Saturday, February 23, 2013

nontraditional point of view.

to be brutally honest, i'm brutally honest a lot of the time. many of you never hear this from me, but a few of you have. my opinions can bite, and frankly, id be terribly embarrassed and ashamed if the subject of my "honesty" heard my remarks. i think that a lot of us can relate to that. we say things to ourselves and to those close to us that we wouldn't want other people to hear, and we may even have a running joke or "rant" about a particular person or group of people. 

Examples could include: the welfare population, religious groups, different cultures from our own, mentally ill, poor/rich, overweight, and the list goes on and on. 

in my social psychology course in my undergraduate program, we learned about a concept that showed how hearing an individual's point of view is more meaningful than looking at an entire group's. For example, any commercial showing "starving children in Africa" will always highlight one of those children's lives in order for the viewer to grasp the importance of helping out these kids. It seems like a simple concept that we forget/ignore all the time. It can be easy for me to put aside thoughts of the poor and hungry in another country, but you can't get me to stop thinking about Myloveda... our sweet, adorable girl we sponsor from Haiti. 

There is power in a story of one person. It demands us to respond... and hopefully change our point of view. I like to think that i attempt to challenge my thinking on a regular basis... that I try to wrestle with my dissonance and sit in it for a while. sometimes, I even find myself putting myself in situations or engaging in conversations that I know will challenge my beliefs. it's tough stuff. 

With all of that said, I'm hoping to alter our perspective by hearing a first-hand account from my FIRST guest post on my blog. This woman holds an amazingly special place in my heart and in my family. I absolutely ADORE her and all she is. She loves Jesus fiercely, and she has always been a solid woman in my life... and she never forgets my birthday : )

I asked Ms Debbie Whittington to give her experience and perspective in a type of question and answer format with me... about what it's like to be a nontraditional student in college today. Our opinions change when we put ourselves in conversations to stretch our views... but they also change when someone you love enters one of the groups you've poked fun at before. 

Like I said before, I'm guilty.
I'm guilty of making fun of nontrads when I was in undergrad. 
They blocked the stairs with their rolly backpacks and asked too many questions when i wanted to get out of class early. I'm honestly excited to hear from Aunt Debbie about her perspective about going back to school later in life so my perspective can change

So here goes:

Can you give us some background information? Where you're from, any significant events you'd want to share, where you are now, as well as college you attend/degree you're seeking?      
  • Before I answer the first question, let me say thank you for your kind words. I have always felt very fortunate to be an adopted part of your family. Being “Aunt Debbie” has been a very rare privilege. Our extended families have been grafted together since I was a little girl! But, that’s another story……I digress…..which leads us to exactly the issue you were talking about ---nontrads taking up too much time in class. For those who don’t know me I was raised in Carrie’s hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I was raised in a Christian home and have been a Christian educator all of my adult life. I am the mother of 2 sons and a grandmother of 2. Recently I have become a widow. Those have been my labels until now, now I can add college student. I am going to the University of Mary Washington here in Fredericksburg, VA where I live with my oldest son and his family. I am hoping that I will be able to complete the degree I started in 1969. I did get one year before I left school in 1970 to marry and have a family. So it’s been a while!              
What made you decide to pursue a college education at this point in your life?  
  • Part of the process of healing when I lost my husband after 40 years of marriage was finding out who I was without him. Who was I all by myself? Even though going back to school had been talked about during our marriage after the kids were grown, it never really was an option I took too seriously. But this past summer when my youngest son, Scott, retired from the Marine Corps and enrolled into Old Dominion, I got the “bug” for school, too. With the encouragement of my sons and friends, I applied and to my surprised was accepted at UMW! Before I knew it, I was picking out classes and buying books. God was even able to get in His Opinion during the process. So here I am, a college student.
What struggles or negative experiences have you faced since starting college?
  • Some of the struggles are what you might expect, physical difficulties, like walking all over campus and stairs. The knees, hips & back aren’t what they used to be. But, Carrie, I don’t have a backpack! I take up even more room with my bookcase on wheels!! But the struggles you don’t see have more to do with memory. All the things in high school that you have learned and you need to know to continue in the college classroom. All those memories, all that knowledge for me is buried under 45 years of living!! Digging back into English class for parts of speech or a formula for math class, that struggle usually leads to more questions on my part. Then you add to that the presentation of some of the material has changed in the last half century!! How I learned and how the youth of today learn is vastly different. I’m pen and paper while they are computer. But mostly, the students have been kind and polite.
What's the most difficult aspect of entering college as a nontraditional student?
  • Being different, what you call Nontrad. Not knowing if your brain will work. Can I still learn and then remember when I am tested? It took more courage than I imagined that it would but God gave me what I needed to walk across campus and go in. Then there is homework!! It seems to take me forever to get through it all, maybe because I do it all, read it all, a couple of times so that I get it. I don’t remember doing that my first time around. It was no big deal when I was 18.
Who or what has been the most helpful resource to you since beginning your higher education?
  • Well, that has to be God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. Besides giving me strength to physically be a college student, He has even helped me with my work! He brought revelation to a problem I had to solve through a dream! Then, of course, I couldn’t do it without the support of both of my sons and the family and friends at church. Everyone encourages me, prays for me, asks how it is going, even talks about my graduation saying they can’t wait to be there!
Were you aware or have you felt any discrimination for being a nontraditional student? 
  • Not really. Of course, when the teacher says, “Let’s form small groups.” the students don’t come rushing over to join me. But there are always others that also are not included, I just wait to see who they are & ask them to join me. I have had a few of the students strike up conversations with me in the hall while we are waiting to get into class. The guys will usually hold the door open for me, even if they have to wait at the top of the stairs. Little surprises like that are pretty nice in the day.
If you could say anything to the "traditional" students reading this post, what would you say from your perspective that you'd like for them to hear/understand?
  • Life out in the world can be…. No IS, tough. College is more than your classes. It’s learning to be on your own, to be responsible and get done what is asked of you. When you go to work, keeping your job depends on it. You being able to pay the bills usually depends on you staying employed. Find out what you like, what you enjoy and pursue that. Life is tough enough, don’t saddle yourself with work that you don’t like as well.


another conversation where i'm forced to change my mindset.

I first began to hold a special place for these "nontrads" when my hubby went back to school recently. He works a 40+ hour/week job and takes classes full-time for school. We often joke about how we'd love for his "job" to just be in school ... since we took that for granted so much back in the day. But more than that, he's serious about school. Most nontrads are. What I wanted so badly when I was in school was speed and efficiency: give me A's, and give them to me quickly. I want to graduate and be outta here so I can go on to something else. What I admire about nontraditional students is that most of them are really there to LEARN and be part of the PROCESS

I think we can learn something from them.
I know I already learned so much from Aunt Debbie and our honest conversation today. 
I hope you did, too.

im thankful
carrie anne


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