When I first "went back to school," I wondered about meeting outcomes in a lot of ways. Could I do that? Could I find ways to avoid taking freshman English and Composition for what seems like the twentieth time? (I took it myself, but at an unaccredited school ... and I've coached several other people through it ... please, please don't make me take the course again!) Could I find a way around it?
For one thing, there's PLA. In the PLA way of gathering credits and meeting "outcomes," you find a college course that teaches the stuff you already know, and then you write an extensive and specifically formatted essay for the Prior Learning Assessment department --- or, I ought to say, and then I write an essay---, an evaluator reads that essay, and then
Or, you could take a standardized test (CLEP tests and others qualify for this way of gaining credits and meeting outcomes). A student is allowed as many as 45 credits through testing, and I think I'll be able to test for about 27 credits for my degree. Will I be able to meet my basic math "outcome this way?" Well, that's the plan.
For meeting the "outcome" of basic writing and university level library research skills, there is yet another option. There is the non-credit outcome assessment. For a fairly low reading fee, the student submits a research paper and all of its components, and the assessor reads it, and then certifies that the student met this outcome. If you don't want the credits for it (and I don't - I want to put other classes into these places in my transcript), this is the way to go.
That's why I met with my instructor. I wanted to learn how to do this, and whether or not I could use the paper we are writing in this course as my submission to the evaluators. Can I do that?
Maybe so. Follow the directions, and then the answer is yes. Definitely so. My instructor is willing to read a ten-page paper instead of the eight-pager the course requires, so, yes.
But ... in the course of that practical and useful conversation, something else slipped in. Blipped past. Showed up, said hello, and moved on. I do not think the moment was as shattering to her as it was to me. Can't get it out of my head. I think it was important. I think -- well, I think I just got an invitation to a place I thought I'd left behind me about twenty years ago. I loved it there. I miss it. I thought I couldn't go back, but there, in my instructor's office, with one chance comment from her, it was as if a long-lost friend materialized and stood beside me. She didn't stay long. She just stood there until I looked up, she smiled knowingly - she winked at me, and she left as suddenly as she'd come.
She's a teacher.
I know her. She's the teacher I was becoming when I left the classroom two full decades ago. I thought she was gone, but ... well, there she was. She's not sad, she's not bitter, she's not the least bit tense. She's full of the focused, dynamic joy I always hoped she would be, and she thinks all my anxiety is a little bit funny. She winked at me!
Does a master's degree in Creative Nonfiction point the way, I wonder? Is it possible that the fleeting moments of, "that would have been an interesting life," are actually a kind of calling? Not grade school (which was never my first choice anyway), and not high school (which was my first choice, but which now is so bemired in K-12 politics that I have no taste for it). Not K-12, but college? Community college? Here? Where I live already? Really?