Tuesday, 5 May 2009

My OU course materials...

...arrived last week.

I have to confess I had a couple of problems getting into the box at first.

Problem 1 on the left, Problem 2 on the right.

I like to think they were just excited for me.

But the real problem started when I opened the box up and started looking through the books and paperwork.
I felt stupid.

When I was growing up I was a smart kid. I read like a demon and school was easy, and therefore boring. Senior school was pretty much the same at first. Easy - therefore I didn't really have to put much effort in.

The first time I noticed it was with essays in English lessons. Friends would do draft after draft, I'd write one. Then when it was marked for the first time and handed back with suggestions for changes I couldn't do it. I'd written it and it was done. If I tried to rewrite the sections the teacher wanted changing they'd stick out like a sore thumb and wouldn't flow like the rest of it. So I'd get the same suggestions on the second draft, except that this time the lack of structure would get mentioned.

It ended up being that I'd just write the thing and then leave it. I'd hand in the exact same essay the second time unless I'd thought of anything I could add to it, in which case the whole thing would have been written again. Not rewritten - written from scratch. Because these essays were getting me A's and B's the teacher never seemed to worry that I didn't seem to be able to rewrite and edit my work. I can remember getting so frustrated with her and with myself. This was one of the main reasons I didn't do English for A Level and why I didn't do the IB.

I got 9 B's in my GCSEs. 9 B's with hardly any revision.

I'd try to revise. I'd read over the work and know it. So I stopped bothering. I knew the stuff, why should I waste my time going over and over it for a better grade - I was getting the good grades anyway.

The problem really started when I started my A levels. I didn't know how to work on the stuff that I didn't get the first time round. I had too many other things to worry about rather than the fact that the Chi-square distribution method I used in Statistics was different to the one I used in Biology. The Biology way made more sense, so that was the one I stuck with despite the worried notes on my Maths work.

I went from being a smart child, to passing 1 A level and dropping out of uni.

I didn't feel stupid, most of the time I still don't. I can remember ridiculous amounts of facts and figures about all sorts of things. Mike (our Sunday lad at work) is always saying to me that he doesn't know how I know so much stuff.

I don't know either.

What I do know is that after years of being the smart kid - my sister has a university degree and I don't. I'm not jealous of her, I'm fantastically proud. And I'm not saying that she's stupid, she's a smart cookie! I just can't quite work out why I haven't got one - where did the last 12 years go?

It's taken me two years to decide to do another OU course. After I dropped out of uni I signed up for one, and then bailed out part way through when I split up with Jon. Then I started it again the next year but bailed before the course started because I split up with James and then moved back home.

This time I am starting small. I'm going with something that will seem more like fun than work, partly because I'm worried that if I don't I'll just quit again.

I am doing Fossils and the history of life which is one of their short courses.

I have already read the reference book that comes with the course. (and that Amazon.com review has made me feel stupider - "the text reads like something intended for intelligent junior-high students").

I would like some advice on this, the course actually starts on the 16th of May but I am resisting starting it now. Should I be? Should I just jump straight in? I've got myself the study skills book so that I can learn how to study as I study.

What do you think?


Oh, and you may have noticed the lack of structure to this post. Well it does have some sort of structure, just a very random one cos that's how my mind works. I have about 50 posts saved that I've typed and then decided not to publish cos they aren't coherent enough, but then they never get published because I don't know how to edit them...

Oh. Piffle. Stop explaining Kate, the folks get it already.


Anonymous said...

Dear Kate - I am a member of staff at the OU and a former OU student. I hear the doubts you are feeling regularly from students and indeed I felt exactly the same when I received my first parcel of course materials. Don't give up - studying with the OU is such a rewarding experience, I would recommend it to anyone. Your tutor is there to help and support you through those moments of doubt and panic.

EmLah said...

i love u big sister, and i have no idea how i suddenly became able to edit essays in year 10. but then i had an awesome english teacher not a lemon like yours.

i had a shittier one for IB english, if it wasn;t for her i could be happily doing a masters and research into what gets lost in literal translation.

i hope that one day i can do what you are doing and have the discipline to actually push myself to learn something new. i always just let the learning happen to me.

love u big sister xxx

Michelle said...

I felt the same way starting my courses. I was just the same in high school - exams came easily for me, as did essays. And then I just got so lazy and far behind that I dropped out of HS.. and then started uni, dropped everything to move to England. Started uni again only to drop out when Elliot was born, then switched paths and dropped out again. Now I'm at it again and I felt incredibly stupid at the start of this course. All those big words. And then I started studying for my course a month early, got so far ahead that I took a break and ended up two weeks behind. I don't really know what advice to give, I'm not exactly a great example of succeeding in going back to school, but good luck. I hope you find the right balance.

Fred said...

Hi Kate...here via the Black Box. As for structure, none of my posts have structure. I have a hard time thinking of a title for each one because they're so random.

Three Legged Cat said...

I felt exactly the same way about my big box of OU German books. I felt even worse when I got started and thought 'Bloody hell - I don't get it!'

That was beginner's German - a subject I had studied at school and expected to breeze through.

OU study seems hard because you are on your own. But it's also easy, because you've got a tutor - mine was fantastic. My course had online portals where groups of us 'met' for tutorials. Suddenly I wasn't on my own any more. Everyone was finding some of the work difficult, so I stopped worrying and just tried to enjoy it.

In the end, the hardest thing was maintaining the discipline to do the work and not fall behind.

I really enjoyed the couse, but sadly I had to pull out before the end - I'd over-stretched myself with commitments to everything and anything; radical pruning was required before I went completely crackers. I'm going back though, but I'm setting fixed times for study and saying no to other things.

Good luck! I'm sure you'll be fine - and I bet you'll do better than I did!