Back to School Jitters

I am so glad to be home! I just experienced today every reaction that all the local kids have been experiencing the past couple of weeks: the back to school reactions. And my symptoms were plentiful. Excitement, nervousness, loathing, disgust.

Starting back to school as a thirty-nine year old on a campus where the average age is under the legal drinking age is intimidating! My utter lack of technological competency was proven multiple times today. I spent the greater part of an hour worrying about how to get on to ELc, the electronic doo-dad site that connects you to your classes/classmates/professors. Finally when I sat down at the computer to Google my way through the daunting mystery, I merely typed “e” in the search bar and it fed me: elc.uga, the exact page I was fretting about for the entire morning. I felt accomplished and ashamed at the same time.

Entering UGA as a non-degree student has had a few dips and turns in the past few days and weeks, not knowing for certain if I had all my T’s crossed and I’s dotted. Just yesterday I threw myself onto my bed shaming UGA for all of its difficult complexity. My husband essentially told me to put on my Big Girl pants and pick up the phone to ask a few questions instead of whirling all the “what ifs” around in my head for another forty-eight hours. Sound advice.

But the complexity continued. In the form of driving and parking. I earned my BBA and my M.Ed. at this school nineteen and thirteen years ago and I live in the dadgum town and take most of these roads on a regular basis. But for the life of me I could not find my way to the parking lot closest to Aderhold Hall. Of course Milledge Avenue’s Bid Day held me up for a bumper-to-bumper fifteen minutes which shorted me out of the chance to make multiple loops around South Campus. However, I did manage two loops around the Ramsey center, forgetting that it was basically a one-way roundabout.

As I locked my car, leaving my chances of a parking ticket to the powers that be, I took another deep breath. So many unknowns to deal with in one day! I was enjoying reminiscing about my old college roommates and their time spent on South Campus when I looked down just in time to avoid stepping in a pile of barf. Fitting, since I had nerves that made me feel the same.

Finally as I set myself down in a chair in room 306 I remembered what it was like to be a kid. Yup, I was the only kid in the class who didn’t have a new book bag. The only one without a Trapper Keeper. The only one without Jams shorts. The only one who didn’t see the hottest summer movie that everyone was talking about. Only for me, in 2017, it was the fact that I was the only student who pulled out a three ring binder. With PAPER in it. Everyone else had their laptop nicely situated in front of them, Wifi ready and all. I think I pulled off a pretty good poker face, but inside I could feel an eight year old whose face was crumpling and ready to cry. Just because everything was new and different (different from 2005 at least!) I was ready to scream, “I quit!” fearing that if I didn’t even have my laptop with me, then I surely lack the qualifications to make it through this class. And everyone looked so young!

Luckily the professor started talking and sounded very interesting and by the time I got home, I had a pleasant smile on my face, much like the smile on my kids’ faces these past couple weeks of their new school year. I feel like I just had a giant dose of empathy for all the kids crying, kicking, climbing into bed with mom and dad, and whatever other coping mechanisms they use to deal with this time of year. Kudos for them for dealing with it Every. Single. Year. Back to school jitters are real; as real as barf on the south campus sidewalk.

Foreign Language: Word Math

STEM! STEM! Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, oh my! STEM is all the rage in the education field right now. And why not?!  Of course we want our children to be strong in these areas. As a kid, I always planned on becoming a scientist; it was my favorite subject for many years. I’m especially sure that my husband, the Georgia Tech graduate, would be immensely pleased if our two daughters love math so much that they choose to go off to study in the land of the White and Gold. In our family we always joke that my husband is “the math one” and I’m “the language one.” But I have to argue that learning a language is actually mathematical.

I find language learning – learning a foreign or as we say in 2017, World Language, to be a mathematical experience. World Language learning is the equivalent of Word Math. I started taking German in ninth grade and knew right away that I was going to soak up all the four years that my high school would offer me. My teacher was entrancingly enthusiastic and for me, learning a new language was like cracking open a treasure chest. Hey! There are new words in here! There are, like, ten more ways to say “hi” in here! I was hooked. How could someone not be interested in all these new ways to communicate to people? What was it like in Germany, anyways?! I had visited Mexico as a third grader on family vacation, but I just couldn’t transfer those hot fly-swatting, Coke-yearning, beautiful ocean images to a picture of Germany. My parents, on the other hand, couldn’t figure out where I scored this knack for languages. My mom confessed that she answered a college Spanish test question with: We playo in the snowo. Eeek.

Admittedly, my second grader could add 72 plus 36 quicker than me. Try as I might, the numbers just don’t stay still in my head. I try to visualize the numbers so I can add them but by the time I say plus thirty-six, I’ve already forgotten what I was adding thirty-six onto.  How can you add up two double-digit numbers if you can’t even see them?! But strangely enough, I was able to succeed at learning German. See, in German there are six ways to say “the.” SIX! It all depends if your noun attached to your article (the) is masculine, feminine, or neuter. Additionally, the article could morph depending on whether your noun is the subject, direct object, indirect object, or object of a prepositional phrase. My ninth grade English lesson in German class cemented the parts of a sentence in my brain. Which is probably why my skin crawls when people say I instead of me when they are the object of the sentence. My boss asked Sarah and I what we thought of the new proposal. I just shivered writing that. Back to German, though. Guess what? There is an entire chart to help you figure out how to say “a” in a sentence! Doesn’t that sound mathematical to you?! Or at least pop visions of an Excel spreadsheet in your head?!

You are probably bored reading my dull commentary on my passion. And I’ll get to Pitbull and Spanish in a minute, if that helps, but I thought I’d teach you some German real quick if you haven’t moved on to Instagram just yet. If you want to say: The man gives the dog the ball, you’d say: Der Mann gibt dem Hund der Ball. But guess what? Originally Mann, Hund, and Ball all started out as “der words” because they are all masculine. Mann is the subject, Hund is the indirect object, and Ball is the direct object. Being able to compose a sentence in a second language in your head and then speak it feels very mathematical to me. If you wanted to say in Spanish: Give it to me, you say: Dámelo; Give me it. So in mid-thinking from English, you have to switch the place of the direct object (it) and the indirect object (me.) Not to be confused with Pitbull’s infamous ¡Dale! If switching the order of words in your head before you speak them isn’t mathematical, then call me verrückt! Because I may not be able to add up double digits in my head as quickly as my eight year old, but at least I can say Gib der Mutter das Eis! (Give the mom the ice cream!)