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Things that I once thought I could never do
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I had an interesting term of university this summer. Among other things, I had a quite enjoyable English 101 tutorial. Part of why I enjoyed it so much is because I was a noisy chatterbox when it came to class discussions.

This was one of those classes where the TA asks a question, then looks around at a class that is studiously pretending that they're cleverly hidden under a rock. If it had been a night class there would have been crickets chirruping. I don't think anyone in a class like that is terribly comfortable, if only for the fear that the instructor will break the impasse by (the horror!) calling on someone by name.

I know that I, at least, was uncomfortable in these silences. However, I've discovered an interesting perque of attending class when I'm sometimes six years older than my classmates. I've been there and done that, and on top of previous academic experience I've also lived and worked in the mythical "real world." Thus armed I found that I had an unprecedented level of self-confidence when it came to classes and my peers: what are they going to do, fire me? Ha!

So I became the big talker. When the silences came, I trotted out some interesting thoughts on the subject that my slightly larger experience made it easier to expound upon, and sometimes this broke the impasse and resulted in interesting class discussions. It got to the point where I needed to avoid monopolising the TA's questions, and started sitting back and waiting to see if anyone would speak up. On some occasions the TA and I exchanged a meaningful look containing something like "You're not leaping on this one?" "Naw, I'll let someone else try their hand at it this time."

All this, and I used to be a spaz when it came to public speaking. My mind would blank, I would get nervous shakes and rushes of adrenaline, and, on the occasions when I didn't completely forget what I was going to say, rush through it as if my verbal bowels had turned to water. I was convinced that I would never be able to stand up and speak in front of any crowd, and there I was, needing to contain my enthusiasm for speaking so that I wouldn't overshadow the others in the class.

There are so many things that we decide we'll never be any good at, so early in life, only to discover that it takes time and experience to learn like everything else. What sort of things have you thought you'd never learn to do but one day discovered that you could?

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I've noticed that your enthusiasm for talking has only increased recently. ;)

I used to be the one to fill the spaces, but I found after awhile I didn't get anything out of it, it felt like pulling a dead weight for the class, so I ...well, I stopped being in school, really.

I think that's why I stopped speaking up every time the class was quiet: I didn't need to be the one to answer, and I didn't feel the need to carry the class, either.

And, hey, if it means more participation mark for me, I'm not complaining. :)

What sort of things have you thought you'd never learn to do but one day discovered that you could?

For me it's easier to answer that question the other way. I used to think that the only thing I was good at was schoolwork. Period.

Like stacking boxes or sweeping a floor or saying "hello" was something that I was bound to screw up.

Be a leader; organize or initiate things. It's still something I'm working on, but I'm proud that I can do take-charge things ever so often.

You've heard this story before.

Anything athletic. In high school, I was the standard always-chosen-last-for-the-team kinda kid who dreaded gym class. High school was a pretty mortifying experience for me: I graduated with absurdly high grades and yet routinely tripped over my own feet, couldn't run around the block. Having been teased for years, my image of my own physical capabilities was completely shot.

And then when I got to university I started weightlifting to blow off steam, and just out of curiosity. Then I started cycling to get to my summer job. Then I started running, just to find out if I could -- and I could. Then I did a triathlon.

And then one day, just before I moved to BC, I went for a run while staying with my mom. I ran down the street, and around the block, and up a hill, and there was that old high school.

And it was being torn down.

Re: You've heard this story before.

Actually, that's a story that I haven't heard. I remember you telling me about how it was a revelation to learn that you could run distance, but I didn't realise exactly how significant it really was until just now.

And it was being torn down.

Is that ever symbolic.

I've often been of the thought that school is wasted on kids. Maybe they should go to school until grade 6 (long enough to learn to read, write, and do math) and then they should be made to go work in the real world for a while. Maybe a couple or so years. And *THEN* they should go back to school to finish up and decide on a career and be ready to handle things once they've had a chance to learn what the *REAL* world is like.

They're trying to remedy that with a high-school class called Career And Personal Planning, but it was initially a bomb since no-one really knew how to teach that kind of stuff.

There are some specific things that really help in later academic or working life that I hope they incorporate, but I'm afraid that the school system's managers might be too absorbed in their own reality to understand the real "life cycle" that their students will experience.

Yeah, but that's high-school stuff, and really, you don't learn ****-all in high-school that's applicable to anything in real life. You have to be *OUT* there to learn it. Forcing kids to come up to the front of the class and recite some bland piece of poetry they HAD to memorize won't do for them what the real-life experience of talking to a bunch of assembled co-workers will. First off, you are talking about something you *KNOW*, and second of all, everyone else *WANTS* to be there and listening to you. There's a huge difference.

I don't disagree: I never thought CAPP was a good idea, since it's a lot like the blind leading the blind. When was the last time any of these teachers had any involvement in anything other than the high-school reality?

I don't know if the answer is as simple as "real" work at an early age, though--it takes a certain amount of age and maturity to learn from the hard knocks one suffers. I know people who are supposedly adults and still don't understand why the universe keeps "happening" to them.

When I went through school, there was no CAPP program. Or at least none that I knew of. School *WAS* the school of hard knocks. But then again, I never worried about being shot or knifed or anything like that either.

I have to agree with you about the maturity. Maturity is what it is really about. The problem is that I have no idea how to *TEACH* that. Showing someone too early that the universe isn't always wrapped up in 30 minute chunks is just going to scar them and make them think that the world is nasty place that's always picking on them because they are just too young to learn and understand cause and effect. I dunno. I'm pretty cynical when it comes to dealing with people that "just haven't got a clue". Every know and then I do wish someone would develop a clue-by-four that really did work.

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