The end of my first semester in college is nearing, and I am working on choosing my courses for next semester. I have never been so motivated to select classes, as the variety and volume of electives offered is truly unbelievable. There are not just broad course names like “English,” there are actually specific courses that enable me to choose areas within English in which I am truly interested. No longer restricted by the boundaries of the careful and reserved high school teacher, my professors give the classes power and control to make decisions of their own.
In one of my classes I had to give a thirty-five minute presentation on anything. Yes, anything. At first I was pretty frustrated, as this complete freedom is still very new to me. Yet after time and a lot of thinking, I decided upon a prevalent issue among young adults my age, “How drug testing is used as a means of social control on low wage workers.” I presented my research, shared a series of interviews I had accumulated throughout the community, and I even led the class to believe they were going to be drug tested. In high school, I would never have had the power or even confidence to present something without any direction. In general, the respect students receive is like a breath of fresh air. Just yesterday, I did not finish a Spanish test, and without even hesitating, the professor said, “I will be in my office. Find a place to finish it and then bring it to me.” So unusual was this trust in high school that I could not help but be completely stunned that my professor was leaving the remaining test takers to our own devices (not one student took advantage of her trust).
It is getting much colder in Maryland, weather I am not at all accustomed to, but certainly coming to appreciate. The changing of the leaves is really beautiful; they blanket the ground and the students even arrange them into shapes. As the temperature drops, no longer are social gatherings outside or on the apartment porches, but within the close quarters of the not-so-spacious dorm rooms. Not everyone wants to party at the same time, however, and often the noise level far exceeds what our elementary school teachers would call “inside voices.” It’s not just noise, however; it has become quite common to see clearly drunk students staggering down the hallway, often totally unaware of their surroundings. Many RA’s (resident assistants) turn a blind eye and college nightlife can easily turn into the vague recollection of party after party. That is, of course, if you let it. There are many students who do abide by most parental guidelines, doing homework and reading at all hours of the day and night to ensure academic success. Then there is the middle ground, one in which I am starting to feel more comfortable. As long as I stick by my agenda guidelines and get my work done, college nightlife can be quite appealing, and certainly entertaining, even if you do not partake in the consumption of any number of substances that are (as I have seen and heard) pretty accessible. But this is all part of the experience, finding that balance as we develop into the new and improved college student.
Last week, one of my favorite high school teachers, Mr. Hood, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Hearing the news and being so far away was difficult, as I desperately wanted to be surrounded by my old classmates, those who understood what the world of education, learning, and so much more, had just lost. Incredibly, but not surprisingly, not just the graduating class of 2004, but Killian’s current juniors, seniors, and past graduating classes all came together. We all found some way to communicate with each other, whether it was forwarding an e-mail, making a phone call, or knocking on dorm rooms; we came together to comfort one another. Just knowing that Killian students who had experienced the wonders of this incredible man were all connected and united softened the blow and confirmed the connection I know I will always have to high school.
The holiday season is approaching, and I am really looking forward to the long break college permits. Until then, it is hard work, and of course some partying because it is all about that middle ground!