Oldest in the Class

I went back to school last September. Those who know me were likely mystified because I always hated school. Mostly I hated high school, but I wasn’t crazy about college either. So, before I got a BA in European History I ran screaming from UCLA to a job in Public Broadcasting (metaphorically, that is…they wouldn’t have hired me if I’d actually been screaming).

Surprise! I’m having a really good time this go-round. Maybe not such a surprise considering t I wouldn’t be there if I wasn’t having a good time. And perhaps that’s one of the big differences between now and then. I don’t have to be here and I don’t have to take classes from teachers I don’t like. Fortunately, I’ve found several teachers I really DO like. I took Shakespeare last semester from a master. The math class I’m having to take is fun because my teacher does great shtick. I’m not crazy about the homework, but you can’t have everything.

There are two mind-blowing differences from the last time I was in school.  The first is that I’m writing my papers on a computer. I know, as a writer I shouldn’t be surprised about that–and I’m not. But it does make the process of writing papers significantly different from the last time I did it. No more typing several drafts, literally cutting and taping them together to reorganize, and then pounding out a final draft the night before it’s due. No more carbon copies (yes, it was that long ago). But it’s also caused some confusion with my method, and thinking about it as I write this, I’m wondering if I could be hitting the computer too early in the process. I used to have a longhand draft. I think handwriting gives a certain freedom of exploration for topic and prose that a computer doesn’t–if for no other reason than the speed of committing words to paper is much slower. I once read that writing with a pen is a right brained activity, and typing on a keyboard is a left brained activity. I don’t know if it’s true, but it sure feels like it.

The other big change is OMG THEY USE CALCULATORS IN MATH CLASSES. Huge difference. No more working on a ginormous problem only to muff the arithmetic at the end–a classic Gina dumbshit that I’m still not immune to. I’m using a geriatric TI83 that I bought for The Daughter in the mid-90′s. She used it all the way through calculus and then The Son got stuck with it through linear algebra. It has been handed down to me with a few ailments: a line or two in the display are dead and some days it chooses not to turn on. Fortunately, I know how to persuade the batteries to make contact and eventually it comes around. I have mornings like that myself.

Probably the biggest difference is that I’m closer in age to the professors than the students. In the four classes I’ve taken so far, I’m the oldest student. I’m not sure whether that makes a difference except in obvious things, like the last time I did algebra was before the other students were born, and I haven’t written an essay with a thesis and topic sentences in just as long. But so far the most profound difference I’ve noticed is that when a class gets suddenly cancelled, instead of rejoicing, I worry about the professor. I’m not thinking this is due to my age as much as my being a mother. Mother’s worry, especially when people get sick.

So, take your vitamins and don’t forget to do all your homework. I don’t understand how you can concentrate with the TV on.