Saturday, September 27, 2008

Piling it on

Just when I think I'm at my limit for stress and bad news, I get more. I told my grandparents today that I don't get steady problems, I get them in massive floods! So, on top of dealing with what I feel is near incompetency at the KSU College of Education, I was informed this evening that come November 1, we will no longer have a way to pay for utilities as my dad will have moved to his new rental house in Akron with his fiance. We were also informed that he has already stopped making the mortgage payments, so it is only a matter of time before the house is foreclosed on. Given the current financial state of the country, we likely have a good amount of time before the foreclosure actually happens since this property is hardly a priority, but that is a mute point if we don't have utilities. Unfortunately, as we discovered just recently due to the remnants of Hurricane Ike, not having power makes life somewhat difficult. The problem is that my mom is currently subbing (hardly a steady job) and her chances of getting a full-time teaching job are virtually non-existent, plus she has her own bills to pay as she pays off debt from necessities like dental work and car repairs. I am in graduate school, so working wouldn't be much of a help at all, plus I have over $20,000 in loans for school (thanks Kent State!). My sister is living here and has volunteered to pay the utilities, but her job is hardly well-paying and she doesn't have much in the way of savings either not to mention she is also in transition trying to find a career in her own field. It appears we may be able to stave off getting completely kicked out (at least until the house is foreclosed on), but eventually it will happen. I can see no way to overcome the mortgage since it is currently around $1,700 a month barring some miracle where we get an unexpected influx of cash.

It's frustrating mostly because I have virtually no control over what happens. Even though I am one of those who it affects most, I have the least amount to say since I currently have no income, nor do I really have the ability to contribute significant income until at the earliest May 2009. It's like I'm totally handcuffed, completely powerless, and still have to deal with all the stress and work from school like nothing is happening. Of course there's the emotional aspect too as we have lived in this house for over 25 years now and are about to completely lose it. Let's not forget too that on top of whatever work grad school throws at me, I will have to move in with someone else (likely my grandparents) and have virtually all of my posessions stored away in a storage locker or in someone's basement. Yes, we've known about this since May (see my previous post from May), but only now have we gotten a significant update on it. Just as I feared, it's not much time and nothing has really changed.

I have always felt that everything is going to work out OK, but it's hard to stay positive when I look at the situation with the information I know. I really don't see how everything's going to work out OK or how it could even be possible without an act of God. And while some may say having a place to stay means everything is OK, to me, the only way things will end up "OK" is if I get to stay in MY house or at least have a place to call my own and I don't have to worry about the poor decisions of others. Losing the house will NEVER be "OK." As I mentioned in previous posts, staying with someone-- even relatives-- is helpful, but it's not "my" place; I'd be a guest. In other words, it would be like being on a long visit of sorts where I can't settle in or truly treat it like I would my own room. We've all been on visits; eventually we get tired and just want to go home. I'll get to that point but won't have anywhere to go.

It's funny this should all come up today because I was thinking about it just before we found out as I mowed the lawn this evening and as I talked with a former high school classmate and his wife who now live down the street. I was thinking about how much longer we'd be here and what my relationship would be with Dad and his fiance as well as my kids' relationship to them.

I don't know; right now I just feel like my life is spiraling out of control and my world is rapidly falling apart. There is nothing I can do about it and no one really cares.

If I wasn't already irritated

Just when I thought I was nearing the end of the whole ordeal with me e-mailing the person in the Office of Graduate Student Services, WHAM! One of the things we had to turn in this summer was a prospectus-- a list of all the requirements for the MAT and when we fulfilled them or planned to fulfill them. Pretty much everyone in the program took care of that this summer, but because my advisor was out until classes started in the Fall, I haven't been able to take care of it until now. I turned it in yesterday after my advisor and I met several times and sorted through my requirements and classes I've already taken. I give my advisor a lot of credit as she has been patient and professional with me. I could easily fault her for not being up-to-speed on things, but my personal belief is that falls on the shoulders of the College of Education for not providing her with adequate information. From what she's told me, there are yearly meetings the College invites reps from each of the programs the MAT works with (like Music, Art, Science, Match, etc.). I can't blame her for not attending them much at all since I am the first music student in 10 years to go through the MAT. I tend to hate meetings myself, so I can totally sympathize!

Well, so my advisor and I pretty much came to an agreement that I won't have to take the choral methods and teaching methods classes this Spring, which would've conflicted with my student teaching. I did take what I felt was the equivalent of choral methods and teaching skills in three separate classes at BYU-Idaho, but my advisor, who is also in charge of all music educators, made it clear she doesn't feel comfortable with me not taking those classes even after seeing the course descriptions. Since she did not hear back from the assistant director of the School of Music, she reluctantly signed off. Again, I sympathize with her situation and position: if a student teacher is sent out and isn't ready, it makes her look bad. Part of the problem is she's never seen me teach choir before, so she has nothing to go by. The only times she has seen me "teach" have been in two short lessons in the class I currently have her for, that being the general music methods class where we are learning the Kodaly (pronounced KO-die) Method in teaching elementary and secondary general music. The Kodaly Method is something I am really not familiar with very much (I know of it, basically), nor did I have extensive experience with teaching it to kids, so I'm learning all that new with everyone else. I did have some experience in one class at BYU-Idaho for elementary music, but that class was more geared towards elementary education students including music in their classes, not music teachers teaching elementary kids. On top of that, having taught kids from ages 3-12 at church (almost completely by rote), I know it's one thing to teach a 4th grade lesson to a bunch of college kids, but entirely different to teach it to actual 4th graders. So no, so far my limited teaching experience with my advisor present hasn't been all that glamorous or encouraging for her.

OK, so getting back to the thing that REALLY irritated me today was yet another e-mail, this one from the director of the MAT. In her defense, she is merely the messenger from that same contact in the OGS. I turned my prospectus in this morning before coming home. This afternoon I received an e-mail that stated:

"Jon - [The OGS Contact] reviewed your recently filed prospectus and found that you need one more graduate hour to meet the required 39 grad credits for the program. Because your Reading course and your methods course are at the undergraduate level, you are still one credit short. I suggest you find a 1-credit graduate level workshop to complete your prospectus if you want to graduate in May."

Of course I'm irritated that I have to take another class since the ones I'm currently taking don't totally count towards my graduation since they are undergrad classes. That's not totally unexpected, though it is still frustrating since once again I am penalized for being in music. Because music rarely has people go through the MAT, they don't offer graduate versions of their methods and teaching skills courses, while many of the other content areas do offer them. What's more irritating to me is that I had brought this up in my initial e-mails roughly two weeks ago and it wasn't addressed at all; in fact, the response I got was almost insulting. I e-mailed the MAT director excerpts from my e-mails and the response I got back with emphasis added to illustrate this point. I had originally started to write more to include in the e-mail, but decided against including anything extra to avoid further miscommunication and misunderstanding. Here is what I sent to the director of the MAT this evening:

"I did notice that even if I took Reading in the Content Area, all the graduate level classes required from the MAT add up only to 38 graduate hours (13 Summer, 10 Fall, 15 Spring) since my content classes are not at the graduate level. Would that mean I have to take an additional graduate level class this semester or next so I have the required 39?"-- E-mail from Jon Ridinger to [OGS Contact], 2 September 2008, emphasis added

"I don’t what you are adding or how you are adding but you should get a total of 41 hours at the graduate level. If you do not need the Reading in Content Area, you should have a total of 38 graduate hours and then you would only need one more hour of graduate level course."
E-mail from [OGS Contact] to Jon Ridinger, 2 September 2008, emphasis added

" total of 38 graduate hours built into the MAT comes from not counting my fall methods course as a graduate class since my methods courses are at the junior (30000) level. If that counts as a graduate class, I have not been made aware of that."
E-mail from Jon Ridinger to [OGS Contact], 4 September 2008.

Note how the response basically acted like I was making a mistake in adding, even though I had explained in the previous e-mail HOW I got to that total. It makes me wonder how much of my e-mails these people actually read. Even the director of the MAT asked me personally how I got to that total and "didn't know" how I came to it, yet here we are and I was right, yet it took them how freakin' long to figure it out?

What I'm planning on doing at this point as far as classes go is sign up for two workshops as I have pretty much decided to drop my online class. I'm waiting to hear back from the Office of Continuting Education in regards to my question on whether the costs associated with these workshops are part of my tuition or are in addition to it. I REALLY hope they are included in the full-time tuition. As for the e-mail, I already felt like I had been dealt with in an unprofessional way, but this ices the deal. What I am planning on doing is contacting the associate dean of the College of Education and getting her take on this. She was forwarded my e-mails, so I'm assuming she is somewhat familiar with the situation. If she turns out to be less than helpful, I head up the ladder to the dean and then to the ombudsperson.

Still no word on student teaching. I have been told that my request to student teach at Southeast has been submitted, though I have no idea when I will know. In the meantime I have signed up for observations in the Southeast schools as part of my general music methods class. Should I be placed soon, then wherever that is will be where I observe. Speaking of Southeast, that was one of the positive things that happened today. I went down there this evening after piano lessons to watch the Roosevelt-Southeast football game. Roosevelt won 42-0 in a game that was already 21-0 before I even got there in the 2nd quarter. I took one of my piano students, who goes to Southeast Middle School, as it was Youth Football Night so he got in free. Of course I enjoy a win, but it was nice to see several people from church and Kent at the game on both sides and the weather was very nice. I will say Southeast needs to expand their football stadium. It's too small on both sides, but especially the visitor's side. It was very crowded and tight, in particular where the band was seated. There were WAY more people there than the seating could EVER hold. Anyway, now the buildup is on for the big rivalry game in the area when Roosevelt hosts arch-rival Ravenna next week. Both teams are now 3-0 in the league. Ravenna comes in with a pretty high-octane offense, while Roosevelt relies on defense. In their three league wins so far, Roosevelt has outscored their opponents (Field, Coventry, Southeast) by a combined 107-13 (24-7, 41-6, 42-0). Ravenna has outscored their three league opponents (Norton, Southeast, Crestwood) by a combined 128-83 (28-24, 52-34, 41-25) and both are fast teams from what I've heard about Ravenna and seen of Roosevelt. This year's game should be quite the exciting showdown!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gee Thanks Ike

I never thought for a second that when Hurricane Ike hit Texas Saturday morning that by Sunday afternoon we would not only be feeling the effects of the storm, but that the effects would be anything more than a rainy, breezy day. Boy, was I wrong! Sunday started out normal enough, partly cloudy and very humid (over 70% relative humidity on Saturday!), but nothing out of the ordinary for Ohio in mid September. During church, I noticed the wind had started to pick up, so by the time I got home around 1 PM it was pretty windy, though again, nothing we haven't seen before here. Even though this area is pretty heavily wooded in parts, we are prone to periods of high winds. I remember in high school experiencing wind gusts of over 70 mph (which is near hurricane force). Anyway, the wind just kept picking up and stayed pretty steady all during the day Sunday. I found out that evening we had sustained winds of around 40 mph with gusts over 60 mph. Hardly even close to as strong as when it made landfall in Texas (110 mph sustained winds), but still more than a simple breeze. It lasted into Sunday night, but surprisingly we really didn't get much of any rain. A little bit came through Sunday evening, but not nearly as much as we had gotten the previous days from another storm system. I took a nap around 2:30 after lunch and around 4:30 (4:38 to be exact) I woke up to notice that the power had just gone out. I figured it might be out a little while, but nothing more. Well, 59 hours and 29 minutes later, it WAS a LONG while not having power and there are pockets in Kent and around the state that are still without power. It started out as a widespread outage, but now is in very small, isolated areas. Even Tuesday night before our power came on, it was only our block that was out. The businesses along SR 59 and the houses adjacent to our neighborhood south on Powder Mill Road all had power long before we did. To be exact, we got power back at 4:07 Wednesday morning. One of the problems we had here with getting power restored was the fact that many of our regular workers had been sent to Texas to help get power back on line after Ike made landfall at Galveston. Maybe next time they can send workers from areas that nothing ever happens in like Utah and Idaho, or at least an area that had no chance of being affected by a storm for the next week or so. While the damage was a bit unexpected, the path of the storm was not.

Not having power for any period of time is annoying, but after almost 3 days I was getting a little frustrated, though we made do. I can only imagine how awful it is for people who lose power for weeks because of much worse disasters, like Hurricane Katrina or even Ike in Texas. Late Monday morning Mom and I loaded up all our frozen goods and took them over to my Derby grandparents' house in Kent since they have a large second freezer. Our fridge basically functioned as an oversized cooler as we got bags of ice and those freezer blocks used in coolers. Everything seemed to manage OK. The biggest problem when we lose power here is that we also lose water. Because we do not live inside the city limits, our water comes from our own well via a pump-- which requires electricity. So, as long as the power was out, we couldn't do ANYTHING that required water or electricity: the dishes, laundry, bathroom, cleaning, cooking, showers. We do have a good amount of water stored for events like this, but manually using water to wash hands or flush the toilet isn't a whole lot of fun. We ended up using 30 gallons of our stored water and considering it takes three gallons just to flush the toilet, I think we managed pretty well among the three of us. Because Katie is working and I'm in class, we really weren't home all that much during the day. We had a few extra times eating out for lunch and we ate dinner Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings at my Derby grandparents' house where we also were able to get showers. I can't imagine how we would've dealt with this without family so close by.

There wasn't much of any damage here other than a large amount of downed limbs, leaves, and branches. Our back yard looks like it does during Fall when the leaves have started to accumulate, even though Fall doesn't start for another week. We lost one major limb of a tree in the back yard that was already dead. The tree is on the boundary between the grassy area of the back yard and the part of the yard that is just woods. The largest part of it fell right on the edge of the woods (destroying a smaller tree nearby), while some good sized limbs and branches fell on the grass. There were several large limbs that fell along Powder Mill Road, which prompted the township to close the road Sunday night and into Monday afternoon. One of the places was right near the northern end of the road adjacent to the KSU golf course. I nearly ran into it as we drove to Derbys because of the lack of light and the cones aound it were red. As we went around it, there was a small white truck amongst the pile; not sure why it was there though.

All in all, not a pleasant experience, though I told several friends and family members that if this is as close as we get to a hurricane, I'm OK with that, though it makes me wonder how bad it would be if we ever got a storm as destructive as a hurricane here. I am definitely a lot more appreciative of electricity and the benefits we enjoy as well as the habits we form because of it. I laugh when people talk about maybe the 1800's or early 20th century and say "times were simpler them." Simpler how? Having to go manually pump your water to do ANYTHING requiring water (cooking, laundry, cleaning, bathing)? Going to either harvest the food or kill it? Having to get a fire going to cook or make hot water for washing? Having to communicate with anyone by going to them in person? Doesn't sound simpler to me...sounds a lot busier and even more time consuming! I am sure grateful for all the benefits of technology and electricity. It isn't perfect, but I like it better than the alternative. Seriously, it was like living in a glorified tent here with no power or water. As far as the weather, honestly, here in Ohio we have pretty tame weather. Our biggest threats are lightning and flooding and the occasional tornado (the last tornado to directly hit Kent was 1973). Yeah, we can get some pretty harsh winter weather, but once you're here long enough, "harsh" becomes a pretty relative term. I'm really not bothered by the snow and cold, even after living in the southwest for two years.

Notes on pictures: 1. View of the sky as the remnants of Hurricane Ike passed moved pretty quickly; 2. The trees in the back yard swaying to the strong westerly winds coming in constantly...40 mph sustained with gusts near 60 mph; 3. Katie reading at the kitchen table by candlelight Sunday night; 4. Some of the fallen limbs in the back yard. Much of the branches on the far right underneath the large section that fell from the tree are the branches removed from the sides of the garage in an ongoing project. Note all the leaves in the yard...that's how it normally looks during fall, but fall hasn't started yet; 5. looking up into the tree that lost a huge section, which included the trunk and several large limbs seen in the previous picture. The part that fell was dead anyway, so no big loss, just clean-up!
I am posting all the pictures from the back yard on my flickr page at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Follow-up to Previous Post

On Monday I had my first face-to-face contact with the director of the MAT since this whole ordeal began last week. I have her for two classes, one Monday and one Tuesday. Really, this isn't between me and her; it's between me and the contact in the Office of Graduate Student Services (OGS), which in my humble opinion isn't living up to its name very well as they have been anything BUT a service to me. The latest, which I found out just prior to meeting with the MAT director before class was that a "Disposition Assessment" was filed that stated I was rated as "NEEDS IMPROVEMENT in one or more categories of Professionalism, Work Ethic, and Personal Qualities." It provides a link to a website where I can view it in more detail, but surprise surprise, the website isn't even up yet. Go KSU!

In speaking with the director, I found out that the contact in OGS was majorly "offended" by my last e-mail (the one posted on my last it for yourself and please comment!) and referred it to the Dean of the College of Education. She did not respond to it at all; only the director of the MAT responded. Apparently, the biggest offense on my part was speaking to her as "a peer." So it's OK for them to talk down to me and be unprofessional in their responses and not answer or address concerns, but it isn't OK for me to talk to them like a fellow human being. And as far as speaking to them like a peer, I am much more casual in how I address my classmates and people I know on a personal level, so I hardly consider the way I said things in my last e-mail less than I would speak to someone I am less familiar with who is in a position of authority. Let's not forget too that this person is the listed contact from the College to address problems and questions we might have. The director of the MAT, the only person who actually knows me, has been trying to make sure people up there know what I'm really like, but as far as I can tell from our conversations, she doesn't understand where I'm coming from. She told me if I do stuff like this in teaching, I won't last long. If that is indeed true, then it is no wonder teaching as a profession has such a difficult time keeping and even getting highly qualified and motivated people to teach. You stifle someone's ability to think and fail to provide professional, thorough answers and you can bet people that can get out will. And even then, if a school was upset with how I responded to something, they could remind me that I'm working for them. Right now, I am NOT working for Kent State; I am paying THEM to educate me. BIG difference. I stand by everything I said and how I said it. If it was so offensive and unprofessional, then someone there needs to show me exactly WHAT was so bad about it and WHY. In the end, my crime was not saying what I needed to in the way they have deemed appropriate.

It goes without saying that during class on Monday night all this was weighing heavily on my mind as I had just found out about the disposition assessment and was still very frustrated and upset with the whole process and what I had been told. I was on the edge emotionally for the first half of the class...I'm still not sure how I made it through without having to excuse myself. I sat separated from most of the class, but thankfully I have good friends in class who were part of my summer cohort. Some came over and sat by me and just showed they cared. Nothing pushy or intrusive, just genuine concern. I'm glad they did. One of the best feelings when going through a tough time is to know you aren't alone. It's funny...when I'm upset and I realize I have caring people around me, sometimes it makes me even more emotional.

Part of me wants to just forget about this all and just get on with life. I want nothing more than to be done with school so I can get a job somewhere (in or out of education) and become independent financially. I've been in school almost non-stop (outside most of the summers) for some 6 years (going on 7) not counting the 2 years on my mission. I'm tired of school. But I know that in the end here, I'm being screwed and that doesn't sit well with me in any case, but especially when I am investing such a large amount of money, time, and effort into this program. Even the director of the MAT said she or the OGS Contact had never seen anyone react the way I have. That tells me a lot right there: they really don't know how to deal with me, so they just referred me to someone higher; not so that person can answer my questions and concerns, but more out of a perceived discipline problem. So, I will explore my options. I'm certainly not out to get anyone fired or change a bunch of rules; I was all ready to surrender (I signed up for my extra class), but as soon as this disposition assessment was filed against me, it pretty much forced me to act in the name of my reputation and what is right. In the end, I feel I was not dealt with in a professional way.

On a related note, I found out yesterday that, in fact, I have not been placed at Rootstown, at least not yet. I was told over a week and a half ago that I had been placed at Rootstown's middle and elementary schools by my faculty advisor at the School of Music. I hadn't received any official documentation and my advisor told me the MAT would provide me with that. So I talked to the director of the MAT and she told me to call a person in one of the offices in the College of Education (not the OGS thank goodness!). I called and left a message Tuesday morning and then at class Tuesday afternoon, the director of the MAT (who is also my professor for that class) let me know she had been in contact with the person I had called earlier and that, in fact, I had not been placed yet and I am currently the only MAT student to not have any placement (how comforting). Since I need to have 100 hours of observation by the end of the semester, I'm a little nervous, but the MAT director just told me to take it easy for the time being. I am sure glad that I got in 10 hours of observation the first week of school at Roosevelt and Stanton! If I don't have a placement in 2 weeks, I may end up doing more observations at both schools and maybe even some of the elementary schools here in Kent.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My "Angry and Accusatory" side

I've made it through the first two weeks of classes this semester and they have been anything BUT routine. Yesterday (September 7) was the final day to add or drop classes and so only then was my schedule finally complete. Well, at least I HOPE so. We can still drop classes after the 7th (until early November), but a "W" (withdrew) appears on our transcripts. Don't ask me why (I mean really, who cares if I withdrew from a class?!?), but that's the way it is. This semester has already been an adventure not only in getting registered but in getting straight answers too. First, just registering for the music classes I needed to take took several e-mails and finally a meeting with my advisor to get the necessary overrides to even register. As part of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, there are a few music classes I need to take that weren't part of my undergrad sequence at BYU-Idaho. Though I am a graduate student now, I am no longer a music major, so the system wouldn't let me register. I finally added all four of the music classes I needed to take last Friday after meeting with my advisor. She's been pretty helpful, but I am the first music student to go through the MAT in 10 years, so she and most of the people in the School of Music aren't too familiar at all with the requirements associated with the MAT and how they fit with the existing program.

The real issue that really has me ticked has to do with the College of Education and a credit issue. As an undergrad at BYU-Idaho, I took a class called "Reading in the Content Area." This is a class required by pretty much every state that helps teachers be aware of and help students who either can't read or have low reading comprehension. It is irrelevant which content area one teaches in as students need to be able to read in just about everything. This class is also part of the MAT sequence that is going on right now. I had mentioned to the MAT director at the very beginning of the summer that I had taken this class as an undergrad and she was surprised, but said "I don't see why you'd need to take it again." It was a welcome relief and I thought that was the end of it. Unfortunately no, though little happened until these last two weeks to begin the Fall semester. Part of the problem was my music advisor was out for the summer, so I didn't really have anyone to sit down and talk with to clear it up. The issue isn't if I need to take it again, but how the credit worked. Because the class was an undergrad class, it doesn't count towards my masters degree even though it is essentially the same class. So yes, it's good enough that I don't need to take it again, but not good enough that I can use it as credit to graduate with. As I've gone about trying to get an explanation, I'm running into the same lack of explanation I was faced with just over one year ago when I left BYU-Idaho.

This started this past week when I e-mailed the contact in the College of Education's Office of Graduate Studies for the MAT. I e-mailed her a three-paragraph letter which included questions about my credits (did I need to take an additional class?) and also several concerns I had regarding overlapping classes both this semester and last as well as concerns about the lack of communication between the School of Music and the MAT. The response I got to my three e-mail was a one-liner: "You need a total of 44 hours taken during the MAT and 39 of those hours MUST be at the graduate level." That was it. No address to me, no signature, and certainly no acknowledgement that the person even read or thought about my other concerns. I responded back that, OK I needed to pick up an additional graduate level class but also that in adding up the graduate credits built into the MAT, I came up with 38. I also stated my opinion that simply taking an additional class to fill time was a "waste of time" since I would be taking it not because I needed that specific class, but because I need the graduate hours. I also stated that I felt like I was being penalized for having taken the class earlier than everyone else. Well, this person and the director of the MAT didn't like the fact that I referred to taking an extra class as a waste of time and also stated that the MAT has 41 hours built in (only if you count the methods class as a graduate class and my methods class is not at the graduate level...which incidentally is a question I had in my responses that hasn't been answered or acknowledged). The contact with the College of Education OGS also stated she was "sorry I was unsatisfied with the MAT" a statement I never said in any communication.

The director of the MAT, a person I also have for two of my classes, tried to give me some class ideas to take and to lend a sympathetic ear to my situation, but in the end gave me much of the same response that this OGS contact gave me: no real substance in the answer, just "that's the way it is." I expected answers like that at ultra-conservative BYU-Idaho, but apparently that way of thinking isn't limited to conservative areas. I decided to include my final responses to both below. The first was to the OGS Contact:

"I want to make sure we're on the same page here:

First, I am certainly not unsatisfied with the MAT nor have I ever stated such. What I am unsatisfied with is when I send a relatively detailed e-mail with questions and concerns, I expect a response that reflects that. While your initial one-liner indirectly answered one question- how many graduate credits I need- it did not answer the question as to why my previous credit taking Reading in the Content Area cannot be applied to the MAT as a substitute. It also failed to address other concerns spelled out in the e-mail regarding credit, advising, and overlapping class issues. If you don't know, that's fine, but at least acknowledge that you read it.

Second, my total of 38 graduate hours built into the MAT comes from not counting my fall methods course as a graduate class since my methods courses are at the junior (30000) level. If that counts as a graduate class, I have not been made aware of that.

Third, when simply taking an additional class involves the investment of extra money and time, taking classes to just fill time IS a waste of time to me, especially in light of the fact that I have to take not because I'm missing credits, but because I already took a required class earlier than everyone else. I already have some $30,000 in loans to pay for school; I don't want to add anything to the debt I don't absolutely NEED. According to the MAT program, I already have the classes I need to be successful. Also remember that time is at a premium. If adding another class were free and easy, yes, it would be a great opportunity to find something extra to help me out. But don't forget, you have the security of a job and an income, I don't, so it's far easier for you to tell me to just "take another class" than it is for me to actually pay for it and then do it. It's far more than just asking me to pick up an extra class; it's asking me to pay hundreds of extra dollars in tuition and invest significant time and effort.

I don't want a war here; I want solid answers that have as much backup and justification as you would want from me if I were writing a paper or presenting an idea. If there is a policy that an undergrad class absolutely cannot be substituted for a graduate-level class (even though they are essentially the same class, just a different course number), then I first need to be made aware of that policy as well as the reasons and justifications behind it, specific to this case. For the enormous amount of time, effort, and money I am investing, it is not out of the question to ask for thorough and professional explanations which involve that time, effort, and money."

The second response was sent at the same time to the director of the MAT:

"I found the available workshops on the Office of Professional Development's website. It says I can register for them on Flashline, but so far no luck. Also, do you happen to know if the cost associated with them is included in my tuition or in addition to it?

I appreciate your advice the other day. I understand you're kind of in the middle of this and that wasn't my intention. I just wanted to let you be aware of our communication. Do know that I am not unsatisfied with the MAT as [the OGS Contact] seems to think. I am unsatisfied with the answer she gave me after I sent an initial e-mail with both questions and concerns. I expected a little more than an impersonal one-liner that indirectly answered one of my questions. Even something as little as "I don't have all the answers, but these people might..." or something of that nature. At least acknowledge that she actually read the entire message. It's not that I didn't get the answer I wanted, but more I didn't get much of ANY answers. For the amount of time and money I am putting into this program, I don't think it's out of line to expect thorough explanations, especially explanations which involve me spending more money and time to pick up an additional class.

As you have shared several personal experiences and how they've shaped you, let me share one of my own. The main reason I'm in the MAT is because at the end of last summer I transferred back here from the school I did most of my undergrad work just before I was to student teach. The school had certain policies regarding housing while I student taught (I wouldn't have student taught anywhere near the campus, so I needed to move) that I felt were not only discriminatory, but out-dated and unjustifiable. Indeed, the biggest struggle wasn't getting permission, but getting any sort of justification beyond "that's the rule." No one could explain why those were the rules or even how they were better than the way I wanted (the university wanted me to live in an "approved" apartment complex nowhere near my school and I had found a place to live right near the school and they refused to let me live there even though I was 25 years old). I'm seeing the same lack of explanation with this credit issue. If a logical justification can be made, by all means I want to hear it and I'll abide by it. But right now, no one has explained why I need to take an extra class and how that will benefit me other than the blanket "you need at least 39 graduate hours." OK, then why can't the three hours from the class I don't need to take be substituted since it's essentially the same class with a different call number? These are the answers I'm looking for and when I ask questions and state my opinions, I feel like I being I'm treated like some criminal. And yes, I do consider it a waste of time when I'm being told to take a class that costs me extra money and time (both are already at a premium) when the reason is not because I need that specific class, but because I have to fill time. I already have some $30,000 in loans; I don't want any more debt that I don't absolutely NEED. Sure, if "picking up an extra class" were that simple, I don't think I'd have much of a problem. But we all know "picking up a class" isn't that simple or inexpensive.

So, that's my side. I will pass along a message to [the OGS Contact] as well so that she and I are on the same page. I don't want a war here; I want solid answers that have as much backup and justification as you would want from me if I were writing a paper or presenting an idea. Perhaps too, not being able to have ready explanations for set policies like that (if such a policy even exists) to me is a red flag that maybe they need to be re-examined and critiqued."

Now, I felt like I was being assertive and firm (none of this weak "if you have the time maybe you could answer these questions and concerns..." kind of BS), but hardly letting my emotions take over or being unreasonable. In the end, I am after a solid, logical explanation and I gave valid and thorough reasons for wanting one. Maybe there are some rules or regulations that exist that absolutely forbid substituting an undergrad class for a grad class, but maybe there aren't. I don't know, which is why I'm asking. No one could even answer me is there even WAS such a policy. If a logical defense can be made for the rules, I will abide by them even if I don't totally agree. It's only when there either isn't a logical defense or the one provided just doesn't sit well with me that I will challenge a rule or policy (like I did at BYU-Idaho).

These two were met with one brief response which is probably as close as I'll get to a "solid" answer, which came from the director of the MAT: "This requirement is necessary because, at any university, a specific number of credits reflects the work required for an advanced degree. As you recall from our second day in class this summer, the masters degree, among many other implications, ensures you of a higher salary in education. It also indicates, or should indicate, a higher level of learning and cognitive sophistication." OK I can buy that, but it also implies that the class I took as an undergrad at BYU-Idaho isn't at the same level of learning or sophistication as the graduate version here just because it was an undergraduate course (FYI, BYU-Idaho doesn't even have any graduate programs or courses). Maybe it isn't, but the only way to know that is to actually compare the substance of each class and that has hardly happened. Just for my own sake I'm planning on asking my classmates what their class entails. I'm willing to guess that like most graduate classes it involves a fair amount of reading and higher level thinking and discussion, as well as writing. My Reading in the Content Area class involved a fair amount of that as well, but also involved real-world experience. Not only did I learn about how to better teach reading comprehension and its importance, but I actually had to do it. I personally tutored a ninth grader as part of the class and then worked in groups with my classmates to tutor and help eighth graders. So I wasn't just reading and discussing about the subject, I was actually learning how to do it better. I had to have lesson plans, keep notes, draw conclusions, make adjustments, and generally apply what I had been learning. Even then, the answer I got still doesn't answer the question of if my undergrad class was good enough to not have to take it again, why isn't it good enough to count towards my degree? It also makes me wonder why taking the class I did pick up (a graduate online course in exceptionalities) will put me at that higher level I wouldn't have been at otherwise.

The real kicker in the response that just irked me when I read it and has bothered me all weekend was: "As in your previous email to [the OGS Contact], this recent one carries an accusatory, angry tone." I am ALWAYS careful that what I say is not overwhelmed with emotion. It is why I usually won't respond right away because I want to give myself a chance to calm down and logically sort things out. Both of my response e-mails posted above were written after much thought and revision and even waiting until the next day to send them. I defninitely felt my responses were assertive and firm and had my concerns and main points backed up with relevant and valid reasons. I even re-read them and read them to my mom to see what she thought and I just didn't see it. It's like they were using that as an excuse to not really answer me "well, he was being so angry and accusatory..." that kind of thing. So, in the end, I picked up the extra class and have not responded further. I do plan on asking the dean of the College of Education for an explanation on the credit issue. I'm not trying to rock the boat or get anyone fired; I just want a reasonable and logical explanation. I think it's a sad reflection on any organization or program that doesn't have ready justifications for its policies, particularly ones like this that end up costing someone extra time, effort, and money. I would like to know what any readers think of my responses. Did they come across as angry and/or accusatory? If so, what parts did and why?

So right now I'm not in the best of spirits and have lost a lot of my motivation for teaching. I just want to get school done and over with so I can get on with my life. Sometimes I just wonder what exactly I'm doing too. Do I really want to deal with all this for the next 35 years?? I feel like I'm going through the ordeal with BYU-Idaho all over again. Ugh. What a nightmare that was! On the bright side I did get my placement at Rootstown Middle and Rootstown Elementary schools, though I haven't been given any details, including the teachers' names. My questions regarding that have gone unanswered as of right now, so I don't even know if they know I'm coming! Looks like I'm just going to have to take things into my own hands and find out WHO I'll be working with at each school and when I can come.