Tag Archives: college

Stop Being Spooky, LinkedIn

I have a very weird story about LinkedIn that has puzzled me for three years.

It actually began six years ago, when I started my very first term of college ever, at Bridgewater College in Virginia. Bridgewater required that every student take a class called “Personal Development Portfolio.” It was kind-of a weird class. We read Siddhartha, and the Sermon on the Mount, and a lot of random philosophers.

There were only about ten students in the class, and for some reason the other students really disliked me. One day we had to take a bus somewhere and do a service project, and no one let me sit by them, which was the kind of weird petty thing that happened in books but that I’d never actually seen in real life.

To be honest, it was the first time in my life that I’d ever felt disliked, and it was kinda tough because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong (though looking back I have a few guesses). Now, granted, I’m sure it wasn’t literally the first time anyone had ever disliked me, but it was the first time the dislike was obvious enough for an oblivious person like me to notice it.

I only went to Bridgewater College for one term, and then I moved back to Oregon and went to community college, which was, to be honest, a much less snobby and entitled environment.

Three years ago I took a journalism class. The teacher required us, as part of the class, to set up a LinkedIn profile.

In my profile I said that I went to Bridgewater College in 2010, but that’s the only info I disclosed about my time there.

Imagine my surprise, then, when LinkedIn sent me an email suggesting I connect with, of all people, a girl that had been in that class. One of the one’s who’d disliked me. We didn’t have any connections in common. We hadn’t had any contact with each other since I’d left. Yet there she was.

This has continued to happen throughout the past three years. One by one, LinkedIn has sent me emails with the LinkedIn profiles of various members of that class, trying to get me to connect. I  just got another one this morning.

I don’t get it.

Besides the people in that one tiny class, no one else from Bridgewater College has ever been suggested to me as a connection.

No one from that class has mutual connections with me.

No one else has ever been suggested to me as a possible connection unless we already have some mutual connections.

After I left Bridgewater, I had no connection anywhere on the internet with anyone from that class.

I just don’t get it.

While I was attending that class I did, once, send an email to the whole class through my personal email. But surely LinkedIn doesn’t have access to my email records? And if they do, wouldn’t I get connection suggestions about the gazillions of other people I’ve emailed in the past six years?

I am completely baffled.

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MOP April 13: Vindication

I was pretty bad at academic writing when I started college, which was hard on my ego. I mean, I’d published a book and stuff, how dare my teachers make notes in the margins of my papers telling me to take a writing class?

Humph.

Still, being of a practical frame of mind, I signed up for an entry-level writing class the next term.

Our first paper was supposed to be an essay about “the worst job I’ve ever had.” I wrote something clever and funny, and brought the rough draft to class to get critiqued. I think the idea was to get into small groups and critique each others’ papers, but as the teacher wandered from group to group giving helpful hints he decided to grab my paper and read the first paragraph out loud.

Oh no. My paper was not funny and interesting as I had previously thought. It was, instead, vague and confusing. At least, the first paragraph was. That’s all he read before flippantly dismissing it, and I went home with my writer ego a squashed mess.

I ranted to my mom about it over a cup of tea.

“I once had a writing teacher who absolutely tore my work to shreds in front of the whole class,” she said. “Then when I became a successful writer I saw him again, and he praised my work up and down, and I felt vindicated.”

After I got over the sting of criticism, I re-wrote the first paragraph to be less vague and confusing. The next class session, my teacher immediately came up to me. “Emily! I’m so sorry last class ended before I had a chance to critique your paper!”

“Um, yeah, well I guess the beginning was kinda confusing so I changed it,” I said, tentatively handing my paper to him.

He began reading it. “Yeah, this is great. This makes so much more sense.”

My writer ego scabbed over nicely.

Today, five years and several colleges later, I was finished with class and walking back to my car when someone yelled at me from across the street. “Hey, it’s the girl in the red rubber boots!”

I laughed as my former writing teacher crossed the street and came up to me, shaking my hands as if I were the celebrity and he was a fan. “I love your blog!” he said.

Mwa ha ha ha ha, vindication at last.

 

MOP April 7: Making the Most of the Life Stage You’re Currently In

A picture of Jenny just because she’s pretty.


Right now, I want to write another book. I know exactly what I want to write. I sit and daydream about pulling out my pencils and digging into a stack of old notebooks and organizing my ideas. I research how to write book proposals.

But.

I am not at a life stage where I can write a book.

It took me a while to come to terms with this. I’ve tried for years to be a writer and a college student at the same time, and it worked, to some extent. I wrote things. Just not things like whole entire books.

I know that I’ll be done with college eventually and can write a book then. But will I? Deep down I have a fear that if I don’t find time to write a book now, I will never find time to write a book.

After my last blog post about the perks of having married friends, someone commented saying it was nice that I’m secure in my singlehood, because many people can’t view singleness as a gift. My first thought was this: It would be much easier to view singleness as a gift if I knew for sure that I would eventually get married.

There are many, many perks to the life I currently live. A young mother recently told me that I need to appreciate my long interrupted hours of reading while I still can. As a college student I get to spend the majority of my time learning, thinking over the complex and beautiful issues of the world. Very little in my life could be described as “mundane.” There is a carefree independence to being single, and college offers a way to make friends with an ease that will probably never again be replicated in my life.

However, neither one is a stage I want to stay in forever.

There are some stages of life that we just survive. Seasons of illness and times of grief, for instance. If you want to know how to make the most of those stages of life, don’t look here, I haven’t got a clue. But singleness isn’t like that, and neither is college, and neither is the stage of having wild young children, or grown children that haven’t gotten married yet. These are all stages we will one day be nostalgic for, and yet our enjoyment of them, right now, is hampered by our longing to be in the next stage and fears that it will  never happen.

I don’t exactly know how to change that feeling. It’s one thing to say, “appreciate the stage  you’re at now,” but what are some practical steps to actually doing it?

Then again, this isn’t Buzzfeed. I don’t need a list of “ten practical ways to appreciate the single college student stage of life (number 14 will surprise you).” Tonight I will celebrate my singleness by staying up past midnight chatting with an old friend, and tomorrow I will make the most of my studenthood by talking to Garrett who sits next to me in class. I don’t know why I don’t talk to him. He seems like a nice enough guy, albeit kinda quiet.

What stage of life are you struggling to appreciate? Any tips to offer?

Read Jenny’s April 6 MOP post here. Stay tuned for a post tomorrow on Mom’s blog.

Stress

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Photo Credit: Esther Mae Wilcoxson

I understand that stress is a normal/needed biological reaction, but doesn’t it seem a little ridiculous to you that our body has the same reaction to schoolwork as it does to being chased by a bear?

I go to great lengths to decrease the level of stress in my life. I take a lighter course load even if it means I stay in college well nigh forever. I miss the hippest parties so I can recharge after a busy week. Unchecked stress causes both physical and mental illness for me, and the trade-off isn’t worth it.

Still. Being in college means that stress is inevitable. It swims in softly, circles around me, threatening, until dead week due-dates approach and it clamps down on my abdomen with its cold spiky teeth.

(In my head I imagine stress as looking somewhat like an angler fish.)

“It’s just a test,” I tell myself. “I could get a B. Or even a C. It wouldn’t really matter. I’d still graduate.”

But the angler fish seems immune to logic, and it never swims away until the tests are over and the slap-dash assignments are handed in.

So here’s a question: Is stress at school inevitable? Or are we doing it wrong?

I have several rants that are constantly simmering in my head, ready to boil over if anyone says a trigger word. This is one of them:

WHY is success in college measured by how much effort you put in instead of how much you actually learn?

College students are supposed to put in 2 hours of homework for every 1 hour of class time. Why is this? Who decided that this was a good idea?

In college, I’ve had a few classes that didn’t just teach me things, they fundamentally altered how I viewed the world and humanity. One of them was a history class at Linn Benton. I loved it so much I immediately signed up the next term for another history class from the same teacher. Another was a population geography class I took this term.

But here’s the thing: These classes were not stressful. They had almost no homework. In fact, the other day I realized that even though I took them at different colleges, the classes were structured almost identically:

  1. A short, relatively easy quiz every two weeks
  2. A discussion every week on something we’d talked about in class, with the scoring based more on scope of thought than on following a specific formula
  3. A bit of in-class work
  4. No final exam

So here’s a parting question: If learning and stress are not directly proportional, why do schools treat them like they are? Why is there an assumption that more homework = more learning?

 

What We Do for Extra Credit

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I gotta say, dressing up and lip-syncing to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done for extra credit.

I posted this picture on Facebook and multiple people asked me for the full story. Goodness. How do I even begin to explain that class?

I guess I should have known what I was getting into. After all, I did go online and register for a class called “Small Group Communication.” But see, by the time I got around to registering, classes had mostly filled up, and I was blindly clicking on anything that fulfilled my graduation requirements.

It didn’t really occur to me until the first day of class that I had just signed up for lots and lots of group work. (Which, if you have ever been to college, you know can be ab-so-lute-lee brutal.)

This class though. About 1/3 of it is lecture, and the other 2/3 is group activity. One day your team is stacking oddly-shaped blocks. One day you’re trying to come up with a solution to the feral cat problem, while trying to ignore the team behind you telling each other wild stories about their aunt’s friend’s cat who mated with a bobcat and had a half-bobcat kitten. One day you’re crawling on the floor trying to get through a desk-and-string maze.

Let’s just say, I’ve gotten to know these classmates better than I usually get to know my classmates.

On Friday, my teacher pulled out the ULTIMATE class activity. Unlike other class activities, this was actually worth something. If your team got 1800 points, you would get 10 points of extra credit.

There were five rounds. Three were played Friday, and the last two were played today.

Now, I should probably add that for nearly all of the games, tests, assignments, etc, our class is divided into three teams. There is my team, “The Emilys,” which consists of me, two other girls named “Emily,” a guy named Marcus (who interestingly enough is married to a girl named Emily), and a girl named Grace. The remaining 7 girls in the class have a team, and the remaining 4 boys in the class have a team.

Round 1, each team randomly drew a card. The cards were worth an arbitrary number of points. My team got negative points. Lucky us. The boys got the most points, so they got to choose a team to humiliate. They choose us. We had to hum “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Rounds 2 and 3 were also mostly based on chance, and involved drawing cards. My team wasn’t particularly lucky. The girls got “humiliated” and had to do the bunny hop. The boys got “humiliated” and had to crow like a rooster for a minute and a half.

Just another day in a small group communication class.

Anyway, just before class was out, my teacher pulled up a song on youtube:

“On Monday,” she said, “your team will lip-sync to this song. Teams that do well in this exercise often bring props and costumes. Goodbye, have a good weekend.”

“How badly do you want to win this thing?” Marcus asked us.

“Really bad! I can make a lion mane! Can I be the lead singer? I have an African shirt!” I said.

I love this kind of thing. Not gonna lie. And furthermore, it seemed like we were finally going to get a chance to gain points based on effort, not luck.

So, I made a lion mane that weekend. I listened to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” over and over until I had all the lyrics memorized. I dug in the attic this morning until I found an African shirt. I tried it on, and it fit, but I couldn’t get it off so I wore it all day.

Unfortunately, the girls all showed up with jungle-animal costumes and choreographed dance moves. They were awarded 750 points, while my team got 500. The boys completely winged it, using the chalkboard eraser as their “microphone” and slapping it periodically to release a dramatic cloud of white fog. They got 25o points.

We went into the last round with the girls sitting pretty, and the boys and us duking it out for the remaining points. This also involved a complicated system of drawing playing cards, in which we were, once again, quite unlucky.

The story ends sadly: Everyone got their 1800 points, with the 10 points of extra credit, except my team.

Yep. That spectacular lion mane was all for nothing.

Now, throughout all of this none of us could figure out what the point was. All our games and activities are supposed to teach valuable truths about small groups, but what do playing cards and lip-syncing have to do with anything we’ve been studying?

“Now,” said my teacher, as my team slumped dejectedly in our chairs at the end of the game, a discarded lion mane on the desk. “That exercise was about power.”

Class was over.

“We’ll talk about it more on Wednesday,” she said.

So. I memorized a song, made a lion mane, and wore an African shirt all day until my Mom helped me wiggle out of it when I got home. And I got no extra credit. However, not to worry! I learned all about power! At least, I will on Wednesday.

ETA: My mom read this and said it comes across like a very juvenile exercise, and will make people question why on EARTH I am paying good money to take classes like this.

Fair enough. It was a juvenile exercise. However, I have to say, as strange as this class is it is oddly effective. I’m guessing, as far as retention goes, I’ll remember what I learned in this class much longer than in my lecture classes, because I’ll have these unique activities to tie the concepts to. (And also, this is by far the silliest thing we’ve done so far. So there’s that.)

MOP April 3: A Rant about Culture and Humanity

Amy food Blast, the evening is running out and there is a continuous rant about culture that is buzzing through my brain. It’s difficult to turn brain rants into coherent blog posts. But I shall try.

This term I’m taking a class on African anthropology. The teacher has a great grasp on culture, and I enjoy the class. With the students, though, it’s a different story.

The first day, the teacher asked us to write down the stereotypes that we associate with Africa. Then she asked us, “were those stereotypes mostly good or bad?”

“Bad,” we said. I mean, we’d all written down stuff like “poverty” and “danger.”

“Why do you think the stereotype of Africa is this way?” she asked.

In my mind, this negative view of Africa comes primarily from well-intentioned people who see something bad going on in Africa and think that Americans should be informed of this to help out in some way. And it works in a sense–aid money is earned for Africa–but people don’t always realize the huge negative effects of perpetually seeing another place in such a negative light.

I expressed this, but to my surprise, I was the only one in the class thinking along those lines. Everyone else who spoke seemed to say some variation of the sentiment, “oh, it’s racism.”

Now, I’m not saying that the colonialist and racist attitudes of the past have no effect on how we operate today. But just saying “it’s racism” is problematic in my opinion. Primarily because it pins the blame on an intangible enemy, and gives people the idea that if they’re not racist they’re not contributing to the problem.

In the next class session, the teacher began to talk about the nuances of culture. She asked us, “If you’re driving to school one day, thinking about whatever you’re thinking about, and if someone in Africa is going to school and thinking about what they think about, do you think you’d be thinking about the same types of things?”

Personally, I think we would be thinking about the same types of things, and I expressed this to my class. I mean sure, the specific things we thought about might reflect our culture, but that diversity happens even in our own classroom. When I go to school I, as a Mennonite, might be thinking about the next church potluck, while someone else in the class might think about getting together with his friends and drinking beer. Still, we’re both thinking about hanging out with our friends.

So many of the things people think about are universal things. Worry about grades and money. Daydreaming about the guy you like. Frustration with family relationships. Jealousy. Fear. Happiness. Loneliness. Everyone thinks about these things.

However, I was the only person in the class who thought that we’d pretty much be thinking the same things. Everyone else who spoke said that we’d mostly be thinking different things. No one gave specifics as to why until, after I’d spoken, one guy countered it by saying that those people would probably mostly be thinking about where their next meal was coming from. Are you kidding me?

I didn’t say anything back, because I really don’t want to be that girl who’s like, “I went to Africa for a few months eleven years ago, I know all about culture, everyone should listen to me.” But seriously? Starving people do probably think about food more than you do, but to say they don’t think about anything else is stripping them of their humanity.

And also, not everyone in Africa is starving.

And also, if this hypothetical person is going to school they probably have at least somewhat of an income stream.

And also…. Dear class. In the first class meeting, you insinuated that the pervasive negative view of Africa is not your fault at all, because you’re not racist. In the second class meeting,  you showed that you view Africans as fundamentally different than you. How does that compute?

I know that this is somewhat of a pot and kettle situation, because I, too, struggle with ethnocentrism. I’ve studied a lot about culture, but I’ve never gotten to know another culture in-depth, and I’ve never learned another language.

Still, this lack of basic knowledge on how negative stereotypes are formed and how they can be combated–and the importance of viewing people as first of all, human–it really disturbed me.

Cultural understanding is HUGELY important. When it comes to wars, and poverty, and pretty much every pressing world problem, if people can’t understand and communicate across a culture there is a very large possibility of well-intentioned people making things worse.

Yesterday’s MOP post: https://jasmucker.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/mop-april-2-an-apology-and-a-poem/

Monday, Mom will post at: http://dorcassmucker.blogspot.com/

Photo stolen from my sister Amy’s facebook. It has nothing to do with Africa but it’s related to culture so that’s why I chose it.

10 Signs you might be a Mennonite girl in College

1. You walk into a party and your friend says, “Hey, want a non-alcoholic beer?”

2. You get a job driving combine for a local farmer, and spend a significant amount of time thinking about the carbon emissions all this machinery must produce.

3. You mention “Jehovah’s witnesses handing out paraphernalia,” only to be laughed at and told that when modern folks use the term “paraphernalia” they are almost always referring to drugs.

4. People often ask you what religion you are, and when you say “Christian,” they give you a blank stare.

5. People swear and then apologize to you.

6. Someone asks your history teacher how the Amish came to be, and when he admits that he doesn’t know, you end up giving an impromptu “history of the Amish” speech in class.

7. Someone walks up to you and asks you to pray for their son.

8. While preparing a group presentation for class, one group member suggests that everyone come dressed in black shirts and denim “bottoms.”

9. You can tell when someone is comfortable being your friend, because they start making Mennonite jokes.

10. You, at some point, find yourself in a remote corner of the library making a makeshift head covering because you forgot yours.

(And yes, it is true that all of the above have happened to me at least once.)