Using What I Learned

by sharanpaul1

The true value of a college education is actually using what you have learned.  While it is normal to wonder at times, if it is worth killing yourself with homework, classes, and scheduling to go to college, it is critical to see what you have learned, actually benefit your life.  Even more critical is recognizing that you are using what you learned when it happens.  It can come as a small glimpse, when a concept is immediately clear, or an epiphany when you tackle an enormous project and find it to be easier than it looked.  But however the realization comes, it is good to know that what you learned is useful.

There are practical uses for what students learn in class.  I took Shakespeare the first semester, because I like Shakespeare.  I did not expect to use what I learned about a 14th century playwright in my modern, high tech life.  Imagine my surprise when I found myself using what I learned in Shakespeare at home, in other classes, and social situations!  Reading and writing about Shakespeare taught me one of the most valuable lessons for any college student.  How to form a strong thesis and prove it with evidence from the readings.  Shakespeare was perfect for honing this skill, due to the fact that you first have to determine the meanings, then form an opinion, and finally compose your paper.  Every paper written in college uses the same process.  I use many famous Shakespeare quotes in introducing other subjects, from History to Global Music.  My History professor commented that my use of  a quote  from Richard IV, by William Shakespeare, “heavy is the head that wears the crown” to describe Abraham Lincoln struggling to rebuild our country after the Civil War, was unique and appropriate.  That paper earned me another high grade.  And how cool is it that I can recite sonnets, soliloquies, and racy prose at the drop of a hat?

Public speaking is a valuable tool that is used in almost every discipline in life.  My Human Communications class was a bit of a stretch for me at first.  I have spoken publicly before and crowds do not scare me. But, I did not know how much more there was to giving a memorable speech.  In this class I learned to organize, add PowerPoint and other visuals, cite sources, all leading to a cohesive presentation.  I used these new found skills the next semester, when I had to give an oral presentation on my research paper for Writing II.  The peer review for my speech was all positive and my grade was one of of the highest in the class.  Had I not learned how to write and deliver a speech in Communications class, I would never have been able to succeed in presenting my research paper in Writing class.

College writing is no book report.  And this was apparent in my College Writing I class.  I learned so much in this class, it would be impossible for me to list it all.  Among the most practical skills I learned was how to divide large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks, and how to find evidence to support my opinion in the reading assignments.  Forming an opinion and turning it into a thesis for the paper was extremely difficult for me.  Let’s face it, no one has asked for my opinion in the last 35 years, let alone, cared why I have that opinion.  But I had a great professor who was patient, and persistent, and I found that I like giving my opinion.  I like reading an assignment and deciding for myself what it means, or if I agree or disagree with the author.  I really like being able to provide solid evidence from the reading itself to support my opinion, because it makes my opinion essential, not arbitrary.  Every high grade I received on writing assignments in other classes are a direct result of what I learned in this class.

Global music is not just sound and composition.  It is more about the people and culture that created the music.  This class opened up a whole new view of the world population for me.  A reference to Papua New Guinea on a news report in Media class made more sense, because I had a cursory understanding of the local culture that I learned in music class.  I made connections through music to places and people I had only read about before.  Rachel’s friends were impressed when I instantly knew the difference between a sitar and a sarod, and the different cultures of India that they come from.  Ethan’s friends were awed that I could identify Mongolian Throat singing in “The Incredible Hulk” movie.  Of all my first semester classes, Global music made me feel the most intelligent.  And I like feeling smart.

Colleges are tasked with teaching information and skills, but must not lose sight of fostering critical thinking  and new ideas.  I learned so many new skills and information in the first semester, but most crucial was that I learned to think differently.  To consider more than one interpretation or opinion on a given subject.  After a lifetime of being a wife, mother, office worker, and a member of the military, I have found my voice. I can express my ideas and say what I think, without fear of being dismissed or poked fun at.  I can make a convincing argument and follow through.  I am realizing a dream I had since I was a child.  I am a scholar!

How cool is that?