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Friday, January 20, 2012

Overwhelmed, Terrified, and Excited

Week one of semester two is now complete, and I left campus yesterday feeling overwhelmed, terrified, and excited. It was the oddest way to be. The sheer amount of material I know I will have to master in order to maintain my 4.0 (which is still my intention) is overwhelming. The amount of work I'll be doing and time I'll be spending doing it -- terrifying. The material? Utterly exciting.

Last semester, my first week of class was all about class syllabi and expectations.  Here's what we're doing, here's how we're doing it, this is what you'll need, this is when it'll be due. I remember being a bit overwhelmed with the brand new experience. I also remember stumbling initially and fearing I'd be unable to do any of it. Yet, I overcame. I succeeded. I'm trying to keep that in mind.

This semester started completely differently. Yes, there were syllabi. Yes, there was the presentations of expectations, supplies, and due dates. What changed is in all my classes, we jumped right into the material on the first day. In a couple cases, that was what made it overwhelming.

My very first class on my first first day was ENGL 1102: Literature and Composition. Lots of reading -- mostly short stories and poems with a couple plays. Lots of writing -- four essays total, plus the final. After going over the syllabus, Mrs. H had us write a story about ourselves in the story arc with introduction, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Luckily, she gave us questions to answer that guided us. After that, it was class introductions -- name, rank, serial number -- and literature definitions. All in all, not too bad, although our instructor has promised us it will be a tough class. I have a reading assignment due Tuesday.

Day two was BIOL 2113:  Anatomy & Physiology I. At 64 students, this class is huge. Especially when you consider my English class had 15 students. In fact, I don't think any class I've taken so far has had more than 30 students. Until now. So...big class. I made sure to get a seat up front where I knew I'd be able to see and hear the professor.

Class started as usual with syllabus and expectations. Dr. S told us we'd need the textbook package available at the bookstore. I had picked mine up last week, before the lines became ridiculous. The package contained lecture notes, a lab manual, a body atlas, a computer code for online access, a body systems DVD, a lecture DVD, and of course, the textbook, which is huge.  Huge! At seven pounds (yes, I weighed it), it reminds me of an oddly-shaped bowling ball.

As class went on, I quickly recognized that this class (and the co-requisite lab) would be taking over my life. Dr. S made it clear that this course would not be like high school anatomy. Rote memorization will not get us through. Learning and repeating the information from the book word-for-word will not work. We're expected to recognize and understand the material. Test questions won't come directly from the book. When completing our homework, we won't find answers word-for-word in the textbook. Understanding. Comprehending. It's actually a whole new way of learning.

Consider this the first class of your program would be a phrase I would hear repeatedly over the next couple of days.

My A&P textbook package from the bookstore
Last week, the Biology Department sent all new students an e-mail warning of the amount of commitment the class requires, advising us to re-evaluate our schedules and make sure we could devote the necessary study time. Included were the first three chapters of lecture notes and a suggestion to fill in as much of the notes as necessary. Dr. S also stressed that people who earn A's in A&P are those who come to class prepared. In the world of A&P, this doesn't just mean with notebooks and textbooks and writing instruments. In the world of A&P, preparing means checking the schedule to see what chapter the next lecture will be covering, pre-reading the material, and filling in the lecture notes. In other words, self-study. Lecture should be treated as review, not the introduction of new material.

This became evident when Dr. S jumped right into the first chapter of material. She didn't fill in all the blanks from the lecture notes; we're expected to do that on our own. If it's in the lecture notes, we're expected to know it. If it's not in the lecture notes, we won't see it on a test. The department has posted study aids including flash cards and games, and it's strongly suggested we form study groups. ::gulp::

Day three was BIOL 2113L: Anatomy & Physiology I Lab, the co-requisite for A&P I.  The lab coordinator came in and gave our orientation talk. We got the rules of the lab, the dress code, and the expectations. No pictures allowed. The other school I had originally considered suggested photographing the models for self-study, the school I've chosen forbids it for copyright reasons. If I hadn't already been terrified and overwhelmed after yesterday's class, the lab orientation would have done it. As it was, I was doubly overwhelmed, terrified, and excited when all was said and done.

The lab coordinator showed us the models that were available to us, talked to us about Open Lab, and then told us that when she went through her program, she treated school like a job. She got up, got her kids off to school, then went to "work" and stayed there until it was time to meet her children's bus after school. While she was at "work," if she wasn't in class, she was in Open Lab or otherwise studying.  Once she went home, though, work was done. I can definitely see the logic there, and I already anticipate spending a lot of time in Open Lab. Gotta learn those bones! And organ systems! And cell parts! Gotta learn it all!

After orientation in Lab, we sat at our lab tables and filled in the first chapter of our lab manual. Since the information coincided with the material from class that I had already prepared and been studying earnestly (like a good little girl!), I completed that without issue. I also managed to find a study group, get my first homework finished, and schedule group study time.

This weekend, I'll be reading for English; studying anatomical terms, organ systems, directional terms; and preparing for Monday's A&P chemistry lecture.  Overwhelmed by the amount of material, terrified by the amount of work, and excited subject matter. And ready to go back on Monday.