Friday, September 7, 2012

The Art of School Demographics

The last few weeks have been a whirl! Mister's classes started last week and our schedules needed to flex again to accommodate both of our busy semesters.

Last week was challenging and this one has been too. The challenge has come with being a non-traditional student.

Monday I found a flat tire on our car. While this isn't a huge deal, it was complicated by the fact that Monday was holiday and the shop was closed. So on Tuesday instead of going to class, I needed to go to the garage instead. The professor for that class was very understanding today when I spoke to him. He's an adult and recognizes that I'm an adult. No problem.

The problem came the other day with another professor. I needed to miss class due to a car sharing problem. One of Mister's music bands had a performance on a local TV station. Due to the early call time, there was no way for him to drive the forty minutes to my school, and for him to make it to the station on time.
So I emailed the professor, explained the situation, and asked if the assignment for the day would be posted online. The response I received back was not friendly and not helpful. Later I found the assignment components were posted online but with no instructions whatsoever on how to complete it.

A few of my instructors this semester have expressed a non-desire to hear student reasons as to why they cannot attend class. Some have expressed this strongly, while others say there are excused absences and non-excused absences. Perhaps I should have written down which people wanted to know and which ones didn’t. But as I live a distance away and don’t have ready access to class peers, I needed to rely on my professor for information.

I was tempted to email the instructor back for help, but based on prior contact that wasn't appealing. Her office hours were finished for the week so no help there. It did not seem a good strategy to drive the forty minutes to chance finding her in the office. I do not know anyone in my class really well or have their contact information.

Today I finally found a solution for my dilemma. I contacted a friend that I was in class with last year and asked if she or anyone she knew had that class. Within a few hours, I had my solution. It took a friend of my friend approximately three sentences to give me the direction I needed.

I used good old networking to get the information I needed. While my creative fix makes me feel victorious, I'm also irritated. My professor should have given me that information. As a teacher with many years experience dealing with students (and their emails), I know that this is part of a teacher’s job. It isn't like I emailed her to say that I was out late last night drinking and can't be bothered to come to class.

During this grand adventure of returning to school, the hardest part is situations like this one. Often I feel like I'm lumped into the mass of students and that my experience prior to returning to school is not validated or recognized.  I'm in my mid-thirties, married, run a business, run a household, have friends with major life events, and I keep my husband from jumping off the metaphorical bridge with his doctoral degree work. I have a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a variety of work experience. I’ve been using computers longer than some of my fellow students have been alive.

A few months ago, the parent association of my school called and asked for the parents of Mandy Pedigo. I informed the caller that I was the person they needed to speak with. They asked if my parents would be interested in volunteering to help my school. I explained that both my parents were deceased. It was awkward for both the student worker making the call and for myself. Somewhere, someone failed to do -- or even consider -- a correct database pull for information.

I need my professors and school to understand that I am in a different developmental stage than my younger peers. I know I'm not the only non-traditional student dealing with these challenges. Non-traditional students are willing to work hard to meet high academic standards, but we also bring different consideration for universities to consider.

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