Old School

At the tender age of 42, I became something most of my high school classmates were at 18.

A freshman.

I tried this once before when I was 29, at the height of the tech boom.  However, it was The Tech Boom.  I didn’t need no steenkeeng degree.  All I needed was a computer and a lot of caffeine and baby, I was going to be rich.

Go ahead.  Ask me.  How’s that working out for me?

Anyway, several contract jobs and years of pizza delivery later, I wound up at BigHugeCo.  I do all right for a community college dropout.  I went from being horrendously in debt to being a landlord who is horrendously in debt (but this time manageably so).

Still, things have changed.  You can only handle so many hard drive crashes, printer failures, and spyware removals before you really decide to sell all your worldly goods, pay off all your debts, and go sell flowers in airport concourses with a shaved head and Gandhi robes.

So I decided to get a new skillset.  I already build web pages from time to time, so putting some paper behind that to give me cred on my resume seemed like a good idea.

Besides, I’ve changed addresses twice in the last three years, and wives once.  (And let us never do the divorce thing again.  Even amicably, it sucks.)  I also have a stepson now.  It seems if I’m going to tell him how important a college education is to his future, I need to back those words up with deeds.

So I am now a middle-aged freshman.  A lot’s changed since last I went.  I’m taking three classes this term.  Only one of them do I drive to school for.  During summer, I will never have to set foot on campus.  Is it because I’m going to a trade school on a par with one of those colleges that advertise excessively?

Well, no.  It is a two-year college, but from there I go to either University of Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky University or (should I win the lottery) Xavier.  And looking at their curriculum, a good chunk of their classes are online.

Online works great for history or some technical classes.  But I’d never take a math class online, not when you need an instructor to show you why two-plus-two-equals-four when you keep coming up with seven.

It’s odd going to nightschool.  Most of my fellow students are adults.  And I’m not even the oldest person in some of my classes.  Both my Basic and Intermediate Algebra teachers seem immensely relieved that the youngest person in their class is 23.  Well, last term, there was one girl from Russia who was 18.  One.  Remember when the older guy was the odd one in the class?

My current teacher is also a high school teacher.  All day long, he likely has to argue with 15- and 16-year-olds as to why they have to factor polynomials.  Instead, we say, “Can you do problem 17 for us?”  And so he does it.  He goes from a roomful of kids with raging hormones to about 25 people who treat algebra like really tough sudoku.

I know I’ll be nearly 50 when I get my bachelors.  I may even get a humanities masters after that.  Forget the doctorate.  I’d be nearly 70, and I’m not spending the rest of my life as a student.

For now, though, it’s just what I needed.

Back To School – Online Edition

This term, I am taking the Intermediate Algebra class along with American History and Web Development.  History and Web Dev are online.  Algebra is classroom lecture.

It took a little getting used to stepping back into a classroom last term.  Fortunately, I’ve had two good math instructors – one a perpetual student who realizes only half the class gets algebra, the other a high school teacher who seems relieved his final class of the day is teaching adults.

Online, however, is a completely new experience for me.  For American History Before 1860, it’s almost all reading.  My goal is to read so far ahead, all I have to do is post essays, do my two term papers, and take the midterm and final.  Doesn’t hurt that I’m a history buff.  I may even get a master’s in history so I can retire to a warmer client teaching history.  You think I want to do IT the rest of my life?  Are you frakkin’ kidding me?!

The first topic of discussion was on Columbus.  Was Chris a hero or a villain?  There were some who said he was a hero, just not a good one.  The rest of the class fell squarely in the villain camp.  Everyone agreed Columbus was, hero or not, pretty much a bungling douchebag.

Web Development…  Um…

It’s hard.  I’m one of four or five IT students in my class.  I’m one of two or three who’ve built web sites.  We have to eschew Dreamweaver for Notepad on Windows and TextEdit on OS X.  But again, I’m trying to work as far ahead as I can so all that’s left are the exams and quizzes.

Because Web Development is a technical class, and BigHugeCo is footing the tuition bill, I can do this class at work, taking little breaks here and there to work on the assignments.

The advantage to doing this online is I can work at my own pace.  Which is surprisingly fast.  Once up0n a time, I was a chronic procrastinating student.  Idowannadomyhomework! Now?  I want it all done as soon as possible.  I’ve got a lot of other things to do.

Although it’s funny now to watch AJ, a freshman in high school, panic on Sunday nights when he realizes he has a book report or a German assignment due Monday.  No, he does not appreciate his stepdad pointing out that getting it done early works better.  Nita and I discussed how we might instill this concept into him.  One of the interns at BigHugeCo said, “He’ll have to go to college to learn it.”

True enough.

Especially online.

Can My Stepson Do My Algebra Homework For Me?

I started classes tonight, thirteen years after I decided I was too tired for Statistics and C Programming.

Over a decade off from school leads one to…

DE classes, for “developmental.”  Meaning Jeff Foxworthy might have a field day with me on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Actually, Basic Algebra 2 wasn’t bad.  It’s more of a refresher course.  Frighteningly, my teacher is younger than me by about a decade, possibly more.  That’s right.  When I first moved to Cincinnati, he was probably playing Little League.

Or flunking fourth grade math, which he confessed to.

Surprisingly, I am not the oldest person in my class.  More surprisingly, I did not get a headache trying to do bizarre things with exponents in scientific notation.  I did get a headache from sitting in a classroom for two hours without a break.

The biggest surprise?  I can actually do math.

My tax lady will be shocked.

My stepson is relieved.  He now doesn’t have to do my homework.

On the downside, I’m not writing his book reports for him.