Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Adult Learner" or OCD? (or both?)

My schoolroom yesterday
I already told you that I did not do so well on my very first quiz in my graduate school career.  But what I didn't tell you was that I failed the quiz. I got a 50%.  Out of a possible 100% ~ just to clarify.

I also didn't tell you how completely terrified I was to finally log onto Moodle ~ the online platform/hub for all of my coursework ~ and take the plunge...I mean, quiz.  I had studied for HOURS.  I made flash cards.  I re-read and outlined the many pages of reading I had done.  Robert prayed for me on Saturday night just before I clicked "take the quiz now."

The deadline for taking the quiz wasn't until Monday at noon, but the deadline I had given myself was Saturday evening.  I didn't want to be worrying about it on Sunday ~ you know, because of church, Sabbath, after-church lunch guests, etc.  And I wanted Monday to be a fresh start on the information for week 2.

So, he prayed, I clicked the tab, and the quiz appeared.  Ten minutes to complete ten multiple choice questions.  It was difficult, and I knew it would be, partly because I had lunch with this lady last Thursday in Boston. (Well, Cambridge, to be exact)
Cas discipled me during my University of Texas days through the ministry of Campus Crusade ~ or CRU as they call it these days.  It was Cas who expected the women in her small group to read the book of Romans 50 times and memorize two verses from each chapter, which had my suite-mate, Debbie, and me poring over stacks of index cards during lunch breaks in the dining hall.  We knew she would call on us, choose a random verse, and we would be expected to repeat it flawlessly. Oh, there was grace and joy and lots of laughter, but there was also a tall order for immersing ourselves in God's Word, knowing it, and applying it, and for this I am so very thankful.

Cas and I have now been friends for over 25 years, and she just completed her Master's degree at the same school from which I am now taking this online course.  Over our two and a half hour lunch (which was not long enough at all), we talked about many things, only one of which was seminary, but Cas confirmed to me that my fear of quizzes was not necessarily misplaced.  She took the same course with the same professor.  She even confessed to being angry over quiz grades after putting so much effort into preparing.

So, yes, Saturday night had me terrified to take the quiz and then angry at my results. Angry that the professor would choose questions that seemed so random and certainly not a faithful treatment of the actual material. Honestly, it felt downright unjust.

When Cas confessed her anxieties and apprehensions concerning studying, taking quizzes, exams, and writing research papers to a friend, the reply was, "Cas, you are showing all the classic signs of an adult learner."

When she related this story to me, I felt better.  This stress is normal for someone my age.  Adult learners tend to be a bit more concerned and "in earnest" about doing really well in their courses. And this can even be positive.  I certainly wish I had been a little more "stressed" about my undergrad classes. Unfortunately, I was more attentive to room decor and what restaurant to eat at with friends over the weekend.

I was unable to shake my disappointment and sense of injustice, though. I mused about emailing the TA or professor to express my concern, but then backed down, fearing the thought of being "that person" ~ the nagging 40-something "adult learner."

Then I logged into the syllabus review and online "chat" where the professor urged us to email with questions about the quizzes by copying and pasting each concerning question into our email, as Moodle selects questions at random and therefore no two quizzes are alike.  This seemed to be confirmation that I could inquire without making a fuss, and so I did.

I copied and pasted three of the questions to which I could not find the answer anywhere in the readings.  In fact, I discovered the answers for those questions in the readings assigned for THIS week, and shared the page numbers with the TA. Maybe I'm not crazy after all, but here's where the OCD part comes in.

I spent two nights obsessing over both my failure and the unfairness of the evaluation. I decided seminary, or higher learning of any kind, must not be for me.  I just don't "get" it. This thing I have dreamt about for years is misguided and not really from the Lord like I thought it was. I have now wasted a lot of time and money.  I felt foolish and angry.

THEN I went to bed and had a DREAM about the quiz and my email to the TA.  The professor contacted me, sat down with me (in a car parked in some random parking lot), and looked over each question with me, listening to my concern about the unfairness of each one.  He was taking notes and seemed to be genuinely receiving each complaint ~ desiring to improve his course. (HA!  This is truly a dream about my desired outcome!) In my dream, I was reluctantly shocked by this, not sure how to respond or go forward.  Then Sarah Abbott, a good friend from our Classical Conversations program walked by and started talking to me, and this is where the rest gets fuzzy.

I should mention here that Robert has only been thoroughly entertained by my angst, which did absolutely nothing for curing my inner obsessions and compulsions. In short, it made them ten times worse.

He found me in the kitchen early the next morning reading my Bible. He asked me how I slept. "Fine, I guess," I said, "but I had a dream about the professor, and the quiz, and we were in a car, and Sarah Abbott stopped by..." I was almost in tears.  What am I doing to myself?  This is going to be the first and LAST graduate course I ever take.  I really don't need any extra drama or sleepless nights. Got enough of that to last me a long time.  He wanted to laugh, I know it, but he did the right thing and said he was sorry. And he was.

Later, I checked my email. There was one from the TA just to me.

(Cue the fireworks and confetti.)

An apology! Moodle pulled the wrong questions! Everyone will receive a B! (or an A, if anyone was actually able to choose correct answers) Justice has been served!

And I am not crazy.  My sense of injustice has not simply succumbed to my own stubborn pride.

I am so relieved, but I'm not sure the O's and C's will be tempered until after this week's quiz.  We'll see...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I went to graduate school, my brother-in-law (a UCLA professor at that time) told me to make my presence not hesitate to speak up, question, etc. His advice totally changed my perspective on the courses before me as I realized that my teachers roles were to open up my understanding and not to invoke terror over quizzes. So, I spoke up, I questioned.As a result graduate school was so much better than the undergraduate years. Even in the hardest courses, like Statistics, I always succeeded and had fun with it. So Melanie, keep making your voice known. You are a mature adult and an excellent teacher yourself. You should entirely expect excellence in the teaching you are receiving, without fear and trembling. Blue skies from San Antonio! K&J