I am 73 years old. For the past couple years, I have taken 6 online courses as required prerequisites to be able to apply to graduate school at Ithaca College. I want to teach HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP SKILLS at Ithaca High School; a goal I have fostered since 1991. During the past near 30 years I’ve: met with school superintendents, principals, guidance counselors, social workers, gathered petitions from community members as well as students, written to PTA newsletters, guest taught with 6 teachers who support this effort and co-taught with a health teacher at Ithaca’s Alternative school…still being met with resistance, wary of vulnerability. This past year I have attended monthly curriculum committee meetings and Ithaca Mayor, Svante Myrick, wrote a letter advocating for this course to be made a priority. To no avail. So, I need a master’s in teaching to make something happen. Hopefully.
The first week of June 2020 I find myself on Zoom, with mostly, 20-someones for two online courses: Global History and Literacy, Reading and Culture. I am like a turtle when it comes to technology. I am overwhelmed and scared. And determined. But I would have been lost if it had not been for Claire, the woman who lives in the apartment above me. When I cannot get connected to the online classroom, I text Claire who is immediately here with the correct click. If only I can get through the first week, I tell myself, I can keep going. For the first two weeks, Claire is at my beckon call (should I thank the Design Of the Universe (DOU) that Covid has her working from home?). I tell her she is a godsend despite my dislike of the word god. (dog backwards) Like a dog, she’s my best techy-friend. It is hard to believe her repeating text: “I’m happy to help.” After completing two weeks, I breathe, I made it! Only 3 weeks to go to finish my first two courses. (obviously, this is a very intensive 13-month master’s degree.)
My global history professor, a man near 50, is flexible with this unusual will-not-be-teaching-history student. For my final project, I am supported to create a website for HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP SKILLS, not to be about history as the other students must do. I receive an A!
My literacy teacher, a younger woman, is not flexible and demands an assignment on my content focus (history) although it is really “social studies:” and I had already submitted the paper as HealthyRelationshipSkills content. I fail the assignment. My advisor is empathetic with me, but more sympathetic to her requirements. Shockingly, I also fail the Final Assignment due to her ‘rigid’ requirements – I wrote 4and2/3 pages, not 5 as required and was deducted points for that and other such quantities over qualities. I was shocked to find my final grade to be a C. According to Ithaca College policy that C dropped me from the program.
I felt stunned and hurt: misunderstood, and betrayed. All the diversity issues she had us read and discuss did not apply to me: the disadvantaged older student, not in school for decades and way behind in technology efficiency skills.
Within 24 hours, I recognized the DOU wanted to change my direction, the consequences of my due diligence were to feel proud that I finished two very intense challenging courses. That I was free for the summer, free to go with the flow of my heart once again. Free as a hummingbird in my flower garden.