I had no idea what to expect when I started the classes at ASU. I did have an intensity of purpose I thought would carry me through and give me the courage to face and adapt to what ever situations were necessary for me to be able to benefit from the class. That did not alleviate the tension of facing a situation I have never dreamed I would have the opportunity to participate in and experience, not only the learning possibilities of the class but the total atmosphere present on the campus.
Before the class began I arrived early and sat resting on a bench beside the building I would soon enter and begin a new part of my journey. Students came and went individually and in groups on their ways to and from…. There radiated an intensity and unity about them. They were all working to acquire knowledge, achieve, accomplish their own goals and at home in this wonderful place of learning. Many were talking on cell phones, some chatting and laughing in groups and others alone and intent to get where ever it was they were going.
There were a lot on cell phones. I realized how far behind the world I was in some ways watching these young people rushing forward in their lives. I did not have a cell phone. I was not only lacking in my knowledge of writing but in so many other things in life. I had managed to get a home computer and knew how to type the things that I wrote but very little else.
As a student at ASU I would have the opportunity to experience many things available including a library that was so amazing I marveled at even the appearance of it let alone the contents and assets it afforded. The computer lab not only provided the most up to date equipment but was staffed by individuals that were so patient and helpful. I would soon learn to know and appreciate so much with their help that I remember them to this day. Knowing so little about so much was not only a handicap on my ability to achieve my goals but also in my confidence of my own ability and place in the order around me. If I had thought about everything it would have overwhelmed me so I would focus and work on one thing at a time.
I drew in a deep breath and released it slowly feeling a measure of relief from the tension that I felt. A few students passing made eye contact and I was not met with wondering stares about the old lady sitting on the bench…I saw a brief smile or nod of the head in greeting as they hurried on their ways. Soon others began to congregate near the door beside my bench. Some evidently knew one another and then there were some that appeared even more nervous than I felt. Conversations began and it was nearing time for the class to start. Most students were done for the day so the crowds and groups of people who hurried to and fro had diminished. It was time to head to class.
I was one of the first to go in. I hate to be late and had arrived so early I was ready to face my future. I did not think of it as only a class. I thought of it as a doorway that could open opportunity for me to accomplish many things that I desired to do. Doors can open and doors can close. I had the opportunity, but it would be up to me and what ever ability I might have or effort to work and achieve my goals that would determine the outcome from that point on.
One by one the other students arrived. It was not a large class but soon they were chatting and greeting each other. You could tell that most of them knew one another from before. They had had three to four years of college to meet and get to know one another. I silently sat in the chair near the back of the room and near the door listening and observing. Several students smiled and introduced themselves. There was a friendly atmosphere. Many of them seemed as nervous as I felt. I thought that odd, considering that most of these students were honor roll or deans list students. These were people who had worked and accomplished much in the years of their study.
The instructor arrived in a hurried entrance filled with authority and confidence ready to begin. He handed out the syllabus for the class and began to describe what the class would involve and what was expected to us. I did not know what a syllabus was. I could tell by reading that it seemed to be a list of assignments and a schedule of things involved with the class. I had so much to learn. I had to learn not only the topic to be taught but all that was involved in learning and ….I had no idea what all would be required to learn because I did not know enough to know how little I knew.
The oration flowed describing the different assignments and what they would contribute to our final grade and many different things that would be covered. One statement stood out to me as it was mentioned we would not have to review any of the basics of writing because every student there was at an advanced level of their education. I briefly wondered if he realized or had ever known that not all of his students were so well prepared for what was soon to come. So many things were covered in that first meeting.
One thing he did ask was if there were any in the class that smoked. I was one of two or three who raised their hands. He explained that since it was such a long class they would be taking breaks allowing the students to leave the building if they wanted or to stretch their legs.
I have a problem with my back. When I sit in the same position the muscles often begin to draw up into painful muscle spasms. I have to change positions. Now I may have fit in the desk but it was no way large enough to change sitting position to any great degree. The more my back hurt the more I fidgeted and squirmed. Soon there was a point appropriate to take a break and we were allowed to go outside or where ever we wanted for our ten minute break. I did not know until the class was almost over that every time the instructor saw me fidgeting he thought I was in need of a cigarette break. I had to laugh when I finally did admit the real reason. I wondered if he thought a nicotine addict could become a problem or was just being considerate in making sure we had our breaks.
I was quickly up and out the door. I headed back to the bench I had found when I had arrived. I could move and stretch and sit when I needed and yes….I did want to have a smoke break. I noticed several others had joined me and we quickly began discussing. We talked about the class, the instructor and some about what they had accomplished so far and how this class would contribute to their goals.
Time up…and back to class we went. The pace was swift in the progress of the class. We were not reviewing. We were jumping into the course of study. So much of what was being said, I did not even understand. I could tell by the expressions on the faces of the other students that they all understood and were moving right along. I felt as if they were almost speaking a foreign language. When ever there was a term I did not understand I wrote it down and would look it up later. I realized I would not only have to learn what they were teaching but would have to learn what exactly they were saying to do anything of worth in the class.
There were some simple differences that were easy to understand. I found my self when asked about this one or that one in the story phrasing my responses differently. I might say that this person or that person said this or that in their conversation or discussion. I could tell by the expression on the professor’s face I had said something different from what he had expected. The second time I spoke in that manner he could not resist rephrasing my response with something about the characters and the dialogue, the scene instead of location and a few other minor things that made my responses different from all others.
I would remember. I did remember and I liked the fact that he did not criticize or blatantly correct me. He simply rephrased my responses as he repeated them in his own answer and continued his discussion. I did not know if he was being deliberately considerate since I lacked the prior education or simply his manner of instruction to do so in a constructive way rather than critical.
By the time I left the first class I had a better understanding not of how much I knew but of how little I knew and would have to learn in a very short period of time. I still had the objective that if I learned I would have succeeded but I wanted to do my best. I had to try. I had a headache.
My husband was excited for me and asked all about the class when I arrived home. At first all I could tell him was that I had a headache. I then confided that I had never felt more stupid in my life and was pretty sure I was mentally impaired. I was not joking. He tried to reassure me and encourage me but I was sure he did not understand how advanced the others of the class were. He reminded me that I had wanted the chance to learn and I should be happy that I was getting what I had wanted for so long. I explained it would be hard to learn something new if I can not understand what they are talking about. I had so many basic things and other things that I needed to know.
He was right though. I had a wonderful opportunity and this was the start of an adventure. At that point I was a bit overwhelmed but began to work to learn and do my best. The other students had been friendly. The instructor was impressive in his ability and knowledge. His manner was one that did not make a person feel intimidated or embarrassed yet did not ignore or leave anyone out. This really was an opportunity to do more, be more, and grow in new ways. It was as if a door to a new world was opening and I was actually a part of it.
It was time to buckle down, get to work, step up and move ahead to see how much I could learn and what I could do. It was a start.