High Academic Pressure

Finals season–an extremely stressful time for 99.99 percent of college students, including the autistic me.

The most excruciating final exam on my list is from Ethics. The majority of the questions on that exam is 50 percent True/False, 50 percent Matching, and the only one who is not happy with the way it’s written besides me–and probably the other students in the online class–is my Ethics professor himself. According to him, the final exam was written by professors within the Humanities department other than him, and he can’t do much of anything to tweak it to his liking. This leads me to conclude that the people who wrote the online Ethics course had a high disregard for the busy schedules and lives of otherwise full-time college students like myself.

Don’t believe me? I have to write three consecutive essays within less than a month–all while I have to study for my third Geology exam two days before Thanksgiving and while everybody starts their Christmas shopping! I already turned in one essay about Bioethics, and I got a 66.7 percent because I didn’t explain the Human Rights Theory involving the unethical treatment of a certain group of people I wrote about.

What kind of a college course would require its students to write three consecutive essays in one month? That’s not fair, especially when some students, like myself, have an anxiety problem.

Meanwhile, I’m struggling with trying to transfer to a university of my choice and figuring out what jobs are available with my Associate of Arts degree should anything arise.

Tight Deadlines and Cosplay Blues

Tight Deadlines and Cosplay Blues

School has made me feel like I lost total control of everything in my life, including sleep. My professor for Intro to Ethics has made the deadlines for assignments, quizzes, and discussion posts extremely tight, giving me the impression that I have little time to get the work from my other classes done, especially Geology since it’s one of those Science credits (my last one) that I CANNOT afford to fail. I’ve taken three online classes in the past two years I’ve been at Broward College–Intro to Short Story, Total Wellness, and Creative Writing–and the professors sitting in front of the computer for those classes never gave me a hard time with tight deadlines for every assignment they wrote. Here’s what the assignment schedule for Intro to Ethics looks like.

Tight Deadlines for Ethics

If you pay close attention, the written assignments and quizzes are due every week. Since there is a discussion post to make every two modules (there are 6 discussions out of the 12 units), those are due every two weeks if not more.

Meanwhile, I have to do pretty much the same thing for my Intro to Mass Communications, only the professor doesn’t grade the discussion posts until everybody in the class has made a contribution to the discussion board. Also, I have to write an essay about what TV shows I watch–which you guys already know by now–and how I access them based on the chapter in the Mass Communications textbook on television. It’s not necessarily an academic essay because there’s no research involved, but rather an opinion/analytical paper. That’s due October 7th, if not sooner.

For Journalism, I have to write an article about a cultural arts event I went to by October 12th. It happened last Wednesday, and I managed to stick around long enough to interview the person in charge of the event, the artists showcasing their work, and the people attending the event because it was held around the same time as the Journalism class, which my professor had to cancel that day due to some obligation.

Geology… I just took the first exam on Thursday, and I found out via D2L that I got a 95%, which was very impressive because I never achieved that feat in my first exams for College Algebra, Statistics, and Biology. What’s stupid is that professor gave a 10-question assignment on plate tectonics two days before the exam that was to be due by midnight Tuesday. I spent a couple days grueling over finding the answers on the websites he provided in the assignment description, and I submitted it Sunday night, so I hope to God I did well on that.

To put this situation simply–and please excuse my French–I am fucking overloaded.

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Since Halloween is around the corner, I decided to cosplay the female version of Sora from Kingdom Hearts II this year. I Googled “female sora cosplay” for examples of people who attempted this cosplay, and half of the models were exemplary while the other half were just abysmal (I know cosplay is supposed to be fun and not competitive, but still). Then I came across this drawing.

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I thought it was perfect. The only problem now is finding the materials to match up to drawing. I already have the crown necklace, black faux-leather fingerless gloves, and black shorts, so that’s a start. Everything else is gonna be a mission.

Last week, Jack and I scavenged all over the mall for a black cropped hoodie only to find it in the one store we least expected: Justice, a tween girls’ store. I tried on one of the hoodies in a size 10/12, and it was a perfect fit. It was surprising to see that some of the clothes that are manufactured pre-teenage girls still fit me at age 21. Unfortunately, I have to wait for another time to buy the cropped hoodie. Hopefully they’re not sold out by the time Halloween comes around.

On Saturday, I went to Party City with my mom and bought yellow suspenders to modify them into straps for my upper thighs and hips. The real problem was finding the red fabric to sew onto my blue tank top, which comprised of 94 percent cotton and 6 percent spandex. I found that red fabric in the form of a catsuit, but my mom got beleaguered by the idea of me cutting even a sliver of the catsuit just for the sake of my cosplay, even though that was one of the many ways to go about it.

I want my female Sora cosplay to look adequate, but simultaneously I don’t want it to come out like crap. How am I supposed to use my imagination for this creative endeavor if there are people and things–my mother and the increasing demands of my college professors–restricting it? I’m just gonna have to do the best with what I have and the time I have left before Halloween–one month.

#CollegeProblems: Workload Anxiety

#CollegeProblems: Workload Anxiety

My first two years of college weren’t a very big deal, except for the part where I had to take two math courses–College Algebra and Statistics–the first year because I thought I had to take only ONE math class based on my Mass Communications major. I’m now in my third year of college, and although two weeks have passed since school started I’m already overwhelmed by Geology, Intro to Ethics, Intro to Mass Communications, and Journalism–especially the first two classes because they’re making my acne worse.

Geology is yet another Gen. Ed. Science requirement slapped onto me by the Gordon Rule, which dictates that I have to take two English courses (not a problem because I love writing anyways), two Math courses (didn’t like it, but I passed them with a B), and two Science courses (I took Biology last year, and I passed that and the lab with an A-minus). I don’t need the lab with Geology, but I’m still worried about the pressure the class itself is giving me. First, the professor talks through the PowerPoint slides a little too fast for me to write down the notes, so I had to print them from D2L–six slides per sheet. Not only that, but the test would be given on either the fourth week or the fifth week of class. The professor said it’s highly likely he will give the test on the fourth week. “[The test] is coming up fast,” he says. I know that the first three chapters are on the exam and that there is a study guide for it online, but I still feel it’s a lot to study for.

What can I say about Intro to Ethics? I like it so far because it’s a branch of philosophy revolving around the standards of every facet of society–the workforce, home life, education, even relationships. The only problem is that it’s a fully online course, and the professor teaching Intro to Ethics expects more from his online students than those taking his class on campus. His quizzes are comprised mostly of True/False questions, and you have to take really good notes from the online textbook in order to fully understand what those problems ask you. On the first two quizzes I got a 90% and a 75%. I got ten more quizzes to go and a proctored final exam that I may have to take at a campus that I don’t go to. As for the assignments–oh, my God. Each assignment has 15 questions pertaining to the chapters on which they’re based. The answers have to be written in our own words, citing where appropriate. I have no problem with writing stuff from my own thoughts once I have understood the material, but I saw no point in citing an answer that I wrote in my own words. I emailed the professor about this discrepancy, and he said that if the answer is written in my own words alone, then no citation is needed. If I have to quote something, then a citation is needed. Of course, for the first assignment I answered everything in my own words and turned it in two days ago. It’s due today, and the professor hasn’t even graded it yet because he only grades it within five working days after the due date. That further builds up the suspense, my anxiety. I hope to God I did fine on that assignment.

I’ve been off of the anti-anxiety medication Prozac for four months, and I hope this semester doesn’t force me to ask my doctor to take it again.

September is Back-to-School Month, NOT August

At a quarter after 5:00 this morning, I was surfing the Web on my Galaxy S5 in a fit of insomnia when I came across this article on CNN: Back to school: Why August is the new September. The author of this piece, Daphne Sashin, has been asking herself the same question I’ve been pondering myself for years–why the hell does the school year start in August and not after Labor Day in September?

There are 12,000 school districts in the United States, and when the school year should begin depends on the laws in each district. Although public schools in the Northeastern and Northwestern states begin the school year after Labor Day, most Southern states, including my home state of Florida, start the school year at least two weeks before the national holiday if not sooner. I was baffled when I found out that three states–Hawaii, Indiana, and Arizona–already forced the students back to school in late July. Don’t believe me? Take a good look at this map.

Source: CNN
Source: CNN

Turn your attention also to the list of school start dates in Miami-Dade and Broward County.

I tried looking up the school calendars from 1998, when I was in Pre-K, but they didn't turn up. So, I had to start the list from 2001, when I moved to Broward County from Miami at the age of 7. I apologize if my handwriting is illegible for some.
I tried looking up the school calendars from 1998, when I was in Pre-K, but they didn’t turn up. So, I had to start the list from 2001, when I moved to Broward County from Miami at the age of 7. I apologize if my handwriting is illegible for some.

In Florida, all 67 school districts open their schools at least two weeks before Labor Day to allow more instructional time prior to state standardized exams in early spring, the bane of the existence of both students and teachers alike. Earlier this year, the State House had the audacity to pass legislation that would allow schools to start the 2015-2016 academic year as early as August 10, which would make tourist-dependent businesses like Orange County’s Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando lose two to three weeks worth of money than they would if school started later. Then again, it’s up to each district to decide whether or not to change its planned opening to accommodate for said law. If you look closely at the list above, this is not the first time this has happened. When I was in 5th Grade (2005), school started on August 8, which was an unusual start date by even my mother’s standards. They did give me and my brother, who was in 8th Grade at the time, a four-day bereavement period to see our ailing father in Boston the next week but still, they should’ve given us more time to attend his funeral as soon as he passed away by letting school open the same day as our Northeastern cousins: the day after Labor Day.
One year later, Florida’s Legislature was smart enough to enforce the 14 days before Labor Day rule, allowing the state’s school districts to, as the name implies, open their schools two weeks before Labor Day.

When I have kids–if I even want kids at all, that is–I hope they get to see the day when their schools start the academic year in September, not August like my school system. Otherwise, it’s homeschooling for them, and we can start the day after Labor Day. The U.S. Department of Education needs to understand that autumn truly starts in September, NOT August.

#CollegeProblems: The Pain of Choosing Classes at the “Last Minute”

For the past two months, I’ve been dealing with the death of my grandfather, working on my first novel, studying for my driving learner’s permit exam, visiting New York with my stepdad, and trying to catch all 720 Pokémon–that’s basically nearly 20 years worth of those creatures, including their Evolved forms–in both Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Pokémon X, the latter which I got most recently. Unfortunately, there was one thing I forgot to do before I did anything else–register for classes for the fall semester at Broward College.

Last night, I asked my brother what Science class is best for me. My academic adviser told me that I have 12 credits left before I earn my Associate of Arts degree–I need three electives and a Science–and transfer to Florida International University. “When did registration for the fall semester open, Cristina?” my brother asked.
“April 29th,” I replied hesitantly.
I wished I hadn’t opened my big mouth because my brother got really upset at me for picking my classes at the “last minute”, even though the semester doesn’t start until August 24th. He told me for future reference that as soon as class registration opens I have to get on the ball and pick the classes I need immediately because the classes with the best teachers fill up in a heartbeat, especially in vast universities such as FIU. It’s not the selection of classes that I have a problem with, but rather the campuses I should go to and when I could attend such classes.

Two classes I picked–Intro to Mass Communications and Journalism–are at South Campus, which is close to home, and the other two–Intro to Oceanography and Ethics, are online. The only problem with Intro to Oceanography is that everything will be online except for the tests, which will be proctored at a campus half an hour from my place. That is something I don’t want to do because, unless I earn my driver’s license by the time school starts, my brother or my stepdad will have to chauffeur me there or I will have to take the bus. However, they said alternate testing options will be available (at additional costs), so I will have to talk to an adviser and ask them if I could take the tests either at the campus of my choosing or online. Another issue is whether or not I should take a lab for Oceanography. Each class I chose is three credits, which adds up to 12 credits, but the Oceanography lab is only one credit, making it 13 credits overall. Because I already took a lab for General Biology, I don’t want to overload myself by taking yet another lab for another science class, so I’m gonna talk to my adviser about that as well.

In the two years that I’ve been in college, I’ve never heard anyone tell me that “last minute” means “a month before the start of the semester” when it comes to class registration. Last night’s experience made me feel like I’m the most irresponsible college student in my family when that was NEVER the case. I may have chosen classes a month prior to the start of a semester before, but I excelled in all my classes just the same. This is my last semester in a community college, so choosing classes in a big university, according to my brother, will be a whole different ball game due to the fierce competition of getting the most hotshot professors for the classes required for my major.

AUTHOR’S UPDATE: I decided not to risk taking my exams for Intro to Oceanography at a campus farthest from my home due to transportation issues, so I switched to Geology since that class is held on the same campus as my other classes.

Here’s Something You Can Do to Stop the Testing Mania

Diane Ravitch's blog

As you probably know, No Child Left Behind saddled the schools with a heavy dose of annual testing from grades 3-8, and Race to the Top required states to use those test scores to evaluate teachers. Testing is out of control. The curriculum is narrowed, especially in schools that enroll low-income students, where the scores are lowest. Educators have cheated to save their jobs, and some lost their jobs, their reputations, and their freedom because they cheated.

No high-performing nation in the world has annual testing or evaluates teachers by test scores. The current revision of NCLB retains annual testing unfortunately. However, Senator Tester (ironic name) has written an amendment to change annual testing to grade span testing: once in elementary school, once in middle school, once in high school. My preference would be to have no federally-mandated testing at all, given how abusive this policy has proven to be…

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