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I nipped up to the Student Union office to renew my outdated Student Union Card, with the ulterior motive of using a slightly more photogenic image of myself.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.