Back to School — by Jamie
This was a big week in the education-department for the Levines: Jayda started nursery school, and I registered for some important classes of my own. Both were big milestones for each of us, though Jayda’s transition was far easier than I expect my return to college will be.
Jayda has been at the same day care center since she was 3-1/2 months old. She’s always been ahead of the learning curve, and has been promoted into each of her classes at an earlier age than most of the other kids. Thus, in September, when many of Jayda’s friends (who are slightly older than Jayda) were moved up to the nursery school program, I expected Jayda would be following them. But due to classroom overcrowding and some annoying day care bureaucracy, she lagged behind for awhile. Ultimately, my daughter successfully potty trained, vastly improved her vocabulary, spent much of her time helping the younger kids in her toddler room, and, in sum, displayed what I felt was extreme readiness for nursery school. Fortunately, by the holidays, my relentless hounding of the school’s director finally reaped success, and to my relief, Jayda became the only child allowed to transition to nursery school in January.
Jayda’s first day in nursery school was drama-free for both of us. She took to the ground running—literally—and leapt out of my arms, shouting, “Mommy—LEAVE!” as she ran to join her old friends, who were playing happily in her new classroom. When I came to pick Jayda up in the afternoon, her new teacher informed me that Jayda had had a terrific day, and it had seemed “like Jayda had been in nursery school forever.” As I’d suspected, Jayda’s move into nursery school had been long overdue, and she’d been more than ready to get started there.
I, on the other hand, am likely to have more trouble adjusting to my new classes. I received a B.A. in Communication from the University of Michigan in 1991, and never imagined I’d be going back to college at almost-40-years-old. For more than 15 years, I worked in children’s publishing—as a writer, a school book club editor, a marketer, and a buyer—and have always loved my career. But sadly, as the result of corporate downsizing, I found my job eliminated a year ago. Freelance writing and consulting have kept me financially afloat, but I’m no longer fulfilled by my daily work, nor do I have the job stability I need as a single mother. After much soul-searching, I’ve decided to pursue grad school, specifically for Speech Pathology—a career that would profit from my occupational experiences and strengths, and provide the job-flexibility and salary I need to raise my daughter.
However, I can’t just take the GREs, apply to grad school, and get started on a second career. First, I must fulfill several Speech Pathology-related undergraduate prerequisites. And before I could even register for those classes, I had to apply to (and be admitted to) a special university program. Fortunately, I was accepted to the program at Queens College, and this past week, I met with an advisor to help me select my classes. At this late date (classes start at the end of January), most of the classes I needed were closed, and I was only able to get into two. But that’s a start. And what with commuting to Queens from Long Island twice a week, continuing my freelance work (I still need to bring in as much money as possible), and taking care of my daughter, I guess that’s enough to get my feet wet.
Because I’m a “planner,” it has been my natural inclination to map out my “school plan”—to consider all the work I’ll be doing for my classes, as well as the time I’ll need to spend schlepping back and forth to the campus. But not everything involved with going back to school at my age is so easy to predict. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to listen to a lecture, take copious notes, or study for a test. When it comes to being a student, I’m out of practice—as well as out-of-the-loop in regards to modern-day college practices. Even applying to school this time was a novel experience for me: When I applied to Michigan, I typed out my application and essays on an electric typewriter—and mailed a check to the school. This time, I applied online and simply entered my credit card number. A lot has changed in two decades.
This week, while I waited for my appointment with my advisor at Queens College, I sat in a waiting room with other prospective students, who, technically, were young enough to be my children. And that’s going to be an interesting experience, too. Things may be different in grad school, but right now, while I’m taking my undergraduate classes, I’ll be sharing lecture halls and assignments with young men and women who are literally half my age. And that will definitely be an adjustment—for me and for them, I’m sure. I’m fairly certain none of them will be juggling their studies with mother- or fatherhood, and I’ll be a novelty.
The other day, I told Jayda I was going back to school, and she got very excited about it. She wondered, “Is it a big school?”—like the elementary school we pass on the way to her day care center—and asked, “Will you be going on a school bus?” which is her own personal fantasy. And, of course, she asked if she could “come, too.” There is actually a nice playground outside the Speech Pathology department office building, and I may bring her there to check it out in the spring. While my time at school certainly won’t be full of fun and games like Jayda’s nursery school adventures, hopefully it will still be a positive experience. And I may as well show Jayda some of the fun that can be involved, since nothing—including going back to school—is a solo venture for me anymore.
Back in September, Jayda and I appeared on a local cable TV show in a segment about SMCs. If you’d like to check it out, here are the YouTube links: