Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How to Make Good Grades: Two Things I Learned In Junior College

I restarted my college career at age 58. My intention was to learn a bit about journalism, but I have learned other things as well.

When I was a member of the Philomath school board, I sat through a lot of awards ceremonies. I hate awards ceremonies; there are so many other things I would rather be doing. I only attend them when socially obligated. I found I was frustrated with successful high school students who were asked to say a word about how they had done so well. Over and over they said some form of "Do your work and turn it in.". I had finished high school, a bachelors degree, and a masters degree back in the sixties and early seventies. I did o.k. but it was not easy. I resented the idea that all you had to do was complete the assignments your teacher gave you. Now, after one course at LBCC, I see that the students were right and I was wrong.

During my first tour of duty as a student, I thought I worked hard. Looking back I see that I didn't have much concept of what hard work was. Oh, I spent plenty of time in the library, but a lot of it was spent sitting at a study table wishing I was somewhere else. Also, I was chronically sleep deprived due to certain lifestyle choices. I often found myself waking up with my head stuck to the table by my own saliva.

Now I realize that I put in a lot of hours but often I failed to complete my assignments. I would have been far better off just hacking something out and turning it in instead of procrastinating while I told myself that I was "studying". I am making the same mistake this time, but I am more aware of it.

All I needed to do to score some extra points in my class was write at least two posts a week.

Adding graphics would have helped. Using the AP style book to check things like how 9/11 should be written would also have helped. Now, a couple of weeks from the end of the quarter, I look back over my posts and wonder how I could have failed to take advantage of those opportunities. It's not that I care about my grade (much), I am just appalled that I could be taking only one class and still fail to do the obvious.

The second thing I learned was how fast a week goes by. Of course, it is a cliche that as one grows older time seems to pass more quickly. I heard a story about a 100 year old lady who asked what life was like now that she had reached the century mark. She said, "I feel like I eat breakfast every twenty minutes."

I posted this quote near my desk in November of 1978: "You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today, then one day you find that ten years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun" ( "Time" on "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd.) I have carried that quote to every desk I have occupied for thirty years. Bit by bit I am learning to heed its warning. Yet I am still surprised to see time fly.

I will end with a bit of good news for anyone who may relate to my failings.
Change is possible.

I was probably already a procrastinator in the cradle. Nonetheless, I have been able to finish school, work for 33 years and help raise four children. Some lessons just have to be learned over and over again.

Do your work. Time flies.
photo credit: Studying Hard by Kyle Kessering
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