Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Shell Shocked

Well, I don't really know what to say about my enrolment yesterday apart from I felt rather shell shocked (I think that is probably the best description) and, if I'm totally honest, more than a little bit concerned as to whether I am actually going to be capable of completing the course. (I'm seriously hoping that it's not going to be as tough as I think it is!!)

To begin with, during the actual registration process, I discovered that the course is going to cost twice as much as we had been expecting. Now I know the actual amount, it's clear that the information I was given was the price per semester not per year but that was not my understanding at the time. (To say that it was a bit of a shock would be something of an understatement!). Chris and I discussed it last night when I got home and, because we can spread the cost, it should be alright. (He was so good about it....said he views it as an investment in our future and, despite the fact that I made the most of our time in Thailand, he knew that I gave up a lot career wise when we moved).

My timetable, however, is going to be considerably more difficult to work around!!

I had been told, but had seen nothing in writing till last night, that the course would be one evening a week followed by a full day and that they would run consecutively. When I got the actual timetable it turns out that my modules will both be in the evening and they don't run consecutively. Chris and I don't want to feel like we're living separate lives...we're just starting to feel like we have a life together again after all the hours he worked in Thailand.

So all this was going through my head when we learned exactly what is going to be expected of us over the duration of the two years.

We were told that reading a few books and being able to provide an accurate summary of the information and ideas was not going to impress any of the academic staff nor were they going to be particularly interested in reading about how one of our opinions could be justified by using someone's theory to back it up. If we are confident in our writing ability then absolute perfection will be expected and having good ideas is not going to be enough if we don't have the skills to express them, research their viability and implement them. (There are free courses offered on how to do this at the University). The style of learning will be very reflective and we will be expected to examine, critique and de-construct our views and actions and, through that process, show what we have learned and how we have developed. (Does that sound a bit scary to you? It sure as hell does to me and it did to the other two people that were there too!!)

I can see where this is coming from and why it's necessary. The third sector has been rapidly expanding over the last few years and is going to continue to do so (especially in this economic climate!!). Some organisations, like the one Chris's sister works for, do an absolutely amazing job (and manage to do it on a shoestring!!) but others....well....others don't do quite such an amazing job and it's those that give the third sector critics their ammunition (and sometimes make those that work in the sector feel as if they are banging their heads against a brick wall!!). All the tutors on this course work out in the 'real world' as well as lecture and they have put this course together as part of a wider agenda to try and establish an industry standard. The reason for the reflective learning is to look at more than just whether the targets were met but at how they were met (what were the experiences of those involved in the process and, taking those experiences on-board, how could the process be improved as well as challenging our core beliefs and perceptions of how things are, how they operate and making us question our own behaviour within that context).

I knew that the Masters was going to be challenging and that it was going to involve a lot of hard work and I was prepared for that. I wasn't prepared for the fact that I would have to go through such self scrutiny and I suspect that it is probably going to be a rather painful process. (Seriously, would you want to examine yourself that closely?)

I felt like I had reached a crossroads last night....I could choose to walk away from the University idea (I would probably still be able to get a job in the sector) or I could commit to the course which would give me the chance of having a proper career. Well, I'm not one to walk away from a challenge...and writing this has actually helped me process it all.

Anyway, I do have some exciting news to share too!! In order to be able to do the reflective aspect of the course properly I need to be actively involved in a community development role which I am not currently (mainly because I needed to know timetables etc before I could commit to anything). The course Director specialises in the health sector (He knows and works with everyone there is to know) and because of my experience in that area he has offered me a volunteer position within his organisation (I wouldn't be working with him directly it would be one of his colleagues). It's a win win. He would be getting a volunteer with experience (and who would be building upon that experience) and I would get the opportunity to put into practice what I was learning on the course, learn from people very knowledgeable in their field and work in a very prestigious organisation. I'm going to accept the offer (I think I would be mad not to!!)

26 comments:

  1. Well that's an interesting post.

    A lot of syllabuses are more scary written down than in practice, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. And reflective learning - isn't that what you do on the blog every week? Seriously, it is in a way.

    And evening lectures mean cheaper train fares.

    So there you have it, positive all round!

    Seriously, good luck; it will be great achievement when you complete it.

    M

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  2. I think it sounds like a wonderful challenge - the course and the voluntary work - and you will do much better once you start the course - this initial stage is bound to be full of thoughts like 'can I do it?'. If they thought you hadn't been up to doing the Masters I am sure they would not have suggested it to you.

    As for the academic side of making and proving a point - that would be there for the BA as well - it sounds like the stuff that the OU spouts anyway. Re the cost - when I think about the £1,560 a year I pay for the OU courses - I think how of many hours of pleasure I get out of that money over the nine months and then it doesn't seem so expensive.

    Go for it - although the being away from Chris on and off during the week would be the proper downside if I were you - sorry to say what you might be thinking, but that is the one thing that would put me off.

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  3. Glad you're going to accept the offer of that job, it sounds perfect.

    The costs for uni are horribly expensive, but I'm sure it'll all be worth it in the end (so says someone who never went, so what to I know).

    My son is loving uni, only been there three days, but having a ball. I hope he remembers he's supposed to be learning something too.

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  4. Well at least you are apprehensive and thinking deeply about the highs and lows of adult study. it is demanding and really the course descriptions are usually quite elaborate and can be offputing as a lot of lecturers like to big up the course! I know was one of them! No pain no gain eh?! The voluntary work should give you an element of the hueristic approach where the theory leads into the practical and the practical feeds into the theory. It will make it much more relevant on both scales. You'll do grand lass and it sounds just what you need. Go for it.

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  5. You will get all the help you need. When you get over the semantics of it. It's taking best pratcise in your studies and building on lessons learned. Once you start it, you'll get it.

    Tomato

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  6. Yes, this does sound scary, but even more, it sounds challenging and exciting and what's the point of doing it if it wasn't, eh? The job sounds perfect,too. Let's face it -- school isn't supposed to be easy and it will mean so much to you knowing how much you've put into it. And anyway, in a few weeks I bet you'll be loving it. You go, girl!

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  7. I agree with what everyone says here... but I'm going to email too. JJx

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  8. Most new challenges are scary. Once you get into the swing of things, I'll think you'll find you can cope. Sounds like hard work - but great fun and a good push in the right direction for any future career you might want.

    And congrats on being offered the volunteer job - sounds perfect!

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  9. Mark - Your comment brought a smile to my face. Thank you :-)

    I think it was the fact that nothing was quite as I had expected it to be followed by information overload that just threw me completely!!

    If I'm honest I have been worried about going back to Uni after all this time, especially having been out of the work place for nearly three years, and I just felt really out of my depth. I've had a couple of days processing time now and I'm feeling a lot better about it all.

    French Fancy - It is a wonderful challenge and it's really exciting but, as I said to Mark, I just felt totally overwhelmed!! Chris said exactly the same as you...they would not have offered you a place if they didn't think you were capable...I think I need to remember that when I have a 'aaarrrggg I can't do this' moment :-)

    Chris and I sat down and worked out exactly how long I was going to be away each week. He's going to go out of his way to pick me up at the station here so we're not away from each other as much as we first thought we would be. Plus, being sensible about it, the semester lasts....what...13 weeks? The timetable will change in January so it's not like it's going to be forever!! (Can you tell I'm feeling much more pragmatic today?)

    Debs - I got the job offer slightly wrong...it's not his organisation but one he works really really closely with. When I contacted him yesterday about it he had already spoken to the Director and he said that she was really excited about the possibility of me coming on board. (I'm taking the fact that he had already spoken to her as a really good sign). He also said that he couldn't promise anything but if all goes well it could lead to paid work which would be brilliant!!

    I'm so glad your son is loving it...I was going to ask you how he was getting on :-)

    MOB - I didn't realise you used to be a lecturer!!

    It certainly made me think very hard about whether it was definitely something I want to do...and the answer was yes. It's scares the bejessus out of me (I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing) and I don't think it's going to be easy but I certainly won't succeed if I don't try!!

    Christ, I was Chief Executive of a Social Enterprise when I was 30, I won and delivered on a big contract for an NHS Hospital with no help from anyone, when we were in Thailand I set up a People Bank of volunteers from scratch...I can do this!!

    Tomato - I am so going to hold you to that!!!

    As you may have already gathered, you are going to be seeing a wee bit more of me than you had originally anticipated...I'll give you a call tonight :-)

    I'm feeling much better about it all today...you know what I'm like...I just needed to get my head round it!!

    SueG - Your absolutely right!! It is scary and exciting and challenging and it wouldn't be worth doing if it wasn't!! I plan to do everything I can, and use every resource I have, to make sure I succeed. As I said to MOB...I can do this!!

    JJ - Thanks honey. I'm really appreciating all the support I'm getting from everyone :-)

    LadyFi - As I've got older...whenever I've come up against something scary I've tackled it...and every time I have it's never been as bad as I thought it was going to be. I'm sure this is going to be the same....it's going to be hard work but I'm sure it's going to be worth it!!

    Thank you re the job offer. As I said to Debs, I got it slightly wrong but it's still an amazing opportunity and one that I'm going to grab with both hands :-)

    C x

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  10. I'm with you on the shell shocked bit. i found out today that I have to complete three 5000 word assignments by next March. While working full time and trying to keep up my writing (me time). Halp! Kill me now.

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  11. Well, phew...that all sounds utterly terrifying. Actually, to be serious for a moment, I could sense your metaphorical shoulders un-tensing as I read through your post. The more you wrote, the less anxious you sounded, which is great. Well done you, I take my hat off in a sweeping gesture of respect and wish you great good luck. I've got a feeling you're going to relish every moment, albeit that some moments may be a bit harder than others!

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  12. DJ - Yeep!!! It's going to be tough juggling all that hon but I know that you'll manage and you'll do it brilliantly!! (and we can celebrate you finishing when you come and visit in May :-D)

    Tessa - Thank you for your lovely comment!!

    The process of writing about it all helped me greatly. My initial reaction was to run for the hills as fast as my legs could carry me (admittedly that wouldn't be particularly fast as I don't do running buy hey...you know what I mean :-D) but now...well, now I've got a bit more perspective on it all. It's not going to be easy but I don't see any reason why I can't do it if I put the work in!!

    C x

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  13. Carol, my friend Nicola ( 38 )two weeks ago, passed her exams to become a barrister, now she goes to Kings Inn Dublin for two more years, it has been hard for her, she was a physiotherapist and decided on something else, she had to give up her job, and work in a pub, somewhere in the evening for money.

    Same thing in Dublin, no money until she fully qualifies in two years, she needs €12,500 a year, this is borrowed from the bank, plus borrowing from family, and she is hoping she gets some kind of grant, if not she will have to borrow more money.

    Nicola got married last year, and she will only see her husband every weekend, we all met this afternoon for a meal, to celebrate her wonderful achievement, was it worth it I asked, after mentioning you, every second of it said she, it was hard, at times I wanted to cry, run away, scream, ( instead she vented to us, her friends ), Carol, she would not change anything, and urges you to follow your dream, she did, and will never regret.

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  14. It all sounds absolutely brilliant. I'm so excited for you.

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  15. I do admire you. I am sure that it will not be as difficult as you think and that you will learn a lot from the experience. Good Luck!

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  16. I'm so glad you've found some clarity after the initial information overload.
    It all sounds wonderful.

    And what great comments you've had here.

    Go Carol. x

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  17. Ann - You have no idea how great it was for me to read about your friend!! (especially the bit about it all being worth it!!). She has done brilliantly....please pass on my congratulations and tell her that I wish her every success for the next leg of her studies :-)

    Now the initial shock of it all has passed I'm starting to feel quite excited about it. I know that my strengths lie in the fact that I grasp concepts quickly and that I'm pretty good at problem solving but I also know what my weaknesses are too. I am worried about my ability to produce the standard of written work they expect and I think the best way of combating that is to sign up for the free courses. They will teach me the style the Uni is looking for and hopefully that will help me with my confidence in that area....I can but try :-)

    Helen - I'm still terrified but I'm starting to get excited about it too :-)

    Cheshire Wife - Thank you so so much for the support!! I'm really hoping that once I get stuck in it will not be anywhere near as bad as I currently thing it's going to be!!

    Lane - Oh so am I!! I felt really panicky about the whole thing on Tuesday night but as the week has progressed I've got it all into a bit more perspective!!

    I have had fantastic comments and lots of support....I do love blogging and my blog friends :-)

    C x

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  18. Glad it helped Carol, I knew it would, similar circumstances, she was the same, never thought she would pass such rigorous exams, and she passed with flying colours, I am so proud of her, plus we get free legal advice ha!.


    I will pass on your congratulations tomorrow, will be seeing her for 10 minutes, she goes to Dublin on Monday, yes starting so quickly, and the next time we will see her will be our Christmas girlie party in December, lots of drink, lots of food, more drink, and even more drink.

    You can do it Carol, nothing ventured, nothing gained x.

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  19. On the plus side, the Course Director wouldn't have arranged a placement for you in one of his friends' businesses unless he thought you would be an asset - after all, it's his reputation on the line. He must think highly of your ability already.

    I know you'll more than live up to his expectations! (Do I sound a bit biased? I'm allowed)

    Love Mum x

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  20. Hi Carol

    I can assure you that every student I've ever worked with a this level feels exactly like you. Two books I would recommend..... Reading, Writing and Reasoning (cannot remember the author(s)) but it is published by the OU Press. A very easy read and gets you back into academic writing, nice and gently. Secondly, the CIPD produce a great little book called Continuing Professional Development (now in its second edition)by Megginson and Whittaker which is good for starting the whole painful process of self-reflection and self-analysis. Both books are easy to read and great for starting to get your head into what is required. I'll also send you a set of matrials which I use with my Masters level students which might also prove useful.

    It is better to feel a bit wary as you can be more realistic about what is required, too laid back and it hits you later when you don't have the time to do the work! Perhaps this shell shock could form your first reflective acount about what you are learning about youself! (sorry - it is the tutor in me, I cannot help myself)

    Good luck - I think it sounds great.

    Traceyxx

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  21. Gosh - I'm full of admiration for what you are taking on. In a good way. Anything really worthwhile is bound to be challenging. I'm sure your study journey will be a fascinating one.

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  22. Ann - Thanks hon :-)

    Mum - I have good experience but whether I can translate that into producing good academic work is another question!! I just need to get my head down and work hard :-)

    Yes, you are a little biased but I would be more upset if you weren't!!

    Tracey - Thank you so so so much for the recommendations...I shall look at getting both of them!! (At the moment I don't have a book list for the course...I think I shall get that on Tuesday).

    I think it's good to let people know what's involved in the course up front but he really did scare the bejessus out of me!!

    Little Brown Dog - I'm full of apprehension for what I'm taking on :-). Your right, it's going to be an interesting journey and it will be worth it in the end. (I think I shall probably be repeating that statement on and off over the next two years)

    C x

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  23. Not sure why I missed this post last week... it seems the road to good intentions is paved with hell. This country's education system is notoriously bad at communicating clearly with potential students. I'm glad you're finding your way through the maze, and I'm sure you'll continue to do so. I know from my own experience of doing a masters that there were times when I thought 'why the bloody hell did I ever take this on?' but it was worth it in the end, as I'm sure it will be for you.

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  24. Queenie - To be honest, I've found the whole process painful!! It's one of those things though...the best people to make suggestions for improvements are not the ones that get asked for their opinions!! (I'm sure it's all perfectly clear once you are used to the system!!)

    Ha, I'm already asking myself that and I've not even been to a lecture yet!! Tomorrow night is my first one...wish me luck :-)

    C x

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  25. WOW. You have no idea how much respect I have for you!!! Big -- and worthy! -- undertaking!

    Pearl

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  26. Pearl - Awww, thank you :-). It's big and scary but I survived my first lecture so hopefully it will just be onwards and upwards...

    C x

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