Monday, February 28, 2011

The business of going back to school

When I started this, I had great hopes of being able to write something every few days or so, but life always seems to get in the way.  I figured being a non-traditional student, I would have everything figured out and would be way ahead of the rest of the student population, and to a point that is true.  I don't really worry about the social scene at school, although I do still participate in various events and opportunities available.

I find myself trying to balance my studies with my family's needs at home.  Having teenage children is an experience in itself.  Their activities leave little time for much of anything else, but I do put my time to studying when needed.  Oh, and did I mention we took on an exchange student for the remainder of the school year.  She has actually been with us since just after Thanksgiving, so that adds to the needs to be met, but it is an interesting and rewarding experience too.  I have been able to learn quite a bit about the way things work in other countries.

With all of this going on, and a growing state of frustration with the education system in the U.S., I decided to start another blog on the failures of the system we provide to educate our children.  With my wife being a teacher, 2 children in the system, and seeing the recent products of the system in school with me, there are a lot of different observations to go through.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another trip around the sun.

Another year has gone by for me...Maybe I should change the title of my blog.   This gives me an opportunity to reflect back on the past year, and it has really been a pretty big one.  One year ago, I was trying to decide what I should do once I was finally retired from the Coast Guard in the fall. The options that presented were to use my G.I. Bill that I had worked the previous 20 years for, or I had the opportunity to take a job which really would have paid pretty well.  I could also pass the G.I. Bill benefits along to my children (at least in theory). When I really dug down, I came to the realization that doing the work that was offered to me was not what I really wanted to do for the remainder of my life.

I came to the realization that if I did not commit to school now, I would likely never follow through and complete my degree.  Sure I may take some classes here and there, but doing so while working full-time can make it a really difficult process.  I had the opportunity, all I had to do was commit to it.  So by March I had applied for admission and began gathering all of my transcripts for school.  By May, all of my transcripts were in and I was accepted into the school.  June was my retirement ceremony from the Coast Guard.  July, orientation at the school.  I was registered and had another month before my classes started.

At the end of July, my brother-in-law decided to do another type of challenge.  We packed our bikes and tent and headed out to Colorado to climb a mountain.  Two guys from Florida and Alabama coastal flat land headed to climb a 14000+ foot mountain, and what a trip it was.  We drove out (24hrs straight through), set up camp, and spent the next day trying to get acclimated to the higher elevation.  We did a 21-mile bike ride to get the blood flowing, then the next day we headed to the mountain to make our way up.  We started at 7 in the morning, and began our trek up the mountain.  We were not the fastest going up the mountain, and we were continually passed by people young and old headed up the same mountain, most were locals.  There were even a few that were running up the mountain.  Some would burn out or get altitude sickness and have to head back down.  My brother-in-law and I could only look at each other and shake our heads.  After 5 hours of hiking, we finally reached the summit (14,270 feet; Grays Peak) at noon.  All I can say is it was worth the 40 plus years and many footsteps it took to reach the top and see everything from a different perspective that most have not seen.  

August brought the start of classes, what an experience.  It had been 23 years since I was in a full time class schedule, mostly wasting my time.  Now, I was there ready to appreciate the education experience.  It was exciting being part of a growing school.  The University of South Alabama has been around since the early 60's but has really seen a surge in growth over the last few years.  I am not a huge sports fan, but the university has started a football program with last fall being the second full season in play, the important part is we have a team that has played 2 undefeated seasons.  The campus is growing by leaps and bounds and I can only think I am too.  I was able to finish the first semester on the President's List, so all in all it was a great year.

I think about my trip to Colorado, and how it represents much of what my last year has been.  I made a plan, and chose to stick with it.  Sometimes it goes slower than you want it to.  Sometimes you feel like turning around and heading home, but you have to remind yourself what you came there for in the first place.  The view from the top cannot be beat.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So the new semester has begun.

I started my new semester yesterday,  4 classes in one day.  What a long day!  My schedule is pretty full this semester with 17 credits.  I have HY 135 (American History up to 1877), I did HY 136 Last semester out of sequence.  Visual Basic Programming, Calculus, Small Group Discussion, Micro Economics, and  another Computing History and Ethics.

Right now, I really don't feel too overwhelmed, but that is all subject to change.  I am a week into classes now and other than reading, there hasn't really been much to do.  I was really expecting to feel a bit overwhelmed.  I had expectations that the classes I am taking may not be very interesting.  I have been pleasantly surprised to see  they are all somewhat interesting.  I guess it all lies in your mindset.  I try and stay open and inviting to learning anything new, no matter what value I might initially think it may have to me.

Friday, January 14, 2011

1st semester recap

Well, my first semester back in school full time, what an experience.  I haven't been in a classroom setting in a few years, so it took a little getting used to.  I had a course load of five courses for a total of 15 credits, some of which were back into core curriculum.  Three of the five were in the classroom setting, U.S. History, Pre-Calculus, and English Comp (102).  The other two were online only courses, Management Information Systems, and Health Informatics.

The biggest shock to me was Pre-Calculus.  I haven't really done math like that for many years(about 20 to be exact).  I started a bit confused, but was really surprised how much I actually remembered.  I actually came around quite well in the class and ended with a pretty good understanding of the concepts again.  It was amazing to see how much was actually retained for so long with out actually using it.  Don't get me wrong, it took quite a bit of work to knock all the rust off.  My instructor was very particular with how work was to be set up and completed, but looking back on it, that really helped me remember the structure and organization math requires.

English Comp was pretty easy for me.  I have usually done well with my writing and understanding how to put things in a scholarly way of thinking will be useful over the next couple of years.

My history class was American History after 1877, which I had to take out of sequence due to full classes.  This semester, I will be taking the earlier American History.  The class started out with no extra seats in it, but by the end, over half were empty.  I was at least 15 years older than anyone else in the class, with the exception of the professor.  I really enjoy history and I think it is something you tend to appreciate more as you get older.  In talking with my children who are middle school  and high school age, that history is one of their weakest subjects and probably the least interesting to them.  By the number of empty seats at the end of the semester, it was obvious that many of the traditional students didn't share the same appreciation for history.

My two online classes were in my areas of previous expertise, so they didn't give me any troubles.  I will write more later about my opinions of online classes versus classroom based.

Overall, it was a good start for my return to school.  I ended up making the President's List (4.0 gpa for the semester).  Truly, an excellent start to my next couple of years.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where my journey begins.

Hi, I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Jeff, and I would like to say I look forward to the next few years as I take my turn walking through the "Halls of Higher Education".  I am actually starting this at 41, not 40, it just sounded better in the title that way.  I am entering my second full-time semester of school.  I recently retired from the U.S. Coast Guard after 20 years of service as a Health Services Technician.  I am beginning a career focus shift from Health Services to Information Systems.  I hope by writing this blog, I can give inspiration to others to pursue what you really want to do in life.