Tuesday, 19 July 2011

College...Week 10


I began the week with the official handing in of my UCAS application. This was a momentous occasion indeed for someone still desperately trying to get to grips with the concept of further education, let alone higher education.

Counselling was the usual miserable experience that no amount of Prozac could assist me through. It was my turn to act out the client role, and for 30 arduous minutes I had to play the part of a 55-year-old woman with a desperately depressing life.

After the very welcome mid-morning break, I was much happier just sitting making notes as an observer during the second audio taped session. The afternoon consisted of being informed of exactly how much work will be involved in the three delightful assignments that will follow the course. It’s just as well that I have no plans for Christmas this year, as it looks very likely that I’ll be working on my transcriptions and reading up on empathy.

There comes a point at college, for all women of child-bearing age, when certain items need to be purchased from a dispenser situated within a ladies lavatory. Several of my classmates had previously commented on the lack of such a provision in the F Block toilets, so I took it upon myself to check out a few other bathrooms on campus.

I soon discovered that F Block was far from unique, and not a single such dispenser existed. …..I also noted the lack of condom dispensers, although one might assume there’d be a greater demand, or necessity, for the former rather than the latter.

I made a few enquiries into the matter, and was astonished to discover that they’d been removed after repeated bouts of vandalism. Surely one would have to have some seriously 'faulty wiring' to want to duff up a tampon machine?

During I.T. I managed to print out much-needed additional data for my study skills group project. The tutor then, very kindly, showed those of us taking sociology, how best to create boxes on a questionnaire. This is superb timing, as I’m currently constructing a social survey, which will look far more professional for having boxes added.

Numeracy was another heavy-going week as far as I was concerned. I just about managed to stay with the concept of power numbers for the first 20 minutes, but then an information overload rendered me completely incapable of even locating the square root button on my scientific calculator.

For the life of me, I can’t fathom how power numbers, root numbers, square roots and so forth will help me to live a fuller and more exciting life. Will it help me to save money at Tescos? Will it make me a better mother to my children? Will it help me to work out which bus I need to catch? I have a sneaking suspicion the answers will be that they will, in fact, not.

There was time at the end of the lesson to finish correcting previously marked work, which I obviously took advantage of, and I was delighted to find myself currently up-to-date with all my numeracy worksheets, and even more delighted to receive a shiny sticky red star for my efforts. I simply couldn’t contain my glee at this important achievement and merrily showed my sparkly symbol off to my long-suffering friends. I acknowledge that I’m easily pleased.

My study skills session was extraordinarily fruitful this week, in that I actually managed to get something written down onto a sheet of paper. It’ll probably make no sense at all when I read it back at a later date, but at least I didn’t wander around aimlessly this week. This is positive progress indeed.

Writing skills, for me, has been highly frustrating lately. It’s yet another test of my abilities, when I’m feeling tired after a long day in noisy classrooms.

I feel that I’d proved my abilities in this area during the planning period way back in January, where I obtained three level 3 credits… one of which was for my academic writing skills.

I feel that I’d also proved my abilities in this subject with my level 3 credit for pr├ęcis. And I feel that I’d also proved my abilities in this area with the level 3 credit that I received for my sociology essay.

I passed my National Certificate in Adult Literacy in July with a score of 39 out of 40 …only a moment of insanity with a spelling question prevented me from obtaining 100%... and I have the paperwork to prove it. 

I’m a woman, a mother, and a lone parent, and within these roles I constantly have to prove my abilities to somebody or other. I therefore find it highly irritating that I am expected to constantly prove myself during writing skills, when I’ve already shown significant evidence of my abilities.

Far from an accurate test of my abilities, these last three weeks have simply tested my patience. This, incidentally, has completely run out. During the planning period we were told, on more than one occasion, that Access students never have to sit exams, unless they’re taking a GCSE subject. I beg to differ!

Thursday I was back into the calm and reassuring realm of sociology. Families and households has become this weeks 'comfort blanket', and previous tantrums made way for highly entertaining and enlightening discussions regarding sperm donors, pregnant men, cloning and the contraceptive pill.


Saturday, 9 July 2011

College - Week 9...



This Monday saw the beginning of the audio taping of our counselling role-play sessions. I was hugely thankful that I’d opted to be the last person going through the anxiety of playing counsellor, and I’m rather hoping that the sessions that I’m currently observing will help me to function when I take centre stage.

By way of a change from the usual jacket and beans, my vegetarian banquet today was rice with a selection of vegetables. This went down rather well, but my subsequently bloated stomach made me wish I‘d chosen slightly slacker jeans.

Bereavement was never going to be an easy topic to cover, and the afternoon session drained me both emotionally and physically. Watching your friends burst into tears, while you’ve already got a lump in your throat the size of an apple, is hugely unsettling.

A stressful day of counselling followed by all four core studies in one day. What a joy….

I.T. required just a basic knowledge of e-mail, which meant that most of this particular lesson was dedicated to much-needed compassionate conversations with my co-counsellors. The opportunity to play is always a welcome distraction, and silly messages went flying electronically back and forth throughout the lesson.

Numeracy was thrust upon us at a surprisingly frantic pace, and it was all I could do to keep up. Percentages is something that I personally would rather have taken a little more time over during class, mostly due to the fact that I’m now burdened with an entire worksheet to complete at home without the luxury of having the methodology fresh in my mind, or a tutor on hand for those awful 'stuck' bits.

The theory behind this brain-busting class, was to enable us to end our numeracy classes two weeks ahead of schedule, but the idea of spending two consecutive Tuesdays, in late December, twiddling my thumbs from the end of I.T. at 11am until the beginning of study skills at 1pm, is not, in my opinion, something that I shall necessarily look forward to.


I was still feeling distinctly below par during lunch, probably being weighed down by the misery of the impending study skills group project, followed by part two of the hideous writing skills assignment.

Another afternoon was wasted, mooching around the library, staring blankly at the spines of books for some sign of inspiration. It didn’t appear, so I cut my losses and comforted myself with a coffee and some shortbread biscuits instead. This didn’t particularly assist me with my research into screen violence, but at least I did feel slightly better afterwards.

On campus there’s a distinct lack of anywhere nice for mature students to escape to in order to wallow in self-pity, away from hormonally challenged teenagers. Today, I felt that I could really have benefited from a quiet place to hide, where I could be amongst fellow core-studies-sufferers.

It seems very unfair that rent-a-yob has somewhere hip and funky to gather, and yet we more civilised creatures are condemned to wandering the cold, dark corridors of the college.

Wednesday at 9.15am I arrived for my previously well-documented hair appointment. I felt it only fair to warn my tentative trainee that my hair is substantially thicker than it first appears.

The first of the brightly coloured foils made an appearance at 10.20am, and by 12.20pm there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. By this point, my head looked as if I was wearing the contents of a tin of Quality Street, and I was praying that the fire alarm wouldn’t sound.

Two cups of tea later, and my foils were out, hair washed and my student was merrily slicing off an inch or two of split ends. Hunger pangs had started to appear by now, and my rear end had been quite numb for several hours, but vanity is never without a price.

By 3pm the blow-drying was finally complete…but there was a slight problem. Of course there was!  One small, but painfully obvious, section of my locks had turned a nasty shade of orange, for reasons unknown, and there was no alternative than to have another single foil put in place with a strong dose of colour smothering it.

The next 30 minutes seemed to last a lifetime as I waited for the new colour to take a hold. My poor student looked worse for wear, having been on her feet since I arrived with not so much as a sip of water inside her.

The correction thankfully worked, and I walked out of the door at 3.45pm precisely. Hopefully, the next appointment will only require my roots coloured, which will allegedly take just a fraction of the time.


Thursday saw a repeat of the brolly and bus sketch. Families and households was welcome light relief from screen violence and bereavements, and even our new assignment of compiling a questionnaire didn’t appear to intimidate me.