Thursday, June 28, 2012

opportunity, hard work, and summer semester

There is a quote by Thomas Edison that I have been thinking about a lot lately:
"People often miss out on opportunity because it shows up in overalls and looks like work."

Now, I am not a big fan of Mr. Edison, but I have liked this quote since I stumbled across it back in middle school. It is quite true that opportunity requires hard work. It is also true that many people don't understand that link.

As I progress through summer semester classes, I have found myself thinking even more about this particular relationship between hard work and opportunity. It is no secret that I am having to work very hard in order to achieve good grades in these math classes. I am also having to work very hard to maintain my motivation for the classes since the material makes me want to rip my hair out and quit trying. This made me wonder, if so much hard work is going in, shouldn't there be an equal amount of opportunity created? What exactly am I getting out of all of this struggle?

Obviously, I am getting credit for the course and fulfilling degree requirements. That is kind of a big deal. :)

But other than that, am I really gaining anything other than stress and tension headaches?

Last night I decided to take a break from the craziness and listen to some relaxing music while soaking my feet in some hot water. It helps me clear my head and work through complex situations. As I sat there on the edge of my tub, I tried to look at my summer courses (specifically my horrific algebra course) from a new perspective to see what opportunities I might gain from them.

I came to understand that my terrible, condescending, rude, unhelpful algebra professor is yet another opportunity to learn what NOT to do as a teacher. This is almost more important than learning the good things. If you know what absolutely ruins a student's motivation, you can focus on developing strategies that don;t include those things.

I've also realized that through tutoring some friends on the weekends over material from my statistics class I have gradually been building my confidence in the subject matter. This is a real life reinforcement of the "students learn by doing" principle I have stated in my teaching philosophy. I inadvertently put myself in a position to test out that philosophy and build a solid foundation for my argument. That's quite an opportunity.

Finally, I feel like, deep down, these math courses are giving me the opportunity to better understand my own learning process and how my mind functions. These subjects are not easy for me and require a lot of effort just to get a passing grade. That knowledge of best study practices and discipline will only serve me well in the future as I finish my degree and as I attempt to help others learn how to learn.

Taking the time to really think this through really helped me feel better about the situation as a whole. I still don't like my algebra professor, I still wish I didn't have to sit through two more weeks of 3 hour classes, and I will still be thrilled when the semester is over, but I feel slightly more in control of the situation now. I feel that this craziness and frustration might really be worth more than what will appear on my transcripts. It may not be glamorous, but it is useful and that's all I can really hope for.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Some things just aren't surprising

As I stated before, this summer I am taking two math courses. I have a statistics course and an algebra course. When I first signed up for these courses at the same time and chose to cram a traditional 15 week semester into 6 weeks, I knew I was taking on a lot. I knew it would involve a lot of studying. I knew it would be a major effort to come out of the ordeal with a C at minimum. Now that I have passed the midpoint in each course I am here to tell you all that my perception of the semester was right on the money. I am working my butt off and feeling the strain. Statistics isn't so bad. I seem to be able to recall quite a bit from high school and catch on quickly to the new stuff. Algebra is still an ugly beast though. However, I currently have an A in statistics and a low B in algebra so we are counting it as a win thus far. I just have to keep up this momentum for another 3ish weeks until finals are over. Then it's on to block 2 and fun times in the first grade! I've got less than a year of classes left and then student teaching, then I am officially a teacher. This process is painful and frustrating at times, but I am learning so much about myself that I can't help but be grateful for the journey.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Complaining gets results

Just as I had finally found some peace about the fact that Georgia State did away with December graduation, I saw this news story on the university home page.

That's right, folks, enough people complained about the issue and we were able to change the minds of the powers that be. I will actually have a real graduation ceremony!

Which means that I get to wear this:

And send out these:

And walk across this stage:

When I thought I wasn't going to get a traditional graduation ceremony, I tried my best to focus on the fact that my degree is a personal accomplishment and remind myself that I don't really need public recognition of the achievement outside of my family. However, now that the possibility is open and available again and I am allowing myself to think about it, I really, really can't wait for that day. I WANT to wear the unflattering regalia. I WANT to sit for hours waiting for my turn to cross that stage and shake the Dean's hand. 

I definitely want my name read out loud for the whole Georgia Dome to hear followed by the words "magna/summa cum laude". 

I cannot even begin to express how thrilled I am with the Georgia State commencement committee for changing their minds and bringing back the December graduation ceremony. 

(the pictures are courtesy of, herff jones and the GSU facebook page)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jillian is nothing after today's class

This morning I tried out one of the fitness classes at my gym. There are two LA Fitness locations within three miles of my apartment so I really have an excellent range of class choices during the times I am free. Since I am trying to be more consistent with my running, I decided to take the advice of many other runners and cross train with strength exercises. I have been told a body pump class is amazing for that so off I went. My happy little butt showed up 10 minutes early with my towel and water bottle ready to go. I figured, I can handle my Jillian Michaels DVD, I can handle a regular class. For those of you who think Jillian is super intense and the best workout of your life, I am here to tell you that you are wrong. That body pump class was at or even slightly above Jillian level and it lasted for a full hour. My arms are jello. It took a concentrated effort just to wash my hair when I got home. That said, I plan to go back on Thursday. Cross training on that level can only bring good results to my running efforts and the endorphin rush after I finished was pretty awesome. I would also like to add that it would seem the gym commercials are correct in their advertising, only people who are already in shape actually attend a gym. I was one of two non-twigs in a class of twenty this morning. It speaks to the workout intensity level that I did not think about this fact, or the fact that I looked like a sweaty pig half the time, until after the workout was over. Let's all keep out fingers crossed that my legs still want to work tomorrow for my scheduled run!

Monday, June 4, 2012

the challenge

My running history looks a bit like this: 
sign up for a 5k
train really hard 
run the race
don't look at my running shoes for weeks until another race comes up.

It is really easy to put my running on the back burner with school and everything else going on. No matter how much I enjoy the run once I'm out there, actually getting myself out the door has proven to be the most difficult part of being a runner. I would really like to change this bad habit and get into a more consistent running routine so that I can run longer races. Almost anyone can go out and walk/run a 5K with no training. That is not the case for a half marathon or any race that results in finisher bling.

I really want race bling.

More specifically, I want finisher bling from the Atlanta half marathon held in the city each year on Thanksgiving. So I brought it up to Steve this weekend and asked for his advice on the situation. He asked the typical Steve question "how much does this race cost?" and almost choked on air when I said $60.

Apparently paying $60 for the privilege of running 13.1 miles on public streets seems crazy to him.

He ended up having a really great idea though. He suggested setting a challenge for myself and making the "prize" the ability to register for the race. I thought about it for a minute and I came to the conclusion that this might just work. 

So, from now until the end of July I will be training as if I have already registered. If I can stick to the training plan while maintaining my grades during summer semester, then I will register for the half marathon. If not, then I'll be a spectator this year and pick another half marathon to try for in the spring.

It's a good plan because it gives me something to work for, but the reward won't allow me to slow down my training. I'm putting this out here in blog land for accountability. As I finish this up I am going to be heading over to the gym for some quality treadmill time. Wish me luck!