Sunday, January 16, 2011

Non-Traditional (Part 1)

About twenty years ago, I left college. Not with a degree or a cum laude or any of that; I just left. On Tuesday, I returned to college.

For those of you regular readers, it probably comes as no surprise that I chose to continue my continued education at Southwestern College, a school that I have championed as being far better, and much more deserving than the corrupt Governing Board it was saddled with.

But I’m not going to travel that road today. Today I’m just here to say that I – quite literally – put my money where my mouth was, and enrolled.

After a few oddly nervous days, worrying about what my return to academia would be like, I woke on Tuesday morning without a worry in the world. I got up and realized I wasn’t thinking of this as going to school; I was thinking of it as going to work.

I showered, shaved, grabbed some coffee, and glanced in the mirror to check my man-nificence one last time, then headed to work…er, school.

The first class was Business 120 – Intro to Business. It may seem odd that I was taking the absolute basic business course, but in all my previous college days, I had never taken a single class of the kind. Granted, I had written extensively about business in my freelance writing days, but I thought it might be time to actually get a little education to go with my knowledge.

Michael Van Keith is the instructor, an adjunct professor with style, charm, and magnificent hair. He engaged just about every student, even if they came in forty-five minutes late.

Which leads directly to my first rant: what the hell are people doing showing up for class half an hour late or more? On your first day? Is this a particularly unique way of making a good first impression? Because that’s not what happened. A very young student near me grumbled loud enough to be heard, “This is a business course. It’s not professional to be late.”

When the last student shuffled in about forty-five minutes after class had begun, we had crammed about forty-five students into a room about right for twenty-five. Professor Van Keith shocked me when he said:

“By the end of the semester, we’ll be down to about ten to fifteen here. It always happens that way.”

The last shock of the day came when the students were informed that perfect attendance would be rewarded at the end of the semester. I shrugged; as did about half the class. The others were quite anxious, including the ones who muttered, “What? Every day?”

Need I specify that the twerps who moseyed in after nearly an hour, and the ones who fussed that they could get some freebie points if they bothered to show up were not non-traditional students. They were…how should I say this…?

The same slackerish goobers who slumped into a seat and immediately started texting their homeys about how boring class was? Yeah. That’s a pretty damn accurate way to say it.

I probably should add at this point that I would make a terrible teacher. I am incapable of demonstrating the cool non-effort that Professor Van Keith showed, welcoming each distraction to the class with a smile and a kind word. It’s more my speed to welcome you with a thrown pencil and a warm “get the hell out of my class, jackass.”

After a break, I went to my second class, Journalism 200, also known as Newspaper Production. Uh-huh, I’m going to be writing for the Southwestern College Sun. To me, this is an honor and a big deal. The Sun is unquestionably the best two-year college newspaper in the country – and has the awards, support, and history to prove it. They’re also simply one of the best college papers of any size in the country.

It makes me proud that none of them escorted me to the door and asked me to get moving.

Talking about Journalism 200 will be a little different than Business 120. Because so much of what goes on can’t be talked about outside of the newspaper office, I’ll be careful to talk only about the class and not about the internal workings of the paper itself.

Suffice it to say that I finally got to officially meet Journalism professor Max Branscomb, the paper’s advisor, and I got to figure out which editors I’d like to work with.

More on the classes later - along with book-buying and what kinds of coupons SWC thinks its students need.

As it is, I’m going to try to blog a bit – some long and some short – for each day I attend school. Chances are good I’ll fail, because I do expect to be a little busy, but it’s my goal to make the attempt.

But you know… I’m not thinking about failure right now…

I’m thinking success.


  1. I went back to school when I was 35, and it was daunting, inspiring, terrifying and cathartic.

    One of my professors said 'I admire you, for it's a brave thing to go back to academia at your age," and he wasn't kidding. The students of that generation were all so different; or were they all the same and I had just forgotten what it was like to be a young and filled with ennui?

    Anyhow, good luck! Looking forward to more posts on this matter ...

  2. Well, I suppose we were all ennui-filled twerps at some point, but I NEVER had a class where I would have DARED shuffling my butt in more than 10 or 15 minutes late.

    The fact that a couple dozen of these just didn't see how screwed up that was says more about their me-centric mindset than it does society, education, or the professor.

    I'll try to keep up. :-)