a great person, or they like me.  They do not attend my classes or hang out with me.  When I ask for their feedback, their responses will be honest–whether I want to hear it or not.  I hope I can take what they say to heart.  Their opinions will help me analyze my theories and see where they need improvement.

Appearances are everything.  High school has always been a visual entity.  How you look is often more important than how you act.  I have decided to forgo my usual business suit and French twist, for skinny jeans and a ponytail.  I do not want them to see yet another old person standing in the front of the room, lecturing them on what they should be doing.  I hope that by dressing down, they will see a college student, not so different from themselves, with information they can use to their benefit.

Facing a group of high school students can be daunting, but it is like a glimpse of our future.  Soon this group of young people will be in charge.  Of everything!  I believe they are more than capable to take over the world, and will most probably do a better job of managing it than my generation did.  When I look at them, I am convinced, that if they can grow and learn more efficiently in high school, they will excel in college.

But first, I have to give my presentation, answer questions, and get out alive…..


It’s All Relative, When It’s A Relative

Relatives can be the worst offenders of ageism.  After months of not returning my emails or phone calls, my sister called to ask me to make a Halloween costume for her kid.  I patiently explained (once more) that I have a heavy schedule this semester, Rachel’s busy schedule (which still includes me), and I get Ethan off to school in the morning, leaving precious little time for anything else.  This launched a barrage of laughter on her part.  Why would I go to college at my age?  Did I not get  a decent pension?  What did I need education for, it is not like I will ever have to get a job again?  Why can’t I just enjoy retirement like a normal person?  She informed me that everyone (in the family) was laughing at me, you know, ‘crazy Sharan’ who thinks she is a college student at 57 years old.  Then she proceeded to tell me how she was busier than me–because she has a job–and that she needed the costume for a party next week.

I go to college, at my age, because I did not have the opportunity to attend until now.  I was too overloaded with taking care of my children, working, paying the mortgage, and negotiating the unexpected road of life.  The dreams did not die with age.  I may not look like a traditional college student, but make no mistake, I am a college student.  I go to class, do homework, agonize over test scores, and study all the time.  My age has not stopped me from getting top grades, or keeping up with technology.  I go to college simply because I can.

A decent pension provides the means to pay the bills.  It does not give me anything to think about, nothing to learn or see in a different light.  I spent the first year of retirement sitting in front of the television, trying to convince myself that this was the life.  I felt isolated.  My life became mind-numbingly boring.  And I had a stroke.  And my ‘decent pension’ did nothing to help me recover.  However, the thought of going to college, even at my age, gave me the will to get better. I am grateful for the pension, it helps with college expenses.

I need an education because I have something to accomplish before my time is up.  I am not sure exactly what it is I need to do, but I am counting on college, and the process of higher education to enable me to figure it out.  I suppose, like most college students, I do not know what I want to be when I grow up.  I take my education seriously.  I had a professor who felt like my sister, that I was just wasting time, playing around by going to college.  When I asked for help on an assignment, he ignored me.  I heard through a very unreliable grapevine that he felt he should not have to waste his time on some “old bag” who wants to be young again.  I may well be an “old bag” in his opinion, but I certainly would not want to be young again.  It was hard enough to be young when I was young, why on Earth would I want to do it again?  It strikes me as odd that this particular professor felt that his time was wasted on me.  When college is focused on the job market, how effective is the education?  Any professor that feels the way he does about students over 55 years of age, should probably be teaching grade school, where there is an age limit for students.  But I noticed that my grades began falling in his class, and he adopted a dismissive attitude when I asked questions.  After paying the class fees, over $100 for the books, and completing all the assignments early, I withdrew from the class.  I cannot waste my time on a professor who does not take my education as seriously as I do.

I enjoy retirement in my own way, because apparently I am not normal.  I have no desire to sit in front of the television, relive my past youth, or have another stroke.  I will continue with my college education and make sure I learn as much as I can, because I have not read all the books in the library (like Rachel thinks), I do not know how to spell more words than spellcheck (like Ethan thinks), and I have so much more to accomplish.  I am 57 years old, but I have not outlived my usefulness.  My sisters can laugh at me all they want.  I have discovered ways to use social media to help students save time and get better grades that really work!  An article I wrote will soon be published in the top academic publication in this country. I am considering a more scientific study on my approach to practical uses of technology in college.

There is much I hope to do, and college is the first step.   My sister will have to figure out the costume for her kid on her own, I have an essay due and a test approaching.



Chaos, Homework, & Parties

Being organized will not make you popular with classmates that are not organized.  Indeed some make fun of me because I work ahead as much as possible, and have my homework done before the due date.  I don’t mind, those are the kids that never complete an assignment on time, or stay up late the night before to finish a paper.  I get better grades by working ahead, because it gives me time to do a good job on each assignment, I am not just throwing something together at the last minute.  But I am not going to lie, there are times when I just do not want to do homework.  I would much rather be shopping, baking, even doing nothing.  And those are the times, I sit down and force myself to concentrate, because I know that if I don’t do it now, I will have to pass up something that comes up at the last minute, something really fun.  I never want to be ‘that kid’–the one who says he can’t go to the movies, or a party, because he has homework to do.  So, I work ahead.

When you are surrounded by chaos, you defeat yourself before you even get started on homework.  For example; if your desk is covered in random mail, dirty dishes, pocket change, and a pair of pliers, it becomes necessary to clean it off before you can start.  So you go to throw away the old mail, uh oh, the trash needs to be taken out, take the dishes to the kitchen, uh oh, the sink is full of dirty dishes that need washed, pick up the pocket change, uh oh, better check the bank account, and where did the pliers come from?  An hour (or two) later, you still have not started what you intended to have finished by now.  Taking a few minutes to put things in their proper place at the moment, can save you the hours it can take to sort it all out and put away later.  Keeping your dorm room, apartment, or living space neat and tidy not only prevents chaos from taking over, it can save you time.  Time you can use to work ahead on your class assignments, and be able to attend every party that sounds like fun.

Chaos is not conducive to organization.  Almost everyone has a cell phone, and those cell phones have calendars.  Take each syllabus and set up reminder alerts on your phone for every assignment.  We pay a lot of money for cell phones, it is time to make them work for us.  If you do not have a cell phone, get a small calendar and carry it around.  It may not be able to alert you with  the new Skylit Drive tune, but you can see at a glance what is due and when.  Use any and all technology at your disposal to cut study and homework time in half.  Get your classmates together for email Study Buddies–six or eight people in a group means you only have to do one or two review sheets for tests.  Twitter groups can get you an answer in real time–compete with pictures of graphs or charts.  Text groups can give you yet another way to be reminded of assignments, quizzes, or tests.  Technology, that you use every single day, can help you get through school more efficiently, and it is all right there in your pocket!

Being organized makes you feel good about yourself.  And who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves?  When you are organized at home, at school, even at work, you can get more done in less time, leaving more time for the things you really want to do.  It may take a while to get used to being organized, putting things away, cleaning up after yourself, getting calendars set up, but the benefits far outweigh the effort.  I know where my car keys are.  I keep all my school supplies in the same place, no searching for a highlighter or notebook.  My bookbag is packed, complete with snacks, the night before.  The dishes are done and my desk is clear, ready for homework.  Because I am organized and have eliminated as much chaos as I can from my life, I can go with Rachel to see our friends, blessthefall, stay out all night, and still pass my History test the next day with an A.

And those kids who poke fun at me for working ahead……Let’s just say that I do not see their names on the Dean’s List, like mine!

Reading, Writing, & Sociology???

The higher you advance in college, the more time it takes to get your homework done.  I swear I have done nothing except read and write since classes started!  I love my classes, but I always love my classes.  Well, except for Sociology.  Does anyone ever like Sociology?  I do not think so.  The lectures are long and…..there is no nice way to say it…..boring.  Culture, values, and norms are bad enough, but do I really have to know how they apply to society?

The most disturbing part of Sociology is that I do not agree with anything I have heard so far.  My lip is swollen from biting it, to keep myself from shouting out, “That’s wrong!” every day.  I am not a fan of Freud or Karl Marx, and I so don’t care about Social Darwinism.  However, the part of this course that bothers me the most is the section on aging.  I am not sure where the authors of our textbook get their information, but I am here to tell you it is all wrong.

Perpetuating the stereotypes of aging is harmful to old people.  Our book states that people over 55 years old (yes, that would be me) do not think creatively or care to learn new things.  I had to laugh at that one!  I was the one who compared The Espionage Act of 1914 to Homeland Security!  I gave a speech about weight loss while eating a cupcake!  I compared a Shakespeare sonnet to a teenage girl with a crush on a rockstar!  I not only learned how to work email, I am now adept at FaceBook, Twitter, and other social media!  I even wrote an academic text on the subject of using social media to help college students!

According to the textbook, old people lose their friends and do not care to make new ones.  I have so many new friends since I started college, that I had to get a bigger memory card for my cell phone!  My friends and I text, shop, eat, go to concerts and movies, and study together.  I know that Olivia is going to dress as an Indian for Halloween, Gary is a good sport about practical jokes, Joe loves scary movies, and Andrea’s boyfriend is a total jerk.  They know that I love to bake, get good grades, and like to have fun as much as they do.

Sociology is essential to satisfy a science requirement for my degree.  I will pass the class, because I do not want to take it again.  And that is about the best thing I can say about a class that makes old people (like me) look useless and unsociable.  Maybe the sociologists who wrote all this nonsense should follow me for a week.  That is, if they can keep up!

Another First Day!

It is vital to understand that higher learning will most often present more questions than answers.  That is precisely what it is supposed to do. The first day of my sophomore year in college was as overwhelming as the first day of my freshmen year.  I should know better than to read the entire syllabus the first day.  It just leaves me feeling like I will never get it all done.  So I did what I always do, take a deep breath and break it into smaller, more manageable parts.  And enlist my grandson, the genius, to help me with studying for tests.

Being smart does not mean you do not need education.  A high IQ indicates you have the ability to learn, but it does not mean you automatically know everything.  It does not even guarantee your success at everything you attempt.  Some things, like playing guitar or knitting, require more practice than ability.  Where a marginally talented musician, who spends hours practicing and experimenting, can become a virtuoso;  a musician with a high level of natural talent can fail miserably if he neglects to hone his skills.  With this in mind, I am beginning my sophomore year in college.  (Insert scream of happiness here!)

Students should set their academic expectations high, but temper them with realistic goals.  I was extremely excited about taking American Sign Language.  It took hours to arrange and rearrange my schedule to fit the class, which requires a longer time period than most classes.  I found the class to be fascinating.  I have always been able to pick up languages quickly, and was pleased to discover that American Sign Language was no exception.  After the second day of signing, I woke up to find my right hand swollen, with every joint burning, like it had been set on fire.  A quick trip to the doctor provided a brutal dose of reality.  I was almost sixty years old and had arthritis in both hands.  Prescription drugs could help with the pain and allow me to stay in the class for a while.  But the drugs for arthritis are harsh and very damaging to internal organs.  There was, also, no way to know how long the drugs would work.  With my heart breaking, I turned down the offer of prescription medications, and dropped out of Sign Language.  I have no doubt in my ability to learn American Sign Language, but I understand that I am physically unable to keep up.

Plans may change, but the goal remains the same.  Going to college is my chance to learn, to discover, and understand what I do not know.  That has not changed with the schedule change.  Although I am saddened at having to drop ASL, I am looking forward to taking a different language next year.  But in the meantime, I have Shakespeare, History, and Modern Literature to learn.

Which reminds me….I have homework to do!