Monday, June 15, 2020

Howie Balaban: Back to School - Week 3

Remember last week in this space when I told you I hit my stride? Apparently, that stride was a jog. In the days that followed, whatever I did worked well enough for me to increase that pace. By the time I went to sleep this past Friday, I had left myself less than an hour of work to complete before Monday morning. 

It has occurred to me that there are probably some people who will view these back to school posts as a way to bring attention to myself or as a way for me to indirectly ask for praise. That is most definitely not the case. Here at Niagara’s Watercooler, we’re always looking to increase traffic on the site. Between Craig’s book reviews and historical perspectives, our “Dads” podcast, the NSFW Shenanigans podcast, and my variety of reviews or columns relating books and movies to everyday life, we believe that you, our readers, have come to know who we are and what we’re about. So if anything, these posts about making a significant life change should be viewed through that lens. I’m not looking for pats on the back (though, they’re quite welcome!) but I am looking to prove to myself that this can be done, and if anyone else reading this decides to make a change in their life because of this, all the better.

Anyway, back to what’s gone on this past week.

First, I should mention how the efficiency level improved over the past 7 days. As of this writing, it is early on a Sunday morning and I’ve been in a holding pattern of sorts for almost a full day, as all work that can be done has been done (save for 2 longer assignments) entering Monday. To refresh your memory, I am taking two classes this summer and each one has assignments posted frequently. One professor has put up a batch of assignments each of the past three Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, while the other professor has broken his class down into roughly 8 segments, with each segment designated as a “class” and each class’s assignments due every 3-5 days. Each of those assignments gets posted within 24 hours of the previous assignment’s due date.

That all being said, for the first time since classes started at the end of May, I found myself somewhat ahead of the game. It has afforded me some time to plan out the longer form assignments for each class. 

With that planning time now available, I’ll be spending part of this afternoon organizing and setting up interviews for one class’s final written project. I’ll also start doing some research to support and supplement the interviews. Avid readers will recall that my former life was spent as a newspaper reporter, so I have found myself irrationally excited about conducting interviews again. 

As for the other class, the learning curve has been steep. The focus of this particular class is technology and how it can be best integrated into a classroom setting, and between virtual lessons from the professor and playing around with some computer programs on my own, I believe that I have at least become competent enough to do a few things I couldn’t do 3 weeks ago. Perhaps the coolest benefit here was gaining the understanding of how various Google programs interconnect. I then took that knowledge this past week and showed one of my kids how to get all his work turned in before the last day of school (which was Friday). It struck me as a bit odd that it was my oldest who claimed to “not know” how to upload a file or send an email or “drag and drop” as needed. I checked out some of the assignments he needed to finish up during the last week and saw how one teacher had fully embraced technology, for the task she’d given the class could have been done using nearly any platform, including TikTok. The assignment itself isn’t important here. What is impressive is how “with it” this teacher is, because by asking students to use what they’re comfortable with, chances are she might have improved the participation rate. That’s a guess, but it’s an educated guess. 

I’ve got almost all of Sunday ahead of me now, and I can (and should) try to get ahead with both classes if I can. However, there are also plenty of household chores that need doing. I’ll get done what I can, but in the meantime, allow me to say this:

If you’re thinking about making a change in your life, you should. There’s no time like the present.
Particularly, if you’re thinking of going back to school after almost 20 years, you should. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: your mindset will be different. I’m sure there will be difficult tasks to accomplish in the future, but compared to what life throws at all of us by the time we’re about to reach 40, what used to be met with a sense of foreboding dread will likely be met with a simple shrug of the shoulders. 

Have a great week everyone!

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.