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.