Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Howie Balaban: Back To School - Week 1

Quarantine is really, really boring. As we’ve discussed on our Dads Must Be Crazy Podcast, though, there are things we here at Niagara’s Watercooler are doing to stay sane. I’ll let Bobby and Craig discuss their goings on during the podcast time. 

Here, though, in this space, I’ll be discussing a bold, daring, new venture of mine that is quite possibly more scary than writing the book I started last year. (Yes, that’s still ongoing. However, it’s on the back burner, set to low heat right now.) Remember how it felt to start a new school year, or a new job, or to live on your own for the first time?

If you went to college, that was a combination of all three feelings. Well, I’ve returned to school now, and have completed my first week of summer classes. These are the first two classes on my journey toward becoming a teacher. 

I’ve had a few discussions with some friends of mine and we agree that the mindset of a person who is about to turn 40 and the mindset of someone who has just turned 18 are different. Obviously. When I started at Syracuse University as a freshman in 1998, I was in lecture halls the size of small movie theaters, and I lived in a dorm that was so much more diverse than the area in which I went to high school. Today, I’m sitting in rural Western New York getting my schooling done 100% online and in some cases, I’m learning on the fly how to use the various sites and platforms so that I can complete my assignments on time. 

I’m also remembering that attention to detail is always - ALWAYS - key.

However, after the first week of classes, I can honestly say that my approach now is, like I said earlier, significantly different than my approach two decades ago.

As a college student who had just graduated high school, I suffered a bit from senioritis for longer than I care to admit. When I did cure myself of that, I performed well in my classes. In hindsight, I can honestly say I should have done much better in some areas. Entering mid-life, I have an extra 20-plus years of professional and real-world experience to draw from now, and I actually wound up putting it to use on one of this week’s assignments. I reached out to an undergrad classmate who I haven’t had an in-person conversation with since 2002. Thanks to the magic of social media, though, we’ve been able to keep in touch over the years and I asked him a few broad spectrum interview questions. Unless I misread his tone, he had zero issue helping out.

On a different assignment - in the other class, as I’m taking two this summer - I believe this version of me outperformed teen version of me by leaps and bounds. The assignment was to write a letter that told a story based off a presentation. So, I wrote a literal letter including an original (very) short story about the presentation. Teenage me would have written the letter and tried to use big words whenever I could. Today me recognized the “spirit” of the assignment, and in turn got a virtual pat on the back from the professor, too. 

As I write this, I have more assignments coming in that must get done. If I look at this past week as an adaptation period, I would like to believe that the rest of the month of June will be a bit less hectic and a bit more managed. After all, I’m not single with no real responsibilities anymore. I’m a dad and have all the responsibilities that that entails. 

Speaking of which, while there is still some daylight, I should continue working down the 15 cubic yards of mulch in my driveway. I might get a run in tonight, too. 

Howie Balaban’s mid-life career change journey will be chronicled here. In the interest of general privacy, unless the need arises, it is unlikely he will be mentioning specifics of his classes.