It’s getting closer! Orientation starts next week and after that, nothing but the slog. Twelve weeks from now I’ll be writing my exams and I’ll be a quarter of the way there; a quarter of the way to Nirvana and the reinvented me. I’m still looking for the last book I need – Global Politics in a New World Era – but it probably won’t be in until the first day of classes.
I did take one step this week toward defining the semester. I signed up as a volunteer for The Gauntlet, the campus newspaper. I will offer my skills in writing, editing, and proofreading. I’ve already written an article which they may or may not find useful, creating a character (with my sister’s help) called the “Grammar Nut”. I wrote it in the style of a newspaper article. How odd, you say – writing a newspaper article in the style of a newspaper article!
But you know, I think it might be more useful to get some reporting experience – perhaps sports reporting or art critiquing. Perhaps I’ll interview the University President, or the football coach, or a few of the stage performers in the university theatre. That sort of activity would help broaden my resume a little – especially as the current version is far too heavily weighted with insurance stuff. Besides, it’s not like I’ve never taken a statement or conducted an interview. Transferable skills.
Actually, I’ve never really written a true newspaper article before, so I did a little research online to learn the required format and make sure I was getting it right. It’s not really all that difficult; there are four basic sections – Headline, Byline, Lead, and Explanation. This is very good stuff to know.
I know that it took me far too long to write the Grammar Nut article, but I’ll get faster. Let’s face it, I’m rusty. In school I won’t have all the time in the world to make sure everything is perfect, so I’ll train myself to make the first draft that much better so I don’t have to go through so many subsequent drafts. It’s about concentration, and focus – letting the thoughts flow as accurately as possible, so that there is less “tidying up” to do afterwards.
The organization thing reminds me of my Grade XIII English teacher – Mrs. Lewis. She’s taught me the most essential aspect of writing an essay: the format. Introduction, Point One, Point Two, Point Three, and Conclusion. In teaching me this basic template Mrs. Lewis allowed me to break my ideas down accurately, and create articles with sense and order. Dear Mrs. Lewis organized my mind better than any of the shrinks I have ever spoken to – and I’ve spoken to quite a few shrinks. I thanked her with a hardback copy of Wuthering Heights. I think that came up in one of the shrink sessions once, too.
There is something else I learned from Mrs. Lewis, too. I learned that I learn best from emulation. Oh, I can pick up something difficult if it’s thrust at me often enough, but if I see someone do what I want to do, I will understand it a lot better and will be able to do it well a lot sooner than if I have to somehow teach it to myself. I guess, all things being equal, I’d rather learn from someone who knows what they’re doing than from someone who knows what they’re talking about. There is a difference.
From that point of view school should be interesting. I know everyone has their style, and certainly the professors will have their own way of teaching. That said, something occurs to me that I learned in finalizing my first degree – the best way to remember things is to apply them to what you know and what you have experienced. To do your best learning, add the new material to something you already know – relate it to your current experience.
Example? I failed my Geography O’Level the first time I took it (or was it a midterm exam?) Despite all the studying I had done and the cramming of useless facts and figures into my young head, I just couldn’t relate it to anything I understood – it just hung there, nebulous information in the ether. I asked the teacher what to do – he suggested that I study the North American curriculum instead – apparently many classes were studying North America, just not ours. So I struck out on my own, worked through the North American sections in the text book, went to the library and crammed all sorts of North American facts and figures onto the personal foundation I had built as a good little Canadian boy, and it stuck. I passed the exam with flying colours, even though the teacher had chosen to do Western Europe.
Anyway, that’s enough for today. Things to see, people to – er, people to see, things to do!