Sunday, July 19, 2020

Howie Balaban - Back To School: Week 6 & 7

I know, I know. I’m behind on the class updates. My apologies.

When the first summer session of classes ended on June 26, I was riding high. My confidence was stellar and my attitude was one of “can-do-ness.” I felt I’d made the right decision.

When the professor from one of the classes sent me an end-of-session email in response to the last turned in assignment, his comments reaffirmed my decision to go back to school to pursue a teaching career. I got an “A” in that class, and to date I have not yet received a grade for the other class.

Meanwhile, on July 6, the second summer session began. Originally, I had not planned on taking courses during the second session, but a couple conversations helped me shift my perspective on things and sure enough, I enrolled. And, well, let’s just say the two classes for this session are much more intense, even if they are 100 percent online.

As is the practice here, I won’t go too in depth about what each class entails. However, I will say that both classes focus on various aspects of the philosophy of education. Reflecting on my undergraduate career, I recall signing up for one very popular philosophy course at Syracuse. Almost everyone I ever spoke to who had taken that particular course found it lively and amazing, and the professor was supposed to be this really awesome guy. It was built up significantly, and I expected greatness.

I was disappointed. 

After the first two weeks of the semester, I simply couldn’t take anymore. I was either 19 or 20 years old and decided I needed to take an “actual” class with an “actual” point to it. So I dropped what everyone I knew called “the easiest A ever” because it was an introductory course that wasn’t even in my major. 

Up until this month, that was the full extent of my experience in philosophy courses. Four classes of a rowdy lecture hall during which time I learned less than zero.

Now, here I am at age 40 (yeah, I hit an even number since we last spoke!) and I’m taking two philosophy courses. This time, they are required.

Looking at this rationally, I’m coming at the course material from a much different place than I did 20 years ago. I’m not looking for an easy A, nor am I looking for a good time. I’m “actually” learning, but honestly? So far there have been a few assigned readings in which it is difficult to find the trees in the forest, if you know what I mean. Remember, I was a reporter in my previous life, and my job was to present a story by being succinct enough for as many people to read it and digest it as possible. Some of the articles I’ve read during the past 2 weeks or so have been...have been...I’ll be nice and say they have been, most definitely, not that.

However, what I would not have been able to decipher 20 years ago is something I can grasp - I think - now. I’m pretty sure this is because life has a way of being a great teacher, and while I am definitely no expert, I am someone willing to learn.

When this goes live on Niagara’s Watercooler, there will be about 3 weeks left in this second summer session. The intensity will pick up, and there is significantly more writing involved with these two courses than the previous two. I’ll try to update you all again soon.

Til next time!

Howie Balaban is pursuing a new career in education by going back to school. He once again reminds everyone that it is never too late to start something new.