Imitation is the purest form of flattery. I was apprehensive on my first day of school and it showed. As I gathered my pencils, paper and notebooks, Ethan reminded me that I should always be polite at school, raise my hand before speaking, and push my chair in when I get up. Hmmm…his advice sounded vaguely familiar. It was the same advice I gave him every year on the first day of school! Rachel’s advice, on the other hand, was more social than practical. She told me making friends would be easier if I remembered to smile and say “Hello” to at least one classmate in each class. And always write homework assignments in the new Student Planner, so I would not forget them. She sounded just like me! I never knew that the kids even listened to me when I gave them advice on the first day of school. I recited the directions by rote, having given the same advice to my sons for twelve years before. It was clear I would have to be more careful from now on in what I say to them, since they really do listen. But, it was good, solid advice and I would do well to use it. After all, it was my advice in the first place.
There is more to Shakespeare than I ever imagined. I sat on the left side, toward the front of the room, in my very first college class, because all the “cool” kids sit on the left side, and close to the front because my eyes are not what they used to be. My professor, Dr. W., had us all give our name and state what we liked to read. I listened to my fellow classmates say they read sports, magazines, blogs, but not too many actually mentioned books. This confused me a little, not only am I an avid reader, my children and grandchildren are too. Just as I was wondering how these kids entertained themselves without books, I heard the most delightful, baritone voice speaking right behind me. I did not hear what he was saying, only listening to the most expressive, passionate voice I had ever heard. Absolutely a voice born to recite Shakespeare. I realized that three days a week for an entire semester, I would start my day by listening to this amazing young man bring life to the words I had read and loved for years. I could not wait to hear him read the part of King Henry issuing orders to his soldiers before battle, or Othello as he declares his undying love for Desdemona. After class, I took Rachel’s advice and smiled at him. Tom was an engaging guy, a musician, and very charming to boot. Where was he when I was in my twenties? I would have wanted to date him, now I just want to adopt him.
Humans have a deep-seated desire to communicate with each other, as evidenced by the diverse student presence in my Human Communications class. The class consisted largely of post-secondary students, kids who were still in high school and taking college courses. There were a few “soccer moms” and the rest were mostly traditional, first year students. The focus of the class was on public speaking. I chose this class specifically because I was not afraid of public speaking, I rather enjoyed it, so I expected to breeze through it. When Dr. F. explained that we would choose our own topics for the three speeches required by the course, I determined that one of mine would be on the aging process. Why would any of these young people want to know about aging? They probably don’t, but I am going to make it my mission to show them how aging causes physical changes, not personality changes. I want them to know that I have the same hopes and dreams about my education as they do, I like to have fun, I hate homework just like they do. In many ways, I am a typical college freshman just like them…. well, except for the arthritis and wrinkles! And this speech will be my chance to prove it!
Some first year college students think they are still in high school. My World Music class proved to be “that class”. You know, the class with kids who whisper and giggle throughout class, making it necessary for the teacher to stop the lesson and tell them to be quiet. Then the “soccer mom” in the front row felt the need to yell at them, going on and on about their bad behavior, while Dr. N stood at the front of the classroom shaking his head. It was so disappointing to see this kind of behavior, from both the immature students and the loud-mouthed soccer mom. I found Dr. N to be an amazing teacher, very intelligent and interesting as he spoke of his life in music. He was even in our textbook. I had never met anyone who was featured as an expert in a textbook before! Living with a musician, and not being a musician myself, I really wanted to learn about music from all over the world. But it was an uphill battle in this class because my classmates seemed to think it was acceptable to behave badly. It was distracting and some days, I really just wanted to skip class to escape the nonsense. I have already been in high school with all the drama that entails. I am in college to be smarter, I am paying for this, and it is not a game to me.
The first day of college is exhilarating and exhausting. My face actually hurt from smiling all day! I was so happy to be in college, to be living a dream I had for so many years. For the most part it was everything, and more, that I thought it would be. In the space of one day, I heard Shakespeare come alive in Tom’s voice, decided to set the record straight about old people, and met a professor who was an expert in his field! And then I read the syllabus for each of my four classes. The smile quickly faded as I realized that I was facing a semester of homework and assignments that I had no idea how to complete. I knew if I could organize the work into smaller time frames, it would be more manageable. So, I spent the next two days marking due dates and deadlines on the calendar. Now, I knew when everything was due, but I did not know how to do it. I was even more overwhelmed. Ethan, my nine-year old “voice of reason”, told me to relax. I was not supposed to know how to do the work right now. The professors had to teach it first. As always, he made sense. But I was still apprehensive, my high school education was so long ago that most of what I learned was outdated or not relevant anymore. I am familiar with writing a summary of what I have read, but what is a thesis?
College was not going to be easy. Let the learning begin….