In September of this year, at 35 years old, I went back to school after almost ten years. I had a lot of nerves before the start of the semester. I doubted my abilities as in high school I was a terrible student and it looked for a bit there like I wasn’t going to graduate. I did go to university, for Linguistics, but I didn’t exactly shine there either. I would start the semester strong, and then fizzle out and end up just passing finals. I spent the bare minimum time on assignments, and barely studied. My program lost it’s shiny and it became a slog. I was so worried that was going to happen again.
This semester I started strong! I got nearly perfect on my first test and I tried to up my game moving forward from that. I studied harder, took more time on projects, and it was paying off. At mid-term I was getting mostly 100% and the rest were in the 90s, all but one were in the high 90s. I can’t express how happy I was to be able to announce these grades to my family, especially my mom who throughout my elementary and secondary schooling more often than not saw “Annie could be doing so well if she would just apply herself” on my report cards.
In October, the Ontario Colleges went on strike, and my semester came screeching to a dead halt. I had experienced a teacher’s strike when I was in high school and I have vague recollections of a strike when I was in elementary school (but that was way back in the 80s / early 90s). I was confident that this strike wouldn’t last long. As the days turned into weeks, I felt old habits kicking in. I wasn’t reading over my notes… What notes? I wasn’t working on assignments… What am I even supposed to do with them and when are they even going to be due? I couldn’t even email teachers for clarification because they weren’t allowed to respond. And I wasn’t able to rest and relax and enjoy the break either… Every day I would check my email and twitter and whatever websites to see if there was any news. After five long weeks, the strike was over! Our first day back was Tuesday November 21st, just three weeks before what was supposed to be our last week of the semester. I had to miss the first day back because of a doctor’s appointment that was scheduled months in advance.
We’ve had the semester extended. We have classes scheduled and tests and assignments due the week before Christmas, and right after New Year’s. Our first semester will be ending January 12 and semester two starts January 15. That quick of a turn around breaks my brain, but there it is. The quantity of work and the timelines are enough to make me go dizzy! On top of that I’m going to be needing time for surgery and recovery in the new year and I still have more doctor’s appointments.
Getting back into the classroom was an adjustment and I found some of the new lesson plans very frustrating, I felt like certain decisions weren’t a good use of our limited time. I made lists of all I have to get done and slowly I have been checking things off the list.
The easiest thing to do is nothing. And after 5 weeks mid-semester of not having much of another option, and suddenly so much to do, nothing is definitely tempting. I have been working though, I have been getting things done. And since the break every mark I have gotten back has been either 100% or high 90s. I had a test for my Addictions class yesterday and I was blindsided by a few questions, but I studied hard for it and I know I did the best that I could. After the test, part of the lecture in that class was about the dangers of perfection and how it can paralyse you, how it can stop you from reaching your full potential and how it is far better to strive for excellence or even just progress. I really felt like the teacher was talking directly to me.
I’m getting tired. I feel the steam squeaking through the cracks in my resolve and I am ready for the semester to be over. It is tempting to throw words on the page and say “Good enough!” But I feel like my education deserves more than that. I am loving my courses! I see the synergy between the different subject matter, and I can feel the pathways in my brain becoming stronger! I see the goal that I have set for myself and with every deadline I meet, with every test I write, I see that goal coming into focus just a little bit more.
Yes. This semester is hard. Yes. It’s going to suck starting semester two in the middle of a marathon instead of the start of a sprint. Yes, I will have to work around modifications for medical reasons (I have already talked to student services to get accommodations in place so that I can keep moving forward). But it’s worth it! All those notes on my old report cards turned out to be right. Annie can do so well when she applies herself.
Thank you to all of you who have supported me in going back to school this year. I hope I am making you proud. I will update after semester one is done and you won’t be disappointed.