books / reading / teaching / writing

Reflections on Being a Student Again

I’m about halfway through (maybe a bit more) my online class and though it’s not the first class I’ve taken online, it’s definitely the most academic one since finishing my degrees. And I’ve learned some interesting things about myself.

I am an overachiever. I was not when I was in high school, college, not even graduate school. I did my work, but I definitely didn’t go above and beyond the requirements. I would write papers right near the deadline, spell-check them, and turn them in without much of a read-through (if one at all). I was fortunate enough that I was a decent writer naturally, so my grades were Bs and As. My standards on essay writing for my students are much much higher than the ones I was under in the late 90s and early 00s. But in doing this class, I’ve put in hours. I’ve reread things, drafted my papers, sent my essays to a friend to look over, drafted and revised again. I do things ahead of time. In fact, for the work due on this Friday, I’ve already finished and all I have left is the paper that I’m pondering even as I write this. Who am I?

I’m not stupid. I know that being an English teacher, having a masters; you who are reading will be like ‘of course you aren’t.’ And that’s all true. But I’ve never thought myself to be all that smart either. My friends in college were infinitely smarter than me both in work and tests. I figured they kept me around because of my sparkling personality and ability to talk to brick walls. I wasn’t as well-read as them, nor as well-spoken (talking a lot doesn’t not mean the words are all that impressive). My masters is in creative writing, which is not not smart, but less of an ‘academic wow’ in my head. Also, I didn’t necessarily overly impress anyone there either. My grades were fine. In this course, I am challenged to not analyze the obvious, so I look for other modes of thought in discussing what we read. And I’ve found it. I’ve done something (I think) rather original for each paper so far. Or if not original, than at least not typical or obvious. My grades on these papers have been very good and my ideas for the final paper again seem like something new. I am not stupid in regards to literature and higher academia (though my vocabulary choices need work).

Academic deadlines give me anxiety. It might have back in the day, too, but I don’t remember being this worried about assignments. Thinking about the final paper, the abstract, the bibliography makes me jumpy. I keep pushing through it because what else can I do. I think what’s good about this realization is it helps me relate better to my students’ and their worries. I think sometimes I forgot the pressure and the worry and maybe even terror of a big assignment coming up, and hopefully knowing I’m just like them will help me be kind to them.

I don’t really have much of a conclusion for this. I am grateful that I can think in these ways and that my work ethic has improved since I was a student. What hasn’t surprised me about this experience is how much I love learning. I do. I absolutely love studying story and breaking it apart to put back together. My brain nearly glows from being energized and inspired like this. Talking, writing, thinking this stuff makes me smile and feel like I have something to say. I might talk a lot, but I’m not sure I always feel like I have things to say. But I do. And maybe people will hear them.

My note-taking for the most recent book. Is that not ridiculous?

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