Those of us who live in the academic world believe we have a pretty good handle on the trials and tribulations of students. After all, we too were college students, most of us for much longer than the average person, earning Masters degrees and doctorates. But like with our grandparents, who told us that they hiked thirty miles in the snow to go to school, our memories may have a tendency to make us more studious and virtuous than we actually were.
This semester, I’ve reentered the student world for the first time since I earned my doctorate. Librarian Emily and I are taking an introductory French course online. Emily is a total beginner in French, and I taught myself enough to pass a graduate reading exam but can barely speak or understand the language when spoken.
I went to the bookstore and found my book–and discovered that it was very expensive. I then decided to go the ebook route and downloaded my book from Amazon. It was still expensive, but I figured, since I take my iPad everywhere, I would study more. (This has not proven to be true.)
I was quickly reminded that, although people tell students that these are the best years of their lives, there is a lot of stress involved in taking a course.
First, there is the never-ending suspicion that I am missing something. This course is well developed with a conscientious and present instructor. (We do not wait around for emails from her.) We practice all our skills each week: vocabulary, grammar as well as written and spoken expression. I try to keep up, but I’m always sure that there is some hidden assignment out there that I’ve forgotten.
Second, I would have thought that I was long past this fear, but I’ve found that I still don’t want to be the slowest kid in the class. I worry that my recording of the alphabet will be unintelligible or that my part of the class discussion will sound simplistic. In this area, I am quite jealous of colleague Pam. She simply is not embarrassed about trying out new skills. This semester, she is taking ASL, and, the first week of class, a deaf student came to the circulation desk. Within minutes, she was practicing the alphabet and asking him questions about signing. Watching her, I was reminded that learning is my goal for this class, and you can’t really learn anything without taking some chances.
This one course certainly has renewed my respect for (and awe of) students who are taking a full load of courses, working at a job, and raising a family as many of our students do. And if any of you are feeling a little stressed this semester, come up to the circulation desk. We’ll share your pain.