Like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, I was too busy working to get around to finishing my college degree. Now: I’m not quite half as successful as them… In my own near do well way, I have had a successful career. Finishing college has always been a huge incomplete, a crutch I have learned to lean upon. I have faked it by reading everything in sight and pretending that I am the smartest guy in the room, even if I’m in a room full of Mensa members. Like a guy overcompensating by driving a Vette, I overcompensate by being an insufferable know it all. Finally, after getting 3 daughters through college, I had a window to get my last four semesters done before my son began his college career.
I chose an on-line school and I am now about half way through. It is a sometimes humbling, sometimes exhilarating process the induces both cynicism and hope. As an adult learner, I decided I would not hide what I know, but still be open to new ideas. This has led to some lively exchanges with instructors who are younger than me and not used to being challenged. My economics professor, for example, didn’t quite know what to do with a 30 year Wall Street veteran. My strong, battle hardened positions were disturbing to his nice academic theories.He is, however, an enthusiastic and professional teacher and I value the time spent in his virtual class.
My mandatory composition class has been something else for author-guy here, I am hoping to maintain my sanity while dealing with a less than dedicated instructor. She is a grammarian and I have had to face criticism for my writing for the first time in my life. (Remember the movie Finding Forester?) She values form and sticking to a format over communications and marks accordingly. I have one more semester with her and if I can escape without total writer’s block, I will be surprised. She doesn’t teach, she second guesses. I am more than a little confused how to give her what she wants, she strikes me as a busy person who thought she could make a few bucks by “teaching” an online class. She doesn’t teach, return graded papers or participate in discussions. Or: maybe that’s me being the smartest guy in the room again.
The online aspect of the school suits me. I can work from the comfort of my home at any hour of the day. Make no mistake, you teach yourself. You have weekly readings, recorded lectures, occasional conference calls and discussion forums with other classmates. Luckily, I have a background in religion, economics and writing; being an adult learner allows you to bring more wisdom to your subjects. Sometimes, it seems like I am merely paying to get a degree in things I have learned through life, there is little actual “teaching” going on. My technology class, for example, used a service called Lynda.com to teach the basics of Microsoft office. Lynda.com costs $30 a month, my instructor did nothing more than grade assignments. So, the education cost $30, the college credits cost thousands.
All in all, I am proud to be playing their little game, I want a degree that badly. I am 56 and want to obtain a doctorate by the time I am 60, so I am paying my dues now in order to get to the good stuff. If you are considering finishing a big incomplete in your life, I recommend it highly! There is something about taking a lifelong excuse and throwing it in the fireplace and watching it burn that makes you stronger and more confidant.