The first (half) week of school has passed, and I have some thoughts about my student experience thus far. First of all, I am now completely aware that backpacks can be very heavy when they include giant textbooks, a fact I didn’t fully appreciate when my students complained of sore shoulders, broken backs, and sciatica as a consequence of carrying oversized bags with boulder-sized books and massive binders. I spent a total of twenty five minutes with my backpack on, and I’m already committed to purchasing a luggage walker and wheeling my materials to class like I’m traveling on Southwest. Another observation is about the cool factor that I thought might emanate from wearing a Heschel backpack, a gift from a former student who said that “backpack style” is pivotal, and that I couldn’t roll with a Jansport bag, unless I wanted to be socially isolated. Nobody has commented on my hipster backpack, and I’m now starting to feel that the much cooler students wear leather, wind worn satchels. Also, about pens and highlighters; I bought a selection so I could properly take notes, annotate, etc., but it turns out that I haven’t yet settled on an approach about when and how to use each, so that I can capitalize on their respective powers. I’m never quite sure when to underline the text, or when to highlight it in green. My formula thus far? Highlight–generically important. Pen underlining–specifically important. Other news; I invested in a fancy Rhodia notebook, because the contour and texture of the lined paper forms the perfect surface for my inky blue ball point pen. The two go perfectly together. I’ve found that purchasing pricier notebooks yields tremendous benefits (like investing in comfortable pillows), the first of which is the aesthetic pleasure of taking down notes by hand, and second, less dependence on typing out notes which, while efficient, requires prolonged exposure to computer lighting, which burns the corneas after a while. To date, I have not procured a mini stapler (they give me nightmares), hole puncher (that’s be weird), and white-out, the latter of which I refuse to use because I don’t want to be seen painting over every mistake, and douchily blowing on a puddle of white smudge as I wait for it to dry.
During class, I haven’t looked at the clock once (I did once actually), and this is owed to the incredibly interesting and stimulating quality of the courses thus far. The first class on the schedule was an Ethics and Education course; the second, a course on Leadership, Learning and Cognitive Science. The third and fourth classes I haven’t had yet; those are Education and Law at Columbia Law School, followed by a course on Strategic Marketing. The remaining commitment is field work, where members of the cohort work with independent schools in the city on a variety of site specific topics and projects. The variety and diversity of the courses, together with the field work, provides such a dynamic lens through which to develop both as a learner, and then as a leader. This is so much better than a program that focuses on insipid leadership colloquiums, completely divorced from educational practice. Everything feels valuable, and the professors are intelligent, engaging, and challenging.
A question, however, has arisen, one that makes me empathize again with all the students I’ve worked with, both as a Principal, and an English teacher. The question is, how do I organize my work? The last time I was a full time student was back at UCSB, and even then, I did much of my work on a beach cruiser. It’s Santa Barbara. Grad school for literature at UCI was immersive experience, but I was still working. Here at Columbia TC, I’m an official, full time student, and that means I’ve had to reacquaint myself with the experience of managing a full course load. Here’s some things I’ve had to think about:
- What readings should I do first? Kuhn’s essay on the purpose of schooling, or “Getting Together,” an article written by our Law School professor on the value of educators and lawyers collaborating with each other. How can I best remember the central idea of each specific article? By summarizing them right after, or highlighting as I read, stopping to ponder interesting points?
- Where should I put my handouts, in a manila folder, or hole punched in a binder? I’m learning more towards the binder option, because the folders tend to bend the corners of the pages, something which drives me insane. Also, which books should I bring to class? The ones I’m certain we’ll use, or all of them, just in case?
Other less immediate questions have arisen, such as, should I wear shorts or pants to class, should I study at the coffee shop, library, apartment, or park, and, most importantly, should I put Hello Kitty stickers on my binder.