Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Sunday, August 19, 2012
I start classes on Tuesday as a college senior. Technically, I crossed over into having enough credits to call myself a senior at some point during the summer when I finished my first Summer A course for 3 credit hours. I am at the precipice of a new transition, getting so close to obtaining my bachelor’s degree, it’s a tangible thing. I was watching commencement addresses on YouTube given by some of my favorite celebrities – Steven Colbert, John Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey – and as I watched the graduates and speakers present in their robes on the stage and in the audience, I could feel that I, too, would soon be a graduate.
If I desired, I could graduate in December. If I add 3 more credits to my schedule in any upper level course, I’d qualify for December graduation. Yet, I haven’t done that. In fact, I dropped a class from my schedule to make sure I don’t graduate in December. After 30 years delay, one might imagine that I’d be eager to get this baby wrapped up and get my paws around that diploma – Bachelor of Science. Me – a degreed person. A college graduate. That intangible identity that I not so long ago believed would never happen for me. So why am I not making that mad dash to the finish line?
There is an old joke that goes around among the faculty and students of the University of Central Florida that UCF stands for YoU Can’t Finish (although I am now informed it’s Under Construction Forever.) That means that the one course you need to graduate will be full or not offered or on a campus too far away for the commute. That didn’t happen for me. The stars aligned and each course I needed was open or became open right when I needed it. I would take even more courses, if the Pell Grant and Stafford Loan programs were willing to pay for them (they’re not.) I haven’t had to commute farther than 20 miles to the south county campus. In fact, I’ve only set foot on the main campus in Orlando one time. I’ve taken a substantial number of my courses as online or combination courses, reducing my commute considerably. There has been a congruence, a harmony of events that has brought me to this point where I have actually had to make the decision to hold back from graduating.
My original plan for this semester was to be in Spain for a service learning project. I was registered to take creative and professional writing classes, philosophy, and just one psychology, all online, to qualify for financial aid while I spent 3 months in Spain teaching English to primary school children. Unfortunately, the program was dependent on funding from the Spanish government and it fell through. Before it even fell through, I had an anxious feeling about leaving, a feeling that things weren’t quite right. I’ve learned to listen to those intuitions. I am inevitably sorry when I don’t. There is a long story involving a dead deer, a crushed radiator, and a long-standing resentment towards Savannah, Georgia that stems from my refusal to trust my instincts. (I’ve gotten over that resentment; Savannah is a lovely city and the Georgia law enforcement officers we encountered were true Southern gentlemen.)
Once the Spain trip fell through, my eyes opened wide and, like being doused in cold water, I suddenly realized that Grad School is not going to drop into my lap. Yes, I was asleep. I figured I’d be in Spain, come home December 1st, study a little for the GRE (hah!) and get my applications out by January 31st. Truly, I did believe that. No hurry, no worries. It’s so nice to be oblivious. Yet once again, those nagging little intuitions were whispering to me, then scratching at the door, then kicking the door in. “WAKE UP! You haven’t done any service work as an upperclassman! You haven’t factored a quadratic equation in years! You won’t get any letters of recommendation! You don’t even know when the GRE test dates are!” My teeth are gnashing even now as I think how close I came to having to spend an entire extra semester as an undergrad, funded out of my own pocket, just to get the volunteer and research experience I need to be a desirable grad school candidate.
I’m awake now and scrambling. I’m committed to 3 different professors in three different capacities. I’m volunteering for a mental health private practice. I am slogging through GRE prep manuals to relearn all that math I’ve forgotten. I discovered that, if I don’t take the GRE in early November, there isn’t even another chance until February. I’ve signed up to do a two-semester research project and thesis. I’m out there and giving it all I’ve got. I’m ready.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
The first symposium session I attended was a presentation of research papers by various presenters under the topic "Research Blast—Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts". The first paper that stands out in my memory is Heightened Incidence of Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents
Involved in the Arts authored by Laura N. Young, MA, Ellen Winner, PhD, and Sara Cordes, PhD, of Boston College. The title pretty much speaks to their results being that they found of correlation between a tendency forward depressive symptoms and a high involvement in artistic endeavors. I suppose this reinforces the stereotype of the suffering and moody artist. Obviously, this is not a truth, simply a correlation. It may be that adolescents with depressive symptoms search for expression more often in art than they do in other areas like sports or socializing.
The next presentation that left an impression was by Monir Saleh, PhD, of the Art Therapy Institute in Dallas, TX. Her paper, Building Ego Strength in a Latency-Aged Group Through a Clinical Art Psychotherapy, discussed using art in an after school program with high risk children ages 6 to puberty (latency stage). Using before and after pictures done by a group of students, Dr. Saleh was able to show a marked representation of increased self confidence over the period of the art therapy classes. It was very interesting to me to see how some students became more exuberant in their use of color and symbols, whereas others who had started out exuberant actually became more controlled and monochromatic in their expressions. To me, these works stress what our children lose when we take art out of our schools.
Another take on art in education, although a different kind of art, was the paper presented again by Laura Young of Boston College entitled Access to a Musical Instrument Tops the List of Predictors of
Academic Achievement Across SES. This fascinating study showed that playing a musical instrument during childhood correlates with a remarkable increase in scoring on intelligence tests, even controlling for other factors such as visual arts and sports. Playing music appears to make one smarter. This study made me wish I'd pushed my older son a little harder to play music and it made me glad for my years of flute and piano. I hope this information becomes disseminated through our educational system so that administrators and those that set educational policy understand the importance of musical education for our children.
These papers were only three of the eight papers presented within a 50 minute block of time and only my first hour at the convention. There are more to come as I look back over my notes.