Wednesday, September 21, 2011

C for Cohort

Hello, lovely reader! I’ve written before about the importance of a support system for adult students (and, really, any student for that matter). Much of what I wrote there still stands. In fact, the further I’ve gotten along in school, the more I realize just how necessary a good support system truly is. Sadly, I seem to have lost quite a bit of that support along the way as friends and family members seemingly all decided I’m entirely too busy to be bothered with (which is what they tell themselves, I’m sure, to feel better), but more accurately to bother with.

It seems everyone just thinks, “Elle’s too busy with school” without actually asking me if that’s the case. It’s frustrating. And while, yes, there have been quite a few times that I’ve said no to invitations, I don’t think it justifies writing me off forever. It’s frustrating, and frankly, hurts a little bit; especially when I consider how much support I’ve provided to individuals I suddenly find have abandoned me. I mean, really, how hard is it to send the occasional “How are you?” email or text?!

On the other hand, I truly don’t have a lot of free time. And while I feel badly about that, I also feel as though I’ve tried to prepare people’s expectations, and I’d hope that truly supportive friends and family members would understand that I’m never too busy for a quick chat here or there or a few emails or texts back and forth. I’m thankful for the few who do understand that.

I guess, despite my best attempts at explanations, a lot of people don’t understand just how much work it is to be an adult student who works full time and has a family of her own. I never thought it would be such a lonely and isolating experience. I am, fortunately, now involved with a group of people who do understand and can relate: My cohort—errrrm—learning community.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but the social work program I’m in is setup as a cohort model, which means we progress through the program together as a group. Unlike community college, where I had a new set of classmates for each class, I’ll be with the same group the whole way through social work school. I’ve only been in a school for a few weeks now, but I can already tell that the learning community concept can be both good and bad. I think it will be mostly good though.

I can definitely see the potential for lifelong friendships to form based on the fact that we’re all in the trenches together. Who better to provide support and lend an ear than those who are actually in the same position as you are? And, of course, it’s advantageous for a social worker to remain connected to other social workers for educational and networking purposes, and we all have that network built for us already. It’s just up to us to maintain it beyond school.

We’ve really lucked out, because there are three men in our learning community, which means both the female and male perspectives are represented. This is unusual, since it seems men don’t often choose social work as a profession. Our program coordinator told us it’s been a while since they’ve had a cohort, or learning community, that has included even one man. So, it’s pretty great that we get that male perspective. I, for one, am grateful for it.

So far I find my learning community, which is comprised of about sixteen students, to be a fascinating mix of individuals. Introductions have been interesting, and I’ve already learned a lot from, and shared a lot with, my classmates. We bring varied life experiences, ideals, and goals to the table, which provides for lively and interesting conversation and is a great opportunity to hear thoughts and perspectives different from my own. I already feel a sense of camaraderie with the group—there’s a good vibe—and I only hope that continues to grow.

Of course, the learning community model is not without its problems. You know how we all have those types we just don’t mesh with? (Be honest, lovely reader…if there’s anything I’ve learned from blogging and life in general it’s that none of us exists in a vacuum. Meaning, even when I think no one gets it or I’m the only one who feels something, I’m usually not.) Well, there’s a classmate or two I don’t see myself ever really meshing well with. That doesn’t mean there’s anything particularly wrong with these individuals, of course. It just means that, for one reason or another, they rub me the wrong way.

Now, combine the minor annoyance caused by those individuals you don’t really see eye to eye with, the fact that you’ve had a looooooooooong (and maybe wee bit stressful) day at work and want nothing more than to go home and curl up on the couch with a fun book or mindless movie, and you’re tired but facing four hours of class, and you’ve kinda got a recipe for disaster. Well, maybe not disaster per se. That might be a little dramatic. But, definitely, a bit of unpleasantness. But this is life. You take the bad with the good.

Right now, I’m choosing to see this one downfall as an opportunity to learn how to work with those people who just aren’t on the same page, or even in the same book, as me. I have to deal with it a little bit already in the working world, so it's really no different I suppose. Yay for learning character building opportunities!

Give me your thoughts, lovely reader. How do you deal with those you don't exactly see eye to eye with or whose personalities perhaps just rub you the wrong way?

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  1. I don't usually have a problem with people that think differently than me as long as we can agree to disagree. It's when they try to push their views on me that I get annoyed.

  2. Full-time grown-up student here, too! I personally hate when instructors make you interact with your fellow peers under the guise of it being educational but as far as people whose personalities rub me the wrong way...I read once that the thing or things you don't like about someone else is actually the thing or things you don't like about yourself. So now I love to meet people who have something about themselves that I don't like since I can use it to get to know myself better and perhaps make a change for the better in myself. And I also know exactly what you mean about people who should be supportive completely abandoning you, even though you have tried to be there for them even when you were extremely busy...people can really break your heart at times. Anyways, congrats on the 350 smokeless days!


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