Reflections on this week’s discussion and the educational systems I belong to

The in-class discussion was very lively. It was nice to break into smaller groups and get a chance to discuss the book and article in-depth. This gave us a better opportunity to hear the opinions of our peers and express ourselves without feeling very limited for time or like any one person was monopolizing the conversation. For example, Joe can be very quiet, but in our group he was able to have a voice and be expressive because there were only four of us. Atheer had an opportunity to express a counter-opinion to the rest of the group and make a strong case for the way he felt.
I’m not sure that I necessarily learned anything novel or new. We did immediately look up and discuss the meanings of the book characters’ names, which was an interesting exercise. As a fiction writer myself, I do invest a great of thought into the meaning of the names of my characters. The protagonist in my one completed novel was named Delores; she was raising a child with CF and had gone through a heart-wrenching divorce. The hero of the story, a minister, was named Christopher, which means follower of Christ. So obviously, if I put that much thought into the names of my characters, others must do the same. I should have thought to look up the names myself but for some reason had not done so. I guess I am not used to reading fiction for school. Anyway, the character names sparked a conversation about whether or not our names in reality have any impact on our characters. Do we live up to the meaning of our names? Does it in some way predict or form our personality? We discussed that at some length. It would be curious to do a study on that some time, although I’m not sure how you would measure that.
Another thing we discussed at length was chaos theory and how a change made to a system in one area can impact the system in other, unintended ways. These unintended consequences might be good or bad. Stacey talked about the Cobra effect and how the British government, concerned about the number of poisonous cobras in and around Dehli, paid people for every dead cobra. This worked great until enterprising people began breeding cobras for the money. When the government heard about the practice, they stopped paying for the snakes. This resulted in the now worthless cobras being released back into the wild, which created a worse problem than before. Stacey then described a more positive example in her own profession. She had just opened a school program in a part of town where theft was very high. To help with attendance and to ensure the students’ safety, she implemented a system where everyone would be checked in with an ID at the door, and her employees were all required to wear red shirts to be easily identifiable. Due to the location of the school, they were prepared for and even expected a high incidence of theft at the school, but in the first month that the school has been open, they’ve experienced zero loss due to theft. An unintended consequence of the check-in policy has been theft deterrence, as any potential thief realizes that the school literally has their number.
I am not sure I agree that the fact that I did not start an investigation on my own and track down resources says something about my way of learning and motivation for learning. It may be that this particular conversation didn’t spark my creative juices and get me motivated to learn something new, but that does not make me unmotivated or lacking in resourcefulness. I would argue the opposite. I can hardly think of a day that goes by that I don’t “Google” something because I’m curious to know more about a subject. I am a very self-motivated learner and so resourceful, people often think I just know a lot. I have been dubbed “the guru” by the faculty I work with. They believe there isn’t a thing about technology that I don’t know. When they find out I have to look up the answer just as they would, they are disillusioned.
I’m involved in at least three educational systems. I am a part of the UNT doctoral program as a student. This has been an interesting experience, as this program is sort of a hybrid between a fully online program and something else brand new. The summer meetings have allowed me to get to know my cohort and faculty members in a way I never could in a fully online program. I really know the people I attend class with. When I learn from Dr. Warren, I can read his very educated, intelligent comments and stern reprimands to support my statements, but I see the dichotomy of him in his flip-flops and shorts, relaxed, playing a video game on his phone. I don’t respect him any less for that, but he is more real to me because of that, and infinitely more approachable. I’ve gotten to know my fellow students over dinner or coffee or sightseeing, and we’ve bonded in a way that just working together could never have bonded us. That makes us a stronger team when working together in a group. We look out for each other. We help one another along. The system itself is similar to other educational systems, but being involved virtually in the system has disadvantages. If I have trouble with financial aid, as I did this semester, I’m at the mercy of phone calls and emails to straighten it out. There is no way I can go to the office and work it out. I can’t be a part of group meetings. I can’t do work-study jobs. I’m not even sure how a research grant would work out if one were offered me. All the climate and culture that goes along with being a student, from football games to dances to clubs, is lost on me and my peers as distance education students. We have the faculty and the advisors and one another, and that is it. So at times I feel like a UNT student, but other times, I do not really feel like I belong to UNT.
I am also a part of the A&M system, particularly Texas A&M University-Texarkana. I feel more strongly a part of this system than I do UNT. First of all, I am a graduate of A&M-Texarkana, and although I also attended this school online, I was close enough to campus to drive to it when I had problems. I attended functions at the school occasionally including an awards banquet where I received the “Student of the Year” award for my department, and I was employed there while still a student, working directly with some of my instructors. When I received the official job offer and when from an interim employee to a regular employee, the faculty member who headed the Instructional Technology department greeted the news with a loud “whoop”. I’ve been there for nearly three years now as a regular employee; longer if you count my internship. I hope to become faculty there once I complete my doctorate. I have a strong connection to the school as an alumni and a staff member, not to mention a member of the community of which the school is a vital part.
Finally I am connected to the New Boston Independent School District as a parent of three students. My daughters have been in attendance at one of the four schools in this district since we moved here four years ago. My younger two attended Crestview Elementary School the year we moved here and the year after that. Sarah remained for another year while Twila joined her sister at the middle school. Last year, Gloria moved up to the high school and Sarah moved up to the middle school. Next year, Twila will be at the high school, too, and in another year, they will all be there. I’ve not been heavily involved with this system. As a parent, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to devote to the things parents usually do. When the boys were small I was PTA treasurer and room mother and volunteered to chaperone field trips; when Mike reached 5th grade I homeschooled all three boys for 6 years and was vice-president and then president of our homeschool support group. I planned and organized field trips, supervised plays, taught cooperative classes, ran fundraisers. I just don’t have that kind of time with a full-time job and a full-time career as a student. I did volunteer two years ago to help with Gloria’s 8th grade dance, and will probably do the same this year for Twila’s dance. It’s the equivalent of a prom for the middle-school kids. I have not done a lot of other volunteering, but I’m in attendance at every concert my daughters play in, attend every awards ceremony, and support them in every way possible.

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