Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Howie Balaban: Back To School - Summer Interlude

Starting on Monday, August 31, I’ll be a full-time student for the first time since May of 2002. Thanks to the advent of virtual classes because of COVID-19, the availability in my schedule allowed me to register for a total of six classes this fall. I’ve already started the assigned reading for two of them, so at worst, I’m ahead of Elle Woods at her first day in Law School.

Taking a moment to reflect on how the summer went, I must say that I’m happy to have ramped up to a full slate of classes by starting off with two courses per summer session to get reacclimated to being a student. As I wrote last time, the intensity of summer course work is a bit higher than the work assigned over what a normal semester would entail, at least as far as I recall. That said, I’m certain that whatever the courses I’m taking lack in intensity will be made up for by the sheer volume of work I’ll be required to do. Let’s face it, taking six college courses in one semester isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

However, I must go back to the mindset that I’ve spoken about in this space before. Looking back at my undergraduate years, I never took more than five courses at once. My grades, while good, likely could have been better if I had prioritized things differently. For instance, spending hours each week at a football or basketball game was part of my college experience. Watching too much TV and pulling an all-nighter because I left a paper to the last minute was part of my college experience. Skating by just by completing the bare minimum in some classes that weren’t in my major was part of my college experience. 

Those same distractions and practices have followed me in life, honestly, but they have been lessened. I’ll put on a game to watch, but I’ll accomplish some sort of task while it’s on. I’ll watch TV, but it’ll be something I’ve DVR’d or can stream at any time because of other necessary things needing to be completed first. Doing the bare minimum with anything nowadays almost always backfires. In short, I’ve learned my lessons.

Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. The classes within my major and my minor while I was at Syracuse served me well during my career. Those classes received my full concentration and focus, and the extracurriculars I enjoyed from them allowed me to make friends with people who have gone on to great things. Indeed, the “networking” aspect of college was great, and it served me well in the first summer session when I reached out to one friend to interview over Facebook messenger for an assignment. I suppose you could say my effort level is different now compared to what it was at age 18-21. I understand better what I need to do versus what I want to do, and priorities are in a much better order.

Bringing things back to 2020, with classes about to begin, my outlook on things as a student this time around has changed substantially. And, maybe, this is because every course I am taking is specific to this new career endeavor. Remember, I’m a student now to be an English teacher in the near future. Everything is geared toward that, so there are no “filler” courses this time around.

For now, my schedule has me attending only two out of six classes in person. While that could change, I’m eagerly anticipating being in a classroom setting again for the simple reason that it is easier to interact with people in person rather than over a Zoom or Google Meet call. Masks will be worn and all social distancing protocols will be followed, but that doesn’t dampen my excitement. Also, having 18 years of “real world” experience to draw on for any upcoming assignments has to be beneficial, right?

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to visiting the Buffalo State campus this week to pick up a few items in preparation for the start of the semester while also, hopefully, getting a chance to familiarize myself with where I’ll need to go.

I’ll be checking in periodically here, with either updates on school or something completely unrelated. Until then, here’s to you all enjoying what’s left of your respective summers and staying safe!

Howie Balaban would like to remind everyone that so long as you’re breathing, you have a chance to start a new adventure.