(A brilliant guest post by Lettergirl, while I'm still in the background shining up my shoes...)
Unlike the young and hopeful Atomic Mommy, I'm not about to turn 20-effing-5. Seriously, I almost retracted my guest post offer when I saw that news. SIGH. Hang on a minute while I go put some mascara over my gray hair, beyotch.
No, I am 41. And back in college for the second time to get teaching credentials. Because after 15+ years in TV news, I finally figured out it wasn't ever going to be just like that movie with Holly Hunter.
Instead of getting to do cool important stories like Christiane Amanpour, I was going to be asked to fit in a live shot from a McDonald's reopening because the owners were really big advertisers.
No, seriously. Also, I had done enough stories about "GERMS THAT COULD KILL YOU" on movie theater seats, playground ball pits, and bathtub toys. Here's a summary of what I have learned: don't lick things if you don't know who else has been playing with them. You're welcome.
I have discovered though, some key differences between college at 20 and college at 40.
First, when you are not concerned about the cute guys in the class, you learn a lot more. Despite my brain being frazzled by children and old age, I have a 4.0 this time around. You can blah blah blah about mature students applying themselves better, etc. But really? Academic ability flourishes in the absence of hormone surges.
Second, I am a lot more aware this time around that a lot of other students in my classes are... how can I say this nicely?... complete morons. My new beatitude is "Blessed are the slackers, for they shall influence the grading curve."
One recent class, we had to critique an article from a peer-reviewed academic journal. The professor was very clear. It could not be a random article pulled off any old website. Academic. Journal. He showed samples of academic journals. He showed samples of articles that would and would not work. Not an academic journal? ZERO on your paper.
A couple days before the article was due, the woman sitting next to me said "I finished mine early, would you proofread it for me?"
Of course I obliged, and realized immediately that we had a problem.
"Umm, I don't want to ruin your day, but I am *pretty* sure the Wall Street Journal is in fact not an academic journal," I said gently.
"What? It says 'journal' right in the name?!" I could tell she thought I was an idiot.
"Yes, I know! That's confusing, right? (<--- this restraint right here? this is why I am going to be a great teacher.) But it's really just a newspaper."
She shook her head. "It SAYS Journal."
"Well, maybe I am wrong. But you know, I read the Wall Street Journal. In fact, in journalism school, we learned about a whole writing approach named after the Wall Street Journal. It's a very good newspaper. But it is, to the best of my knowledge, not a peer-reviewed academic journal. Maybe you should ask the professor to be sure."
So, rolling her eyes, she walked up to his desk. Just to show me.
And of course, he laughed his ass off and told her to re-do her paper.
She did not seem in the mood for future learning when she came back to her desk, so I did not tell her that she could not mail a letter at the Washington Post. Nor could she purchase a watch at the New York Times. Baby steps.
In another class, a pair of students did an entire Power-Point presentation on high-stakes testing in education. At least that's what I thought it was going to be on. However every flipping slide, in big giant font, said: HIGH SKATES TESTING.
So perhaps their presentation was really about roller blades smoking pot and then taking standardized tests. I'm not sure.
So if you've been contemplating going back to college, but you're not sure you could hang, here's a litmus test for you: if you've laughed reading this, you're golden. Seriously. See you in class.
Or of course, if you don't want to go back to college, you could just come visit me from time to time at Not Going Postal. It's just as educational, and I don't charge you $1,000 for every three credit hour class. Love, Lettergirl