Tales from Sark’s World: Back to School

There’s a reason why I’m a little late in writing my blog. Normally I’m just busy or lazy… or both. But I have a valid reason this time. I’m back in school!

Back in February, I started a course at a private college for Pharmacy Technician. It’s a step down from an actual pharmacist, and a step above a Pharmacy Assistant. It’s a year-long course with a lot of stuff jammed in. At another college, it’s a two-year course. So, the next year will be busy.

But, I’m still finding time to write. In the month and some since I started the course, I have found that writing is an escape from all the stuff they are jamming into my brain. It’s like a mullet. All the medical and anatomical stuff is like the front of the mullet, all business. While my writing is like the back, all party, or in my case, freeing.

The last time I took a college course was waaay back in 1999! So you can do the calculations, but its been a while since I’ve had to deal with classmates and such. The major difference between 1999 and 2013 is the age. Out of 13 people in the class, I’m sure I’m one of the oldest, with the majority of the people in the 20s. Hell, our instructor for the first course (the whole course is broken down into various sub-courses, which can be a week or seven weeks long), was my age!

It’s not a bad thing, but it has been interesting during our breaks to listen to some of my classmates. Sometimes I feel out of touch, other times, I just feel reeeally old. One thing that hasn’t changed is school mentality. Since my first venture into college waaay back in 1993, no matter how old, no matter where, people will always gather into little groups or couples, there will always be someone teased and mocked, and there are always people who just go their own way. Back in the day, I was just as bad. I tried to be in groups, sought safety or acceptance in numbers or cliques. Honestly, it’s frightening how easily we can be sucked into that.

Thankfully, I’m not the same person I was back then. I may not always agree with people, what they do, or how they act. But instead of focusing on their less desirable traits, I try to look past that and see the good in them. The great thing about my classmates is that there aren’t any true assholes. They are all cool people taking the next step in their lives. A few people in the class weren’t born in Canada, and English is their second language. I’m having a hard time, and I speak English! What they are doing in incredibly brave. I’m one of only two guys in the class. The other guys seems like a tool at first glance, but he’s not. He’s a character raising two kids on his own. I couldn’t imagine that. The rest of the class, the youngsters, all have their good and bad traits, just like me. But I’m hoping that by the end of this year, we’ll be a close-knit group.

The first noticeable difference between college then and now is smartphones and Facebook. Back in the day, we actually listened to the instructor and didn’t play around on the computers. But now, people chat on Facebook, send text messages, surf the internet, even play games, all while the instructor is talking. I wish I could say I didn’t involve myself in this, but I do. At least I only go on Facebook or answer texts when there’s no actual instruction going on. If I was the instructor, I wouldn’t put up with that. But, it’s a new century, and the trend seems to be technology and not personal interaction.

There is another noticeable difference between college from the 20th century, and college in the 21st century. Or maybe it’s just the difference between public and private colleges. But, when I last went to school, the instructors weren’t push-overs, and students actually had to do work. Here’s the thing, we have a textbook that we work from. We get assignments (or labs) for each chapter. Basically, the answers for the labs are in the textbook. If they aren’t written out exactly like it says in the lab questions, they can be found with a little thinking and searching. Out of 15 chapters( approximately 60 questions of more per lab), I’ve only had look outside the textbook a handful of times. Yet, at least two or three times per lab, a few of my classmates go up and ask the instructor about questions that they don’t understand, or don’t sound right.

Some are legitimate questions, but the rest aren’t. It just seems like they are taking advantage of the instructor’s good nature and the rare discrepancies between labs and new editions of the textbook. If it was all different students each time, I’d let it slide. But when it’s the same three, I just shake my head. Even when the instructor tells them directly that they are over-thinking the questions and answers, they usually ignore her. Who wouldn’t want a simple or easy answer? Thing is, I doubt other instructors will be so easy. Fortunately, these people are smart and hard-working, so I suspect they’ll change their tune when they have to.

I’ve also learned that a little knowledge can be dangerous. Some people in the class who have had some life experience, or related knowledge that is applicable, suddenly seem to know everything and have no problem continually spouting the answers and correcting the instructor. Thankfully, the instructor has patience, and knows they are fallible. I’m all for speaking up and questioning authority, but sometimes silence is golden.

The other end of that is have off-topic discussions. In a class learning about medical terminology and anatomy, questions come up related to our lives, or people we know and their ailments. In doing so, the topic may stray a bit. While some think it’s distracting, this is a part of the experience. It’s not just about learning what we need, or what’s in the textbook. It’s about talking about what we are learning, applying it to events in our lives, and maybe most importantly, participating as part of the class.

Despite all our flaws, mine included, I’m looking forward to the year to come. We may not all agree on things, our personalities my grind against each other, but I think we all realize we are in the same boat. It’s better for all of us to work together and support each other than to do this alone.

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