Old Dogs, New Tricks

A blog for non-traditional students

Motherhood Strikes Again

I’m just going to say this upfront – I am so frustrated right now that I’ve contemplated just dropping out for the quarter.  With that being said, let me set the stage for what’s set me off tonight.

Thursday, as I was leaving a conference about this very blog, my phone rang.  I thought it was my mother calling again to let me know that the bus she had said was late (fifteen minutes earlier) had finally delivered my rambunctious little boy.  If only things had gone so smoothly.  The call was about my son but it wasn’t my mother – it was the principal at my son’s school.  He sort of beat around the bush, sending my blood pressure skyrocketing, as he explained that the school had called the bus back – because three kids had seen my son holding a little tiny screwdriver right before he was called to his bus.  When the teacher asked him about it, my boy – in his anxiety to get to the bus before the other kids did and kept him from getting a seat – lied and said he didn’t have it, then ran out the door.  She overreacted, or just explained the situation poorly to the teacher monitoring the exit to the busses, because he called the principal and said that my son needed to be pulled off the bus because he had a – wait for it – weapon. 

At this point I’m on the verge of screaming, “Where is my son?!  What did you knuckleheads do to him?!”  I understand that people tend to freak out when kids bring potentially dangerous stuff to school these days, but what was really going on here was a little bit of profiling – my son is smart-off-the-charts and not the most socially successful little guy.  I admit it, he’s a little bit of a nerd, and definitely bully-bait.  But the administration took that, combined with his furtive behavior, and assumed that there was loose cannon on their bus.  The end result of all this, that the principal finally got to after ten minutes of blithering, is that my son is suspended for three days.  By the way, for those keeping score, this happened the day after I found out about my apparent-ex having gotten married.

So cut to Friday evening – I’m submitting a paper for one of my Monday evening classes, and added a note asking for permission to bring my son with me, since I don’t have childcare available in time for me to get to school.  In the three years I’ve been at UC, every quarter I have had to bring my son with me at least once.  I always check with my professors before I bring him, even if it’s a quick email dropped that morning when he turns up sick and unable to go to his own school.  In the three years I have been here, I have never had a professor say no – on one occasion, I had to bring him along when we had an exam scheduled; the professor, who was also a parent, said that as long as my son could sit with the TA at the back of the lecture hall, it was fine.  Contrary to what my son’s school thinks, he’s a remarkably well-behaved little boy, as my classmates who know him will attest to.  

Imagine my surprise – or boiling irritation – when my professor responded and said that since it’s not the department’s responsibility to provide childcare and that the lounges are for student use only, I have to make other arrangements for childcare.  He oh-so-kindly suggested that if I couldn’t find a friend or family member to watch him, then I should check with the UC Women’s Services to see if they could help.  If I weren’t a responsible student, I would happily skip class Monday and badmouth the professor by name all over campus – but I’m scrambling to figure out what to do with my son and kindly leaving the entire episode anonymous. 

The irritation here is two-fold.  The obvious part is the completely senseless response of the professor – I mentioned that my son is 11 years old, so it’s not likely that he’ll run around like a toddler and disrupt other classes.  But fine, it’s his right to refuse – this is why I always ask ahead of time.  What really chaps my hide (I just love that turn of phrase) is that UC offers nothing to help student parents in these types of situations.  There is no emergency child care, and the child care that is directly associated with the university a) is expensive, b) has a waiting list and c) is only for preschoolers and younger.  Forget about the fact that it’s located closer to University and Children’s Hospitals than west campus.

So, here’s a lovely example of being a non-traditional student biting me in the … well, you know.  I’ve got to go corral my little pseudo-felon into bed.

*** Danielle

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February 28, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Maturity, Student Life, University Policies | 1 Comment

To Facebook Or Not To Facebook

I’m in a quandary.  It seems like I’m being left behind by the waves of people flocking to Facebook as the new way to interact with each other.  Not that this is tremendously surprising – I never got around to making a MySpace page either.   One of the reasons I’m reluctant to join the masses is that some employers now check Facebook and MySpace for potential employees and can use what they find there as a reason to not hire you.  Of course, at the age of 33 and being a Christian single mother, the odds of my having anything objectionable on my page would be minimal.  It’s not like I’m a party animal or an exhibitionist so I’m not likely to have a lot of pictures of myself stumbling drunk or, um…, stark naked.

I also worry that maybe it seems like I’m too old for this sort of thing.  I mean, Facebook originally started out as a social networking site for college students.  Okay, so I am a college student, but as a non-traditional, I often feel like I’m not really a part of college life.  It sort of feels like I can label myself as college student, but it’s just some sort of subtle fib based on a technicality.  But I guess the whole issue is moot now that Facebook is open to and used by all kinds of people.

Then there’s the whole issue of who I might find – or who might find me – if I put myself out there.  My best friend of nearly 20 years just created a Facebook page and while she’s enjoying connecting with her friends, she’s gotten scoped out by people she isn’t even sure if she knows, and certainly doesn’t remember – like people we went to high school with.  She sent me a text message the other night asking me if we knew this woman who had requested to be added to her friends (or however that works) – while the name was vaguely familiar, I couldn’t place her so it makes me wonder who would search me out there.  On the other end of the spectrum is the possibility of finding people who have disappeared from my life over the years, only to discover something totally shocking about them.  For instance, again relying on my friend’s new adventures, she looked up my (nominal) boyfriend who moved to Missouri last March to take care of his ailing father.  I haven’t heard from the guy in months, and since we were together for seven years, my family and friends (both his and mine) frequently ask me how he’s doing.  Well, thanks to my friend, I finally have an answer to that question:  He’s freaking married!!!  Without so much as a note saying “Let’s see other people” or even “I’ve found someone else and I’m getting married.”  I feel vaguely like I’ve been kicked in the stomach and a little bit betrayed – saying nothing for how my family, particularly my parents, feel.

So, while I feel like it’s nearly expected of me to follow the lemming-like stream of people to Facebook, I’m left wondering if it’s a great idea for me personally.  I admit that on those few occasions when I’ve looked up someone on Facebook, I was annoyed that I couldn’t view more of their pages.  So maybe I’ll go ahead and jump off the proverbial cliff and create a page/site/whatever – I just hope the leap works out better for me than it does for the lemmings.

*** Danielle

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Technology | 4 Comments

Sound Off!!

I’m going to try a simpler way to do this – I hope.  Take part in this poll – and if you think I missed an answer, feel free to let me know in the comments area.  I’ll post some results after the poll closes on March 8th.

*** Danielle

And here are the results: 

  • 33% Said that group work was their biggest pet peeve
  • 33% Said that younger classmates who don’t have respect for the professor and the rest of the class was their biggest pet peeve
  • 33% Said that an administration that ignores the needs of non-traditional students was their biggest pet peeve

Yeah, I know – that’s only 99% but that’s what PollDaddy boiled them down to. 

I’m going to link back to a couple of earlier posts that focus on these issues so everyone who’s new to the blog can see what I’ve already had to say on these fun subjects – except for any particular observations on traditional students, which I guess I will post about this week.  Can’t believe I forgot to cover that topic in more than just passing.

Group Work

Administration woes: here and here

*** Danielle

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 1 Comment

Technological Hiccups

Okay, so I’m a complete bonehead because I forgot how long it takes to print a .PDF in the McMicken computer lab – I’m waiting for two of them (13 and 14 pages respectively) to print right now.  I am so embarrassed at the backlog of other people waiting at the printer.  I guess it’s a sign of old age that I forgot something so annoying, right?  *sigh*

But thinking about this technological faux pas, I realized that I hadn’t posted about the interesting observation/suggestion one of my traditional classmates made about the lack of comments on my blog.  She suggested that maybe the reason no one has anything to say here is because they don’t know how – making that oh-so-common generalization that we non-traditionals are completely hopeless with anything more complicated than a TV remote.  I’m mildly offended, but not surprised – it takes people a while to figure out that I actually have a fairly decent grasp on computer stuff.  Of course, it helps that the first computer I ever learned to use was an Apple IIe back in 1984 – and I’ve kept up as best I could ever since.

This land of unfair assumptions became clearer to me last night when I was roaming around the Internet on a Google search for non-traditional student forums (I’ve got to find someone to talk to, after all).  I came across a discussion between a graduate assistant, TA or whatever you call them, and a group of non-traditionals.  The TA made these sweeping generalizations that non-traditionals all want to talk about their experiences during the Vietnam War or ramble on about the good old days of Hendrix and Jim Morrison.  Um, I was born right after the US officially pulled out of Vietnam and as for the Jims, well I wasn’t alive in their heyday, but I appreciate ’60s rock as much as the next Gen-Xer. 

In response, of course, one of my nearer peers (a 38 year old I think) asserted that non-traditional students are much harder workers and less disruptive in classes.  Eh, I hate to burst his bubble, but I procrastinate with the best of them and let’s just say that I’m as easily swayed by my younger peers to gossip and whisper during a lecture as anyone.  Admittedly, since I’ve already messed this up once, I do feel obligated to put forth a better effort than I did the first time around, but considering that I only managed to pass Bowling my second quarter of my original college career, just what better looks like remains to be seen.

Alright, I had to cancel my print after the third time the guy who mans the desk here came over and asked me how much more I had left to print.  I’m off to my next exciting task – finding a book in Blegen Library – provided I can find Blegen Library.  In the three years I’ve been down here, I don’t think I’ve ever even walked past that building, lol.

By the way, check out my two new links – I found a website for an organization for non-trads in college and a blog hosted by another non-trad, this one from Western Kentucky University.  And if for some reason you really can’t figure out how to comment here, you can send me a messenger pigeon – I’m on campus Monday through Thursday normally, most of the time in McMicken.  I’ll keep an eye out for parcel-laden birds.  🙂

*** Danielle

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Technology | 3 Comments

Don’t Waste Your Time Breathing Exhaust Fumes!

Not everyone has a long commute to school, but a lot of non-traditionals are commuters and given that we are already under a time crunch having all those extra responsibilities, it seems like a shame to waste the drive time twiddling our thumbs.  So I poked around on the web and found a few ideas about how to be more productive while you’re sitting in gridlock.  Some of them I’m sure you’ve thought of, or maybe even do, but there were some interesting twists on the tried-and-true activities that I thought might help.

  1. Learn new skills or a new language by listening to audio CDs/tapes.  Considering the amount of time you spend in your car – for me, it’s over an hour each day of class, which this quarter comes out to about five hours a week!
  2. If you can’t bear to add another educational experience, look into books on tape/CD instead.  I know that I don’t have nearly enough time to do any pleasure reading and that when I do have a moment to spare, there’s nothing I want less to do than read another book.
  3. Grab a bite to eat!  So, I’ll confess that healthy food is low on my list of priorities, but even if it is important to you, there are all sorts of options to consider.  Just grabbing a piece of fruit on the way out the door in the morning can ease time crunches, or if you need to grab dinner plenty of fast-food chains offer healthier options, like chicken wraps, that aren’t too messy to eat on the go.  Just skip Taco Bell unless you’re feeling really daring – inevitably, the day they put extra filling in your tacos and burritos is the day you’re going to eat on your way to an important conference or presentation – blop!
  4. Of course, there’s always the old stand-by: radio.  If you find disc jockeys annoying or run into that mysterious blanket of commercials that manages to cover all the stations you like, try our local NPR – 91.7 FM – or talk radio – 700 AM, 1160 AM, 1230 AM, 550AM – stations.  Or instead, you could just scan through the stations, and try a genre you wouldn’t usually listen to – there are plenty of options in Cincinnati.
  5. Get a voice recorder and use it to plan your day.  Reciting your to-do lists or capturing that great idea you get staring at a billboard can be a lifesaver.  Or, if you are a closet karaoke singer, just use the recorder as a microphone while you croon your way through the drive home.
  6. Because fiddling with technical gadgets while you’re driving isn’t always safe, there is an alternative to the recorder.  You can use your cell phone and http://jott.com/default.aspx to send voice mails that will then be converted into text messages for you by the site!  A personal transcription service, what a novel idea!
  7. Another tech-savvy idea involves using your MP3 player to catch up on podcasts.  Download a couple in the morning before you leave your house and you’ll have your own personal talk radio to listen to.  Even better, combine this idea with the idea of practicing a foreign language and download a podcast in Spanish, French or your preferred language – just make sure you don’t concentrate so hard on comprehending what’s being said that you lose track of the traffic around you.
  8. While I think it’s sort of futile to try and relax while you are facing bumper-to-bumper traffic, I did come across one fun little suggestion.  Splurge and buy yourself a car seat massager, either a battery-powered one or one that plugs into your carjack.

I also found a site that offered some safety tips for commuting.  Here’s a few basic suggestions, but for the full list go look at the site.

  1. Plan your route – make sure you take well-traveled, well-lit roads, even if that means adding a little bit of time to your drive.
  2. Keep your vehicle well-maintained.
  3. Have a decent spare tire, extra oil and a gallon of water in your car – for me, these are in the trunk.  More importantly, make sure you know how to change a tire, check and add oil and where to add water if your car overheats.
  4. Drive with your doors locked.  This might seem like something your mom would say, but given that crime seems to be on the rise around campus, it’s better to be safe than sorry – okay, that was definitely the mother in me. 🙂
  5. Get gas early in the day at a station that is busy and well-attended.  Make sure you are in line-of-sight of the attendant if you do have to stop after dark.

If you want some more tips, check this wiki, this article or this list – there will be some overlap and some adjustments you might need to make since they are mostly tooled towards work commuters, but it’s a good place to start.

Have any tips of your own?  Feel free to share!

*** Danielle

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 1 Comment

Now For a Taste of Things to Come

In addition to the commuting story – which I’m still looking for some input on, by the way 😀 – over the next few weeks, I plan on talking about what job hunting, even with a degree, will be like in this economy.  Since I’m graduating in June, this is definitely on my mind, and from conversations I’ve had around campus, I’d say it’s worrying a lot of people.  I also want to open the floor for a little venting and ask for non-traditionals to share their top three pet peeves with attending college at this point in their lives.  Of course, if you’d like to flip that around and sing the praises of this approach to higher education, feel free.  Because I’m a single mom in addition to being a full-time student, I’m also curious how other student parents are coping to balance their own school work and that of their children.   Besides all that, I’m open to suggestions.  If there’s something you’d like to learn more about, or if you think I’ve overlooked a hot topic for non-trads, please comment or email me at daniellefrink@gmail.com.

*** Danielle

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | Leave a comment

Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!!

Quick and dirty – it took me FOUR hours to get home from Clifton tonight, an hour just to get from Stratford Heights to I-75.  Thanks a lot to those who make the decisions on closing school at UC – I nearly peed my pants sitting in that nasty mess.  And forget about dinner – I’m getting ready to go nuke something right now.  Although I’m so hot right now, I might be able to cook my leftovers just by holding them in my hands.

*** Danielle

February 3, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life | Leave a comment