Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24th, 2011 - Day 46 of 60

In my never-ending quest to make computing safe for students, I continued on with my faster-than-light campus rounds.  I had been moving all over the place for hours on end and was getting a tad fatigued.  Nothing sounded better to me than a nap in a hammock (if I had one).  As I was darting into labs and classrooms, there were gaggles of students looking around for their soon-to-be classrooms with furrowed brows; tenaciously clutching class schedules as if they were the map for the "Treasure of the Sierra Madre".  Many of them were animated in their speech, simply brimming with anticipation and optimism for the upcoming start of the semester.  I had one student ask me where, "Room Oh-3-2" was.  I told him that it was in the basement of the building and that seemed to illuminate a section of his brain: he got the point of the "oh".  There we so many young people with that look of purpose and determination, seasoned with uncertainty, mixed with positive excitement.  The start of the Fall semester in college is one of those watershed moments.  All the potential you imagine is within yourself is set in motion on that first day like the waters released from a dam's flood gates.

When the Freshmen walk on campus everything is possible.  Before the first day of class, everyone is at the top of the class.  All their dreams are intact, their future is golden, they are taking the first step toward realizing their full potential.  It is all good.  As time goes on, the preconceived notions of college life are brought into sharper focus via the lens of reality.  The best intentions of students suddenly become lost in the endless responsibilities of student life.  The ideas of incoming Freshmen are forged in a fire of optimism.  Very quickly, most of those fires begin smoking and some may even go dark.  It isn't an easy life.  It is like learning to juggle while riding a unicycle and buttering toast.  Yes, it is that hard.  My heart goes out to these kids.  Most of them are in over their heads.  They were not challenged in their old schools.  If they were lucky enough to attend a private school, a challenging public school or are self-motivated, things go better.  When their expectations are grounded in fact, that makes it better as well.  It helps to have a sibling or friend that did this before you so there is some idea of what to expect.  But when you walk in cold, all you have are TV shows, movies and urban legends.  While many of these students seem like they walked off the set of "Welcome Back Kotter", they imagine themselves in "The Paper Chase". The dream of double majoring in Physics and Philosophy quickly becomes a major in Math, which quickly becomes a major in Psychology, which quickly becomes a major in Communications.  The hope of having perfect notes, dependable study partners and a rigid schedule gives way to photocopied notes from a friend of your roommate's girlfriend, Googling "The Krebs Cycle" and reading over notes while watching your torrented copy of "Porkies 2".

Reality has a way of holding a mirror up to our faces without the benefit of letting us comb our hair first or getting us out of this unflattering fluorescent light. Many of these kids will be fine.  We have a lot of smart cookies that will go far.  We also have many who struggle no matter how hard they try.  It is heartbreaking to see.  To go from a bright future in your mind to feelings of self-loathing and insecurity is a vast swing.  Fortunately, there is endless help available if they only ask.  But for some it is easier to take a bad grade on a test than to admit they need help.  Part of the learning experience in college is outside of the books and lectures.  Part of it is learning how to be a functioning adult in society.  You learn how to make schedules, be on time, complete assigned tasks, socially interact with unfamiliar people, work in groups, work alone, ensure your clothes are clean, do you own shopping, etc.  It certainly can be far too much at once for some.  The last statistic I read was that only 56% of incoming Freshmen will earn a 4-year degree.  That is a hard number to face.

When we start out on our Reboots, we, too, have nothing but blue skies ahead.  Everything is possible and our expectations are out of sight.  As time goes on and life wears us down, we find it can become difficult to keep up with our expectations.  We can lower them, of course.  Some find that harder to do than just quitting.  Others find that the pressures of jobs and family are too much and they can't keep up.  All the issues that face our fresh-faced Freshmen are faced by Rebooters: Uncertain of how to proceed;  Always wondering if they are in the right place at the right time;  Meeting new people and adjusting to a new social circle.; Always trying new and unfamiliar things;  High expectations that are modified by harsh realities...  You get the idea.

I don't know if there is a "graduation rate" for Rebooting.  I know that a large number of people who were on the "" site seemed to disappear after a couple weeks.  I don't know if they just stopped coming to the web site and continued on with their Reboots alone or if they stopped everything.  Some may prefer the Facebook page, etc.  Still, there is a lot of difficulty with Reboots and it shows in many of the comments.  But, like the Freshman's dose of reality, there is no real failure.  All of this is part of the learning experience.  You are not only learning math, science and history, you are also learning social skills.  You are learning personal management, real life and how you deal with real life.  You are learning about yourself.  What higher calling could their be?

For those just starting out on the Reboot, all I can tell you is to enter into it with an open mind, flexible goals, realistic expectations and a conviction of mind to see it through, even if you fall short occasionally.  We don't know how we will react to situations until we are in their midst (or their midst is within us).  We have no clue what such radical changes (college or Rebooting) will do to us.  But we do know there is a support system that can help us out when we need it.  We know there have been others that have gone through this before us and can give us their options and their support.  Sometimes you need to take a break.  The only time there is failure is when you don't try.  If you don't try, you don't learn anything except how not to try.

When classes start next week, everything will be buzzing and exciting.  The chatter will be loud and animated.  This is just like the feeling one had when they first purposed to Reboot their lives and joined the web site.  Keep your goals in focus.  Don't let small setbacks sidetrack you.  This is a learning experience for us all.  We start out in a deep hole, sometimes.  We have habits (not studying for students, not eating well for Rebooters) we have to break and new habits to learn.  I am encouraging you all to look at the start of the school year as a start for your own "Reboot school year", as it were.  Learn more about the things that will give you a healthier life.  Learn how to take control of the things in your life that now control you.  And, most of all, learn about yourself.  I have a feeling that is a subject you'll use for the remainder of your life.

"You there, in the back row... are you chewing gum?"

I am 75% through the 60 days.

Weight: 148.4 lbs.

Food: Nectarine, apple, smoothie, banana, almond butter, nuts, broccoli slaw, cherries, cacao/goji/seed chunks (way too many)
My Pre-pre-masticated meal.

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