Lessons Along the Way

“It took me nine years to get my Bachelor’s degree….needless to say I had a really good time in college.”    I tell this to every class I teach, and yes, it is true.  Interestingly this statement allows me to connect to many students for a variety of reasons:
• The dropped out/returning student
• The partying student
• The ‘I don’t know what I want to major in” student
• The I can only take 1 or 2 classes a semester because I am working multiple jobs while going to school student
• The student who is in a new relationship and instead of attending evening classes, spends time with their new ‘interest’
• The student with the crummy schedule because they didn’t register early
• And of course the “I’m never going to graduate” feeling student

I think I made just about every mistake I could make while going to school that prohibited me from graduating in a more timely fashion…

“Animal House” Toga Party

The “It took me nine years….” statement also allows me to talk about one of my biggest regrets from college, which strangely isn’t one of the reasons listed above.   My ‘If I could do it all over again, the next time I would…. “(drum-roll please)….. “realize college, in itself, has many valuable life lessons.”

That lesson that took me nine years to understand has strongly impacted how I help students learn today.

Going to college isn’t just about learning textbook content, there is so much more!   College is about learning how to do a presentation (dress professionally, strong visuals), not just the content of the presentation. It’s about learning how to write an email (complete sentences and a comprehensive message), not just emailing someone to ask a question.   It’s about how to work in groups (when to compromise, when to pick up the slack, when to allow someone else to lead), not just creating a final project.   And it’s about making lasting friendships with someone who has similar interests, not just exchanging contact information with the people who are in a group that you were assigned to.

These lessons are just a few of many; I’m sure if we all collaborated and generated a list of ‘what I learned in college that was not in a textbook’ our list would be quite lengthy.

Of course I help students learn about Pavlov and his salivating dogs, the stage model of memory, Schizophrenia and many other psychology topics.   And of course I am concerned about their level of comprehension on the curriculum that has been outlined for the class.   However, I  am also  concerned about those valuable non-textbook lessons that make college life more meaningful and memorable and our adult life a little easier.  So I help them learn those as well.

BTW-Ten years after introducing myself to a girl I was sitting next to in my cognitive psychology class during my last semester at UNM, she was the maid-of-honor in my wedding.


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