2010/02/15

Maybe so

A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment with my Lit teacher. I wanted to know how to use the paper we write for her course as a submission for meeting an "outcome" necessary to my degree. If you're my age, the terminology is a bit confusing, but the bottom line is this: in order to graduate you have to demonstrate certain skills. These skills are called "outcomes," and at Marylhurst these "outcomes" may be met by demonstration of the skill rather than by enrolling in and then passing a course.

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?

Maybe so.

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 you I get credits as if you I had taken that college course. That's one way: PLA. I have twenty-one PLA credits so far. Students are allowed to accrue as many as 45 PLA credits in a degree, which is about a year's worth of school, and far less expensive than school would be. A lot of people finish degrees this way - even degrees started years and years ago.

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.

Maybe so.

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?

Maybe so.

3 comments:

Eva said...

Of course, Stephanie! Go for it. What did the teacher say?

Stephanie said...

Well, Eva ... it was an odd part of the conversation because (writer like) I never know if I'm writing well - if anyone else resonates with the writing - if I'm "a writer." So that's mostly what we were talking about.

My instructor was genuinely surprised that I hadn't realized that my future would very likely include teaching (which is what they've told our son as well - if you want to be in music and make a living, you'll teach at some point).

But it seemed so obvious to her that the conversation didn't even spend any time with that. She just said, "Oh, sure! Yeah. Absolutely. The college up by you has one of my former students at it ..."

A few more sentences and back to the point at hand. At the time, it was no big deal. Obviously a writer. Obviously ready for grad school. Obviously a future college instructor. To her, all of this was obvious.

Eva said...

As it is to me. My family and friends frequently note that you are a very insightful and good commenter. A good writer is someone who who can make nuanced ideas clear in writing. And you do that very well.