Friday, September 21, 2007

In that case...

Assorted students and parents litter the Registrar's office foyer. Clusters are in line to take a ticket, others are clamoring to ask staff if they really need to take a ticket, and most are sitting waiting for their ticket to be called. So far the wait is upwards of an hour and a half. Today is the last day for students to add or drop courses and pay their fees for the Fall semester.

Current excuses for not taking responsibility include: "Can I get my fees deferred because it's the University's fault I grabbed the wrong loan application?" Right after telling me she knew it was last year's application but figured that would be alright because it's the "same information" (which it isn't). Clearly it's our responsibility to try and stop every student we might see with a loan application and verify if they are indeed applying for Spring/Summer loans (the reason the old applications would still be out on display), and inform them the new application isn't available yet (or it would be out). We must assume the student is a vegetable and therefore can not call the government to double check, nor simply verify the info on their website, and the least of all, not simply ask a staff member. Well, in that case...

"I don't have time to go get sixth course approval. No one told me I needed it." Oh, I didn't realize every staff member who was in contact with a student (instructors included) should be going over every single possible scenario and every policy as it might possibly affect the student at any given time with whatever it is they are trying to accomplish. I didn't realize the student had absolutely no responsibility or accountability as it related to their own registration and education. Well, in that case...

You've got to be kidding me. I recall getting two parking tickets in one day at Red Deer College. It was during the summer and I parked at a meter for the day (which is typically not permitted beyond a few hours during the regular school year). Earlier in the week I was plugging the meter for a quick stop in at the library after work and a commissionaire waived me off indicating I should not continue feeding the meter. Great, I thought, so, the meter policies are relaxed during the summer, excellent!

Two parking tickets in one day later, clearly this was not the case. The next day I approached the commissionaire who issued the tickets, politely introduced myself and asked him if I could possibly have one of the tickets revoked (because of the above experience). I said I now understood what I perceived was not accurate, and I was willing to pay the ticket, but was there any way to get the other one revoked? No demanding, no blaming, no avoiding responsibility--just, could you please consider my scenario? I was also prepared for rejection.

I'm sure it was due to my manner, but the commissionaire revoked both tickets and I never made that mistake again.

As for the students...we even have a paragraph in the academic calendar and the registration guide stating:

"As a student you are responsible for the accuracy and completeness of your own registration, and for fulfilling the requirements of your degree program. Therefore, it is essential you play an active role in obtaining the information you need to understand your requirements and to keep that understanding up to date. Specifically, you share the following core responsibilities with the university advising team:

- Take responsibility for your own development and decisions. Advisors are one of the many resources available to you, but the decisions and achievement are all yours.
-Consult an advisor regularly and play an active role in the advising process. Listen carefully, ask questions, and ensure a clear understanding of the information provided while communicating any unique interests or circumstances.
-Use a variety of tools (unviversity calendar, degree navigator, website, advisors, etc) to obtain and verify information, rather than relying exclusively on one source. Knowledge is power.
-Know what can realistically be expected from various kinds of advisors and advising in general. Getting the best advice possible means going to more than one source to take advantage of any unique expertise."

Accountability is truly a misapplied concept.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

At Wits End

Seriously. When I came home from my second class in Fiction Writing 1 last night, I really didn't know what to say to Rob. I was basically listless.

For three hours we presented our character outlines to the rest of the class. So far there is a former millionaire homeless man who lost his money to gambling (when his wife left him), and now every penny he makes (when he "stoops to begging") he donates (except when he buys deodorant). And he has dementia which he sometimes "sleeps off". Okaay...

Then there is the "hot" native drop out teenage street kid who left her perfectly fine foster parents to go in search of her drug addicted homeless mother, Nadia. Alright... Add to that another character who has "bi-polar psychosis 1", takes anti-psychotic drugs (or is that another character?), but has remarkably never lost a job due to this mental illness as her employers have always been "understanding". She also currently attends a university which she sometimes has to leave for months at a time because of these "episodes". MmmHmm.

Many of the characters parents were killed in car crashes (including mine), and none of them are married, but many are "amicably" divorced. Much of the incidental details were created on the fly by the writer(during a question and answer period), and I can't wait to see how many discrepancies arise as a result of one of us pointing out an inconsistency from when we were first introduced to said character. Currently there is only one character I would consider writing about because she's almost a dead ringer for what I was like as a teenager (no I'm not going to expound on that).

Over all, I'm not sure I would have signed up for this had I known what to expect. And once again, my expectations are getting me down. This is a senior, University level writing class--I expected the level of talent to match accordingly. Yet, I feel as though I'm faced with the same people who I took a writing class with at Red Deer College a few years ago (which required no portfolio or pre-requisites, and for goodness sake that was in College). : )


So, if this bunch is the cream of the crop out of 40 portfolios, what the hell were the other portfolios like? I'm not saying I'm a superstar, stellar writer by any means. Some of my character's flaws were obvious last night, and I'll endeavor to eliminate some of the cliches I perpetrated, but still.

Today I looked around at other classes online, but none really can compare to spending your time writing about imaginary people and events (with no final exam), not to mention no studying.

Fine, fiction writing it is.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

School's in

My first lecture in Fiction Writing 1 was last night. Unlike the first day of past writing courses I've taken, I didn't feel enthusiastic or excited after it ended. Of course it's hard to say if I'm just exhausted from work right now, as we're working scheduled over time every day until the end of September. Not to mention how trying it is dealing with some of these students (and their parents). Sigh.

A 25-30 page portfolio was required to get admitted into the course, and out of 40 possible students only twelve of us were selected. Although I truly expected to be chosen, I now feel a little unsure about what I've gotten myself into. The evening was mainly spent going over admin type information like expectations and assignments, etc. This is a full year course and the first half will be taught by one professor, while the second half will be taught by another (which is not typical). Each professor also has different expectations, so in the end we'll be receiving a combined grade from both (also unusual).

After the admin stuff it was our task to come up with a town, city or society which all the semester's short stories will be based on. I suggested a travelling carnival troupe called "ok carnival", and despite vocalized interest from a few classmates, we voted for a neighborhood called Greystone Heights in a fictional place called Loxley, Saskatchewan (patterned after Saskatoon, but the class didn't want to be hampered by the reality of Saskatoon--why, I don't know). Our neighborhood is comprised of a mixed class, mixed race group of people.

From there writers will each create a character and for the rest of the term we will write about any of these characters only in this neighborhood. I'm not sure if all the students realized how limited we would be in having only a neighborhood to write about (as opposed to a city, which was where my vote went), but we'll have the option of at least choosing from any of each others characters (as long as we don't stray from the character type established).

Our other rules include no violent criminal acts, a character can not be killed off, we can not magically alter time, and there are no fairies, elves or fantastical creatures allowed (unless we are writing "magical realism"--which the professor explained, but has such specific parameters I'm sure will prevent me from attempting the style). So far, only one student seems crushed about the forced non-inclusion of fantasy, but the teacher reassured him our characters could be delusional or insane, so there are ways around it.

I'm torn as to whether I should create an entirely fictional character, or one based on a real person. I've read that good fiction writing is based on either real people situated in fictional events, or fictional characters based in real life. Hard to say, but the woman I have in mind used to buy a stack of harlequin romance novels from me every couple of weeks, then sit outside the bookstore reading them while eating potato chips and drinking chocolate milk every lunch hour. I used to wonder what she would sound like if she spoke. Would she come across as dull and simple as she appeared? I think one time she even grunted during one of our transactions.

To use this person as a character model might be quite intriguing and challenging. What motivates a person to live in such a manner? What indeed.

Either way it's going to be an interesting and intense year of writing. : )