Friday, 27 May 2011

College - Week 5...

Monday morning we were treated to another televised, black and white Blockbuster, with scenes vaguely reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch. The leading male role was someone we were expected to learn from, but I can’t seem to be able to relate to an elderly man, with a strange speech impediment and wearing a 'syrup'. I can’t imagine why!

My role-playing seems to have improved ever so slightly, although Dame Judy Dench need not be fretting just yet. I had no need for assistance, as I spent fifteen long minutes nodding like an in-car ornamental dog, and repeating back to my client a slightly altered version of what she‘d just said to me (with a very concerned look upon my face….obviously).

I.T. was another joyous occasion, made even happier by the fact there’s no homework. Yippee….. Time simply flew as I merrily bolded, italicised, changed fonts and so forth.

The snack-dash was followed by Act Two of fractions. Despite a few anxious moments regarding the up-ending of divided fractions, I managed to complete my homework in class, so I was a very happy bunny indeed.

B Block refectory provided my much needed 'jacket and beans' fix, before the currently titled least favourite subject of the week….. a.k.a. study skills.

After the true horrors of the project choices had been revealed, the humiliating task of choosing one's group members began in earnest. Memories of standing alone at the end of the selection process for school sports teams came flooding back to haunt me. I tried to not look too pathetic, whilst at the same time praying someone would pick me.

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded, and I was soon teamed up with three good-humoured companions. Coffees were called for, and as we sat around a rather grubby table, clutching plastic cups of hot liquid refreshments, we seemed to discuss everything but the topics listed in front of us.

‘On-screen violence’ was the subject matter that we eventually plumped for, once our attention to the job in hand had returned, and we vowed to sit and watch as many sadistic movies as time allows… all in the name of research.

Writing skills was the first class that’d touched on the scary subject of the UCAS forms. It’s a necessary evil for anyone who wishes to apply for a University place in September, but a daunting prospect nonetheless at such a relatively early stage in my return to academia.

I duly trotted off to J22 on Thursday morning to collect my forms, and the astonishingly enormous UCAS directory. While I had a few minutes to spare before my sociology class, I hastily arranged for an interview for careers advice and guidance. I’ll unfortunately have to wait until December for my appointment, which taught me a very valuable lesson.

I’d been told ….on numerous occasions…. to get in sharpish, as places get booked very quickly, but I’d kept putting it off. Tutors one, student nil.

My essay plan was thankfully satisfactory, and I’m now in the dubious position of having to pull it all together. I’d virtually written War and Peace, and so some serious culling will be called for.

A group activity involving looking at various situations from a variety of sociological perspectives seemed an intimidating task, but once we’d played musical chairs, and finally settled into the actual discussion process, things appeared to become clearer.

By the end of the session I found it’d been a hugely helpful exercise in expanding my understanding Marxism, functionalism etcetera.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

College - Week 4...

College - week 4)

My counselling classes are taking their toll on my slightly fragile confidence, which is bad news indeed, as there are another 8 weeks left to go… plus the very scary assignments to complete over the Christmas break.

I fear I’ve bitten off rather more than I can chew with that particular subject, but I’ll endeavour to inflict my anguish on whoever’s within earshot over the coming week, and attempt to find an appropriate solution. I feel a 'client role' coming on.

On a far more positive note, I.T. I felt, was highly productive for me this week. I certainly produced a high volume of A4 sheets from the overworked and sporadically temperamental classroom printer. What a joy it was, when I was presented with my marked work from last week, and I spotted the word "Excellent". O happy day….

Spell-checker is one of my favourite buttons on the toolbar, so I was rather pleased to discover that I would be playing with it throughout the lesson.

Inspecting the Access Main Course notice board, located in a rather dull and dingy corridor of F Block, I saw no evidence of any previously promised announcement regarding the exact whereabouts of our relocated numeracy class, so during mid-morning break I deliberately latched onto a couple of my unsuspecting chums who would shortly be heading off in that direction.

Fortunately, they already knew the somewhat complex route to the mystical lands beyond the car park that lead to the room known as' Rembrandt, and I dutifully followed, Pied Piper style, through J Block (or is it K Block?), along a muddy track, and up a slippery hill, until we finally arrived. Thank heavens I hadn’t worn stiletto heels! All very 'Carry on Campus'.

It’s no coincidence that the word 'fractions' bears a striking resemblance to the word 'fractious', however, I believe that I grasped the main gist of it by the end of the lesson. The generous portions of cake references helped to sustain my interest in an otherwise dreary subject, although by 12.30pm I was famished.

Lunch was another rather hurried affair that my delicate digestive system is gradually becoming used to.

On my way out of B Block refectory, I noticed the rather natty new paper signs on the toilet doors, stating "ladies cloakroom" and "gentlemen's cloakroom". I can only assume that they’re there for the benefit of the Open University students, who are apparently sitting exams somewhere nearby.

I find it quite amusing that a host can deem its guests too stupid to work out what the male and female symbols on a toilet door could possibly mean, particularly such academically-orientated ones. I hope that none of the visitors were mislead into thinking that they could actually leave their coats in there!

Plagiarism and referencing were the afternoon delights. I now accept that the words "Big, green sociology book, ….purchased last Wednesday….., Waterstones, Chelmsford High Street… £19.99" is an unsuitable referencing method, which will be frowned upon if used in the bibliography of my sociology essay.

The final hour of the day was dedicated to spelling. Unfortunately we were denied access to the PCs for this exercise, inducing another mild panic attack in someone who never usually hand writes anything more substantial than a shopping list, and out of the 50 commonly misspelled words I only got a feeble 36 correct. Oh, the shame.

Thursday's class was a somewhat preoccupied affair, on account of the imminent arrival of the essay title. Marxism mostly flew over my head and out of an open window, while I fretted over what the joyous heading will be at the top of my first sociological composition.

It arrived in spectacular fashion ….an incredible 55 words of it, in two parts….. along with various handouts that’ll have to be read thoroughly and digested before they’ll assist with the task ahead.

Rather frustratingly, whilst in the process of grasping the concept of interpreting, analysing and evaluating, the unwelcome distraction of a mobile ringing out aloud meant that my train of thought pulled out of station F6 before I had the opportunity to climb on board, taking with it my undoubtedly brilliant flash of inspiration.

A second digital disruption just moments later simply added to my exasperation. I too have a nice shiny Nokia, along with a rather clever off switch. I’m reasonably confident that should the four-minute warning be about to sound, the college would, indeed, inform us.

Having an essay to write now gives me an ideal opportunity for me to indulge my obsessive behaviour. I’m highly likely to live it and breathe it for the next three weeks, nurturing it like an over-protective mother, and yet resenting its very existence. It‘ll provide the perfect excuse for not doing all the things I simply can’t be bothered to face …goodbye Mr Sheen… and I now embrace the fact that I’ve become a 'real' student.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

College - Week 3...

College - week 3)

Intro to Counselling began innocuously enough, with an amusingly antique black and white video to snigger at, but things, I fear, went rapidly downhill from there on in.

Role-playing is not, and I doubt ever will be, one of my greatest talents. After assembling in groups of four …or three in one case….. roles were duly agreed upon, and subsequently acted out within the relatively small confines of each gathering.

Of course, I drew the short straw, which instantly plunged me into the leading role of counsellor. With only two weeks of tutoring behind me, I failed dismally to introduce myself correctly, I failed to notice any of the verbal or non-verbal cues my poor 'client' offered up, I failed to remember anything of any relevance at all from the aforementioned ‘Blockbuster’, and was rendered speechless after just two minutes of the intended ten minute 'session'.

Even after an admirable rescue attempt from my tutor, my mind emptied itself in a spectacular malfunction. The two other students in my group, who’d selected the relatively stress-free roles of 'observers', were kind enough to be tactful in their assessments of my dire efforts, but my confidence lay in ruins.

Lunchtime was a welcome release from my embarrassment, and I spent the entire hour wallowing in a shameless display of self-pity. I was, indeed, pathetic, and my long-suffering classmates kindly indulged my juvenile behaviour without condemnation.

The afternoon stint contained long words and mind-bending theories, complete with optical illusion overhead projections, which adequately distracted me from my earlier indignity.

At this week's computing session I felt reassuringly optimistic, and I relished the smug feeling of success at properly justifying my text and setting the correct margins. I do, however, feel that a 9 o'clock start is an overly ambitious target, and it’d be a far more civilised affair if all morning sessions on the Access Main course began at 10 o'clock instead.

Both the tutors and the students would benefit greatly, in my opinion, from an extra hour of humanising activities, such as caffeine ingestion and the opportunity of running a comb through ones tresses.

Negative and positive numbers were the dubious treat in store after the mid morning break, although Mr Smug remained with me as I completed my homework during the lesson.

However, Mr Panic reared his vile and ugly head when I learnt that next week's lesson is to be dragged kicking and screaming out of A28 and into a building far, far away. Something was said about 'The Rembrandt Building' and trekking through the car park, so I anticipate my belated arrival accompanied with frazzled nerves. Bye bye Mr Smug.

Queuing for lunch is not for the terminally impatient, but the jacket potato I finally managed to acquisition was fortunately well worth the wait, despite the fact I had to force it down my throat at almost break-neck speed in order to arrive at Study Skills on time. Thank heavens for Rennie.

Fed and watered, I suddenly remembered the dreaded returning of the homework sketch that was to follow. Luckily, my pessimism was mostly unfounded, and it transpired that I only needed to remember to make a few minor adjustments in the future.

Writing skills immediately became my least favourite subject of the day, as the homework was revealed. Paraphrasing will be nigh on impossible for someone whose natural instinct is to use ten words when just one will suffice. A formidable challenge indeed!

After my near miss with lateness last week, I arrived at college ludicrously early this week. Luckily the refectories are open for the business of breakfast at that hour, so I indulged myself a cup of hot chocolate while I waited for my class to begin.

I’ve discovered that too much Nescafe does nothing to aid my concentration…. quite the opposite in fact… so I have opted for the sweet-toothed alternative as an experiment. This appears to have paid off, as I felt far more able to cope with this weeks note-taking activities with a little less caffeine charging through my body.

After a brief interlude for top-ups and toilets, methodology proved to be quite entertaining. I found that the very idea of discussing the deviant pastime of "cottaging" does rather focus the attention somewhat!