Category Archives: The Non-Traditional Student

So long, farewell

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At 10:00 this morning I completed my time at ECU.

The past two years have gone by a lot faster than I’d expected. It doesn’t seem like I went there quite that long. It’s a little amazing to me that it seems like I just got started and it’s already over. It’s also a little surreal.

I feel like I should be saying it’s bittersweet but…it’s not. I’m thrilled to be done there. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with ECU as a school. They just don’t offer anthropology. I knew my time there was limited to two years, max, so I never got attached. I will be forever grateful to them for giving me a chance, even after I blew the math portion of my ACTs. Plus, I’m sure, every semester when I see my OU bill I will have a pang when I remember ECU. But OU has been my goal all along, so I am happy that I’ll be there full-time starting in the fall.

I knew time went by quickly in relation to parenting, but no one ever told me my college career would zoom by so fast.

On to Phase Two, then.

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You can’t always get what you want

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Except sometimes you do.

Back in January, when I was considering whether or not to undertake field school this summer, one of my main concerns was the amount of time lost with the kids. All three are in school full-time now, which means my time with them is limited to evenings, Monday through Friday, and the weekends (when they are not at their grandfather’s, or out with friends, or I am not out doing something I didn’t have time to do during the week). Therefore, summers are very important to me because we get to spend a lot more time together. It’s especially important in light of the fact that we only have six more summers left until Madalyn goes away to college. It may sound like a lot, to the uninitiated, but fellow parents will understand how quickly that amount of time will pass. We’re talking blink of an eye, here.

Anyway, so I gave a lot of thought to whether I was ready to sacrifice nearly my entire summer with my kids in order to do this. (There was also the secondary question of whether I was willing, yet, to give up our long summer California trip.) The solution I came up with was a compromise, of sorts: I decided I would go to field school and then try to get all my fall classes online. This will enable me to be at home every day for the rest of the year, after I get back. I will still have a lot of work to do, as I will be taking enough classes to maintain full-time status. But it’s work that can be done on my own schedule, and that can be put on hold, temporarily, while I attend a school function, or go to lunch with one of my kids, and what have you. It also has the added bonus of freeing me up to do a little of the traveling I would normally have done over the summer, because I can just take my schoolwork along with me and work from the road. I’m hoping to take a run out to California by myself later in the fall to do some of the things I won’t have time for on our abbreviated summer trip. (We will be going to California, it will just be for two weeks instead of six or seven.)

I did, however, run into one snarl. I am just about done with gen ed and so I’m supposed to begin focusing on all the prescribed anth classes I need for my degree. The way OU recommends you do it is you get through most of the required anth courses right away, then spend the majority of your junior year and all of your senior year doing electives. They give you a “suggested” schedule of exactly which classes to do, by semester, start to finish. Unfortunately, only one class I’m recommended to take in the fall is available online.

This obviously was not going to work for me. If I were a 19- or 20-year-old kid with nothing else to do besides go to school, it would be different. Alas, I am neither 19, nor 20, and I have a LOT of things to do besides just going to school. It’s not that school isn’t a priority. It is. It’s just, my kids are a higher priority. That’s how it works when you do the marriage-and-kids thing when you’re young and then go after the education when you’re old. When I talked to an academic advisor, he advised I not pursue my plan, and, instead, take some of the anth courses which are suggested for sophomore year. I was very nearly swayed, until I remembered: I’m in charge, here. I’m a grownup, I make my own decisions, and this is the way things are going to be because it’s what is best for my family. Traditional students can do things by the book. Non-traditional students have to get creative sometimes.

And, so, this morning, I finished enrolling for my fall classes. They are all online, and they are all electives, save one. In the spring of 2014 I will get back on track. If it’s an option I may even do some intersession classes over Christmas, or over the summer, to catch up. But, mostly, I’m just stoked that my plan worked out. It’s almost like the best of both worlds. I get to go to school AND be available for my kids, for everything, like I used to be before I went back to school. I’ve always been really big on being the boss of my own schedule. I’m also going to be able to pick up and travel at one of my favorite times of year (fall). It may not be standard protocol that I’m following, but, you know what? Life’s a journey, not a destination. That applies to school, too. My journey may not be following the map, but I’m going to wind up in the place I’m meant to be, eventually. And I’m going to have a good time on the way.

Plus, you’ve got to admit, being able to “go to school” without getting out of bed or dressed is going to be pretty sweet.

How about you tell me how this post has broadened YOUR academic experience?

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I thoroughly dislike professors asking throwaway questions in the requirements for writing assignments. Sometimes I think they are typing just to have something to put on the paper and not because it’s actually relevant or even entirely tenable. For example, I am currently sketching a framework for my review of an ethnography (Monique and the Mango Rains) for my Cultural Anthropology class. The professor has given us a long list of points we should address in our paper and the last one is “Discuss how this volume has broadened your academic experience.”

What even does that mean? I can’t stand vagaries of that sort. That’s not a legitimate, directional request, that’s lobbing a fancy-sounding phrase at us, then ducking and covering while it goes kaboom. It’s “Well, this sounds scholarly, so I’ll tack it on there and let them scramble to eke out something that could be loosely interpreted as fitting that description.” How has it “broadened [my] academic experience?” It hasn’t. It was a good book. I’m glad I read it. I found it very interesting. But, let’s be realistic, here. It is but one of many, many books I will read over the course of my college career. It has not changed my life, nor has it been a seminal point in my education. It was a mildly engrossing, occasionally thought-provoking story…that I still would have been completely academically fulfilled without reading. I am not going to go out tomorrow and join the Peace Corps, become a midwife, or alter the course of my education because of this book. It hasn’t “broadened [my] academic experience” except as a singular cog in the giant wheel of my overall college literary intake.

Because of the ambiguity of that imperative, I am going to be forced to make something up. This is not a problem, in and of itself. If there’s one area in which I possess superior skills, it is bullshitting. I can make up the most ridiculous twaddle and write it so it reads like a dissertation. I hate to do that, though. I hate being disingenuous and claiming something changed my life when it didn’t. I hate having to string together a bunch of academic buzzwords to fit a paper’s requirements, instead of just writing what’s in my heart and mind. I can play academia’s games and jump through their hoops like a good circus dog…but I don’t have to like it.

So, do they give you the fedora and bullwhip at graduation, or…???

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You wouldn’t believe how many people ask what I’m going to school for, hear my answer, and, after a pregnant pause, inquire, “So what are you going do with that degree?” At some point I’m going to start replying, “Brain surgery” and then changing the subject like it’s no big deal. Until that time, for any Doubting Thomases (Thomasi?) out there who wonder what possible use my intended degree could be, I have compiled some facts from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.

Anthropologists and Archaeologists

  • 2010 Median Pay $54,230 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2010-20 +21% (Faster than average)
  • Employment Change, 2010-20 +1,300

Source

No, I will never become rich digging things out of the ground and analyzing them. However, this would be a $54,230 pay increase over what I currently make in a given year, which would qualify it (in my book), as “nothing to sneeze at.” Also please note that the field is actually growing at a rate above national average, and that there will be 1300 new positions having been created by the time this decade is over (i.e. by the time I graduate).

So there you have it, folks. With my archaeology degree I plan to…be an archaeologist. I also plan to make a respectable amount of money doing something I love. Don’t worry your pretty little heads about me.