Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Last "Sunday" journal

As it turns out this journaling project has been reasonably challenging for me. Observing students is difficult, when I don't have any real interaction with them. I see students at working out at Dixon, at Java II and in the MU. I see students walking around campus, in restaurants, at the movie theatre, at the grocery store. It is a college town, I can't really go anywhere without seeing students. Yet I feel like seeing students in these superficial situations doesn't give me any real chance to make meaningful observations. I do work with biology TA's for an hour every week. But they are grad students, and while observing them is valuable, it is only one part of a small of the college student experience.

One of the things I've keep coming back to in this journal is the idea that I still don?t feel like I understand what is going on with students at OSU. Yet a conversation during class last week showed me that I am not the only one who feels this way. Several others in my cohort including those who have a lot of student interaction feel the same way. This makes me look at this question differently. Maybe understanding the student experience is not really possible. Maybe its only something you can understand while you are an undergrad. Yet I'm sure the campus climate has changed a lot at my undergrad institution in the year and a half since I graduated. So do think it is important to try to understand student experience at your university, I'm just not at all sure its achievable.

This text term, I will be teaching a study skills class, as an internship opportunity. I'm really excited for the challenge teaching is going to provide, but I'm also excited to get to work with 20 students on a meaningful basis. I will be spending 2 hours a week with them, for 10 weeks. This will allow for a LOT of observation; it's a big chance to see some of the student issues unique to OSU.
I went to see the OSU main stage musical, "Pirates of Penzance" this week with two others from my cohort. I got there early and I sat on a bench waiting for my friends to arrive. I was sort of overwhelmed. The theatre holds about 400 people and the show was sold out. For some reason, there was actually rather long line to get into the theatre, for people who already had tickets. I felt a little displaced honestly. It is a college theatre, I felt as though I should have a sense or belonging. But its not my theatre, and I don't really think it ever will be, not the way the Norton Clapp theatre at UPS belongs to me. Or more accurately, I belong to it. So for some reason I felt small and disconnected watching people mill past me at the OSU theatre. I wonder how often students new to OSU feel this way. I would assume it's quite often.

Its been interesting to watch attitudes on campus change as the weather gets cold and dreary and the term draws to a close. Tension and anxiety are so palpable you could cut them with a knife. Last week, I looked around our Monday class, Theory, right before class started. I was surprised to see how tired and limp everyone look. We are generally a pretty happy rambunctious group, but there was zero energy in the room. I assume this is happening all over campus during week 8.

I know that adjusting to a term system was difficult for me after a semester school. I wonder how difficult the transition is if you are coming from high school? I bet the difference is pretty startling. I think in freshmen classes, the week 8, 9, and 10 tension must be off the charts. I wonder if it gets easier?

I know this has been all over the place, but I a trying to make sense of some of the things I have been feeling for the last 8 weeks. I know for the most part, there are no answers to these questions. It seems to me that for now, just asking the questions is enough.