Midlife in College: One Year Down, Part 2

As I headed into my second semester at UAA after winter break I felt pretty good about myself and my progress. I had finished my first term with two As and three Bs and even managed to squeezed in a quick trip to Hawaii with Michele in October and not miss but one class session.

The spring semester began the second week of January but actually started in early November when I registered for classes. I set up a schedule that would be conducive to my mushing season but that was quickly put on hold with a broken finger making it difficult to run dogs with little to no snow and lots of ice on the trails. I had managed to sign up for three Iditarod qualifiers but I didn’t make it to any of them.

When I registered for classes in November, still in the middle of the fall term, I was forecasting on what would be happening both at school, in mushing and our dog training business. I told myself that I will have to keep spring semesters lighter than fall as I won’t have near the amount of time I do then.

I signed up for 16 credits and finished with 10.

Technology in Physical Education. This course is the first of what is known as the 180s triad in my HPER degree program. Each of the three; technology, wellness principles, and motor skills, were only five weeks in length and all taught by a different instructor. The technology course was fun. We learned about all the different technology that is used in our field. Everything from GPS systems to running shoes. We spent time in the Human Performance Lab and was introduced to Dartfish for an assignment. I used that program to compare gaits on my sled dogs. It was a lot of fun.

Wellness Principles. The second course of the triad. This was a fun course. It was five weeks of self reflection. A lot of tests and surveys on personalities, traits and skills. I really liked the instructor. She is a wellness coach and presented the material in a way that allowed us to reach our best potential.

Final grade: A

Fundamental Motor Skills. The third course of the triad. This course was a lot of work and a lot of fun. It was taught by the same instructor as the Intro to HPER last semester so I was comfortable with her teaching style and what to expect. The course was really two parts, observing others and how they move and do things like walk, run, strike, and kick and then observing ourselves on video and using Dartfish to analyze our performance. I learned so much about why I move the way I do and what I am doing right and wrong. The final exam was applying all that we learned by observing a group of third and fourth graders that came over to the gym to play games. It was interesting to watch how young kids move compared to adults and how their motor patterns are still developing.

Final grade: A

Introduction to Business. This was an easy course but not the best way to take it. It was online and the assignments included a very ‘buggy’ system that often scored correct answers wrong and the program crashed all the time. In short, being a small business owner for the past 20 years helped and hurt me. I thought I knew more than I did. I should have spent more time on the course. In fact I only spent 3-hours 47-minutes on the whole class.

This was a course that is part of my degree program and in my outdoor leadership concentration. I needed to get at least a ‘B’ and I did that. In fact I missed an ‘A’ by 0.08 points!

Read More : Midlife in College: One Year Down, Part 1

Final grade: B

Introduction to Public Health. By far my favorite course of the semester. It was a lot of work but it was all assignments that I enjoyed doing. I learned so much in this class, everything from epidemiology to interviewing public health workers, to sitting in on a panel of other public health professionals and much more.

This course was an online class and I enjoyed the interaction from my fellow students and our instructor. I enjoyed the class so much I am exploring minoring in public health as well. I have to thank my wife, Michele on this one too. Without her help and her tireless editing of my assignments I doubt I would have done so well.

Final grade: B

Anatomy and Physiology and Lab. In short this course kicked my butt. This course really separates the students from the part-timers. In this 4-credit course we spent six hours in lecture and almost four hours in lab a week. While I had taken this type of course my first time through college it was nothing like this one. It was nothing but memorization. I quickly fell behind because I just didn’t have the time to devote to all the studying. In my degree program you have to earn a ‘B’ in your degree-specific courses and by mid-seamster I was struggling with a low ‘C’.

In early March I decided it would be best to audit the course. I know I will have to take it again in the next couple of semesters and this course is a pre-requiste for a few of my other courses but with the low grade I would have to take it again anyway. In auditing the course I could still sit in on all the lectures and labs and get all of the materials for when I take it again.

Introduction to Ice Climbing. I really wanted to take this class and in fact I went to the first three sessions. The first two were spent in the classroom at UAA going over the gear, and bookwork type of skills. The third class was at the rock gym where we learned how to climb, lots of knots and earned our belay card. My finger was killing me trying to climb up the rock wall and I knew I would have a tough time out on the weekend field trip at Matanuska Glacier. At the last minute I withdrew from the class and decided to run in a local race at the Willow Winter Carnival. As I said before, the sled dogs will always come before school.

I plan on taking this course next spring when it is offered again. In my degree program we need six of these one credit outdoor courses and this is one that really interests me.

Crevasse Rescue. I withdrew from this course almost as soon as I enrolled. This is another one of the late-start outdoor recreation courses that are required for my degree program but the dates for this one conflicted with Nicole’s running of the Junior Iditarod.

This is another course I want to be sure to take in an upcoming spring semester. It is a subject that facinates me and I think it will be fun to learn the skills.

Introduction to Sea Kayaking. This is the first outdoor recreation course that I was able to complete as part of the degree program. It was a fun and informative class that was really three parts; One week in the class room learning the ‘book work’ of the course and planning our sea kayaking trip, two nights in the pool at UAA working on paddling skills and rescues and then a weekend in the field.

We were supposed to go to Seward and paddle out to Caines Head and camp for the weekend and work on our paddling. Because of bad weather we ended up spending the weekend at Kenai Lake. It was a fun experience but I felt a little out of place. As I said before I am in a school setting with a group of students half my age and I am not used to being a student and not a teacher. While I learned a lot about sea kayaking I know now that I have some limitations. Some are just the fact that I am getting older and can’t keep up the with youngsters like I used to but another part of me is questioning if this is something that I really want to do. I really enjoy spending time outdoors, especially with my sled dogs. That is an area that I excel at and very comfortable. Spending a week camping out with students and a couple of instructors, I am not 100% sure yet. There are still many more opportunities to take courses like this and hopefully by next term I will become more comfortable. Next semester I am taking river rafting and backpacking so I need know quickly if this is the path I want to lead.

As I sit and reflect on my first year back in school after almost twenty years I am proud of what I accomplished. I earned 25 credits. I got to experience a lot of great things, I met a lot of cool and inspiring people and challenged myself both physically and mentally. As I head into my second year I just hope it will be as fun and informative as this one was. I do not regret the decision I made a year ago to come back to the university but I do second guess myself sometimes if this is the right degree path for me. Starting next term there are a lot of leadership classes that I will be starting and more time spent outdoors. I am looking forward to the river rafting class and the backpacking course. Both which I am very comfortable in but what is the saying, progress isn’t comfortable? Let’s see what the next year brings!

This summer I will be taking a course in oral communications. It should be a fun one that is only about five weeks long and online. I am up for the challenge.

I have been asked many times why I went back to school. It is not for a new career or to advance in my job. In fact I think I will be doing the same thing five years from now that I am doing today. For me it is about self discovery and pushing myself mentally. It is not for a piece of paper with my name on it. I have a few of those already. Another one won’t allow me to charge more for my dog training services but maybe it will allow me to explore new ideas. I love to learn and love to be in an environment where I am exposed to new concepts and learning styles. I’m sure there are much quicker, and cheaper ways to acquire knowledge but sometimes age and experience can be a blessing and a curse.

Until next time…

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