Tuesday, 28 June 2011

College - Week 8...

I‘d completely misjudged the weather this morning, and I arrived at college rather soggier than I‘d wished. As a pedestrian, I'm occasionally unjustly dismissive of student car-parking woes, but today I rather felt that they were wearing the Mr Smug badges, as I dripped along the corridor of F Block. 

Role-playing doesn’t appear to be getting any easier with practice, and we had rather a lot of practice this morning. The gap between fiction and reality is ever narrowing, and I often now find myself asking classmates sympathetic questions about their delicate relationships ….only to be reminded that, in fact, their relationships are doing just fine, and it is their role-play pretend relationships that are actually in tatters.

I cut short my customary jacket and beans in order to race about the corridors and staircases during the lunch break, undertaking minor chores.

I nipped up to the Student Union office to renew my outdated Student Union Card, with the ulterior motive of using a slightly more photogenic image of myself. I really shouldn’t be quite so vain.

I then decided to use the staircase rather than wait for the lift, and clambered up to the hairdressing department to make a long overdue appointment to get my mane seen to. When I arrived, I read the note on the wall stating that the hair and beauty reception is actually located downstairs… so back down I went.

The lady at the counter didn’t appear to fully understand my requirements, and she rang through to the hairdressing department so that I could speak to them in person. Of course, had I actually gone through the salon doors 5 minutes earlier….. instead of coming all the way back downstairs….. I could’ve saved myself an awful lot of time and effort.

My final task, before the afternoon counselling session, was to visit the student finances department for a quick chat. During the morning, a particularly 'helpful' student had informed me that once I go to University I won’t eligible for my state benefits, and I’ll have to go out to work to put food on the table and pay my bills because my student grant won’t be enough to cover it!

Fortunately, the very kind and understanding lady in the student finance department, assured me that there’d be no need to sell my first born, and although there would be an awful lot of paperwork to complete, there was no need for panic.

I consider that I have a reasonable grasp of time management, but the thought of looking after a house, being a responsible parent, studying for a degree AND working at tescos stacking shelves at night would have meant an introduction of the 30 hour day.

A number 64 bus and a tartan umbrella ensured that I didn’t repeat the soggy scenario on Tuesday morning. I.T. was the usual cheerful occasion, as I discovered that we’d be learning all about the internet. As I’m seldom off the internet, my brain enjoyed welcome break before numeracy. I managed to learn a new trick with the control key, and will undoubtedly be repeating this manoeuvre until RSI sets in. 

Due to unavoidable circumstances, we were without a tutor for the first hour of numeracy. In an astonishing display of anarchy, the first fifteen minutes were dedicated to verbal mayhem and merriment. Eventually, high spirits made way for the completion of last weeks homework, and making a start on delightful decimals.

Our tutor finally arrived, and she was reasonably impressed at the somewhat tranquil scene that greeted her appearance. I’m rather relieved that CCTV cameras hadn’t been in operation 45 minutes earlier.

Lunch was, as ever, an uncivilised festival of food shovelling.

A glance at the F Block notice boards confirmed a change of venue for study skills, and a trek to the committee room ensued. I was horrified at this tiny and inadequately equipped room, with not a single computer in sight… but moderately impressed at the water dispenser.

All is not well in our particular study skills group, and the task of creating a feasibility study has stretched us to the very limits of our imagination. After a brief discussion with our tutor to clarify some of the finer aspects of what a project about screen violence should focus on, we made our way to the library to locate a book …..now there's a novelty!

Once there, we attempted to locate one particular volume on the subject of media effects via the library computer system, but after four failed attempts it was decided that we should ask for assistance instead.

Up on the next level, we managed to find the help desk, which turned out to be of no help at all, as the notice thereon suggested that we try the helpdesk downstairs. With time ticking by, and patience wearing thin, we took the somewhat original approach of looking on the shelves ourselves, and more by luck than judgement, managed to find books regarding the media. As we each stood there holding a book in our sweaty little palms, there was a slight pause before we simultaneously asked "What EXACTLY are we looking for?"

Plan B was now a priority, and as we huddled around a computer in the student resource centre, the vague idea of feasibility was briefly discussed and typed up. We were all feeling particularly confused, bored and deflated by the end, and are crossing our fingers, and toes, that our efforts will be adequate enough to scrape through without having to waste any more time on it.

The true horror of the writing skills test was revealed in all its glory at 3.05 precisely. Three mind-numbing A4 pages of equal opportunities bumf had to be read, digested and analysed within the following 60 minutes.

I was tired, and already feeling pretty miserable after the study skills sketch, so when I was faced with this particular chore I was on the verge of tears. The last time I’d sat in a classroom to undertake a timed, handwritten piece of academic work was in 1978, and to my memory, nothing at all on the planning period prepared me for this particular scenario.

For the first ten minutes the words may as well have been written in Greek. I struggled through it, but I’m certain that I’ll score a particularly low mark for this assignment. I was unable to string a logical sentence together for the most part, and my pages are a mass of hastily scribbled notes in no particular order, and a few bullet points. An extra 15 minutes allowance for rewriting would’ve meant that my scrawl could have at least been tidied into legible and rational paragraphs……but no extra time was given.

I’m fully aware that it needs to be at level three, and I’m also painfully aware that it’s far from that. As I left the classroom I was hit by a sudden overwhelming feeling of failure and deep disappointment. I was always aware that there’d be days like these during my time at college, but that knowledge can never prepare you for when it actually happens. The onset of self-doubt completely shatters your confidence, and you’re left completely numb by the whole experience.

Thursday I dragged my fragile ego into college, still slightly anaesthetized after Tuesday's nightmare. I’d been dreading the return of my first ever sociology essay, but fortunately my fears were unfounded. The phrase "Level 3" could easily have also been "Congratulations, you have won…………….." and I suddenly felt that a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The relief of knowing that I’m not really 'thick' was almost overwhelming, and the very positive comments made on my cover sheet seemed to reawaken my enthusiasm for study.

After class, I made a return visit to the hairdressing salon, only to be told that I had to go back downstairs to the hair and beauty reception, so that they could ring through for a hairdresser to come all the way downstairs to collect me, so that I could go back upstairs into the salon in which I was already standing!

Bemused doesn’t begin to cover it, but I obediently complied, accepting that 'rules are rules'. I now have a treat to look forward to next Wednesday morning, and my despair from earlier on in the week is slowly, but surely, disappearing somewhere behind me.

Friday, 17 June 2011

College - week 7...

What a pleasure it was to discover that the highly stressful role-playing counselling activity was to make way for sociology this morning. I tried, in vain I fear, not to appear overly confident, as I’m the only student present today in class actually taking sociology as a specialist subject.

B Block refectory seemed rather more crowded than usual during the lunch hour, so my two companions and I decided to explore the bistro in the chef's block, by way of a change.

This idea would’ve worked well, had the place actually been open for business. It suddenly dawned on us at that point as to why B Block refectory had seemed so busy earlier.

A trip to the student supplies shop was in order, for a little retail therapy, and after five minutes of gazing in wonderment at shiny holographic paper, and other fascinating arty objects such as multi-coloured pipe cleaners, I purchased a packet of four highlighter pens. I have a feeling that my coursework will probably be rather colourful from now on.

After lunch we contemplated cheerful topics such as mortality and suicide……as you do!

A hasty glance at the dimly lit notice board in F Block revealed a change of location for the Tuesday numeracy classes. Alarm bells rang out loud inside my head, as my eyes scanned unfamiliar words such as "boardroom" and "committee room", with no alphabetical and numerical combinations beside them to indicate where on campus such rooms may be located.

It was only after I’d found a pen and a scrap of paper for scribbling down these alterations, that I read the entire heading. It was, thankfully, referring to the Tuesday afternoon numeracy classes. Phew. Lucky old me. I have numeracy before lunch. 

I.T. is currently my most favourite subject on a Tuesday. Health and safety combined with file management didn’t appear to tax my brain excessively, and I had ample time left after my set tasks to make full use of the I.T. suite printers, churning out masses of paperwork regarding the study skills project that I’m currently working on.

Yet another week of fractions followed mid-morning break, much to my displeasure. The sheer volume and complexity of this week’s homework meant that I didn’t have the luxury of completing my homework during class, and will now have to face completing the task at home. Hmmmmm.

Lunch on Tuesdays is always somewhat of a 'smash 'n' grab' affair.

The study skills group project feasibility fiasco is proving somewhat more daunting than I suspect it ought. We now have a new member in our particular clan, and this has meant some re-negotiation was needed regarding the various roles within the group.

We very quickly discovered that the F6 printer was fully functioning, so we took advantage of the free paper and ink supplies, much to the bemusement of the other two groups…who clearly wished they’d thought of it first.

With one of the other groups researching the same topic, eavesdropping became a priority. This proved to be a fruitless exercise, which only goes to show that the grass is not always greener.

 By 3pm I’m never particularly enthusiastic, and this week proved to be no different to any other. Lengthy explanations of the two accredited assignments that’ll follow during the next fortnight was not something I particularly wished to hear.

The B&H Brigade, who tend to waft past at close range carrying an odour very familiar to that of a pre-smokeless pub after last orders, has regularly assaulted my nasal passages, and today it seemed worse than ever.

The offending addict, however, had attempted to mask her stench with copious amounts of a hideous cheap perfume, and in the process almost knocked me unconscious. I feel that a generous squirt of Febreeze would have served the purpose better than Impulse.

The handing over of my first ever sociology essay was a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, I was glad to finally see the back of it, but on the other, this had become my 'baby', and I had to finally break all maternal bonds with it.

The introduction of our new topic of 'families and households' was very welcome, as I, for one, can relate to the subject a lot easier than the mind-boggling sociological perspectives coursework that we have just completed.

However, I fully accept that no house can ever be built without firstly installing solid foundations, and I live in the hope that things will now begin to slot into place quite nicely.

Regarding the sociological surveys aspect of this terms work; I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll soon lose all of my friends once I begin to harass them with endless questioning.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

College - week 6...

The ironically named 'reading week' is now upon us…. ironic in so far as I have been doing everything but reading.

My UCAS statement has been drafted, re-drafted, re-re-drafted on my trusty pc, until it now bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original.

My sociology essay has seen the light of day, with its grand appearance as printout number one. These once-pristine sheets now look as if a psychotic three year old has attacked them with a box of crayons, due to my enthusiastic corrections and readjustments.

I’ve pestered my fellow study skills group members, and tutors, with e-mails regarding screen violence, almost to the point of obsession.

I’ve used copious amounts of blue tack to stick various handouts from my counselling course onto my kitchen cupboard doors, in a desperate attempt to regain some enthusiasm towards the subject before the next session.

I now have a nice shiny new copy of the Essex University Prospectus, which, no doubt, will still be sitting on my table unopened until the day before the deadline for completion of the UCAS application forms. Which, incidentally, has been laboriously photocopied multiple times to ensure that by the time I fill out the original, I shall have at least a vague idea as to what I am actually doing.

The all too familiar displacement activities reared their ugly heads yet again in the form of manic hovering sessions and gardening in the rain.

Friends that only ever receive correspondence from me in the form of Christmas cards, will indeed be surprised to open their morning mail to discover the arrival of my life-story in minute detail.

Shame I was just too busy to get any reading done this week!