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School is Cool. Like, Actually.

Posted by on Saturday, December 6, 2014 in Academics, Freshman Life, Professors.

So I just finished my last class of the semester. I am not an emotional person, but I swear to you, the last meetings of some of my classes made me irrationally sad.

Maybe I’m really invested in my classes, or maybe I’m just a nerd, but regardless, I just need to take a moment to appreciate the academics here at Vanderbilt. So here we go.

I know you’ve probably heard the spiel on Vandy academics like a million times at this point. We have awesome classes and professors. You learn lots of things. You’ll be prepared for the real world. All of these things are true, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

My first semester of classes changed me. Cheesy, sorry, I know. But hear me out.

Going to classes this semester wasn’t about soaking up information because I was supposed to do so. It was about taking in information and finding out what it meant to me. I didn’t leave these classes with a new block of information, I left them with a reformed way of thinking, a changed way of interacting with the world around me. This is just getting cheesier by the moment so let me give you some examples.

In my EDUC 1020 class (Society, the School, and the Teacher) with Professor Baum (aka Trapper), I learned what I want to do with my life when we took a field trip to Stratford High and saw the way that the teachers instilled pride, energy, optimism, and determination in their students through education. I learned that each student – no, each person – is an individual, and must be treated as such. I learned that there are no concete answers, and that teachers must constantly adapt. I learned how to appreciate the teachers I’ve had in the past, and how to inspire my future students in the same way they’ve inspired me.

Hey look, that's my school! Photo courtesy Vanderbilt flickr

In my ENGL 199 class (Foundations of Literary Studies) with Professor Wollaeger, I learned that literature is our way of approaching the asymptote of reality, that whether we are New Critics or Structuralists or Postmodernists, we all just want to understand life. I learned how to fight to make connections, and that, even though they might be complete projections of our desire for order, they help nonetheless. By struggling through messes like T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, I learned that sometimes it’s futile to make connections, but maybe that in itself is poetic. In our last class, Professor Wollaeger gave this heartwarming and funny and enlightening presentation on what it means to analyze and reflect upon literature and life, and I wish I had recorded it so that I could watch it over and over and over again. Ultimately, to read and write and analyze literature is to persevere as our time on Earth passes, like this bird that concluded Professor Wollaeger’s presentation.

In my PHIL 102 class (General Logic), I learned how to win more arguments that I already do.

In my MUSL 183 class (Music, the Arts, and Idea), I learned that our identities and our culture are shaped and performed by the things we love, like music. As my professor, Stan Link, says, “music is our way of bringing things into being.” I learned that music is one of our most powerful voices, and that there is a drastic difference between the noun of silence and the verb to silence. Silence the noun is a state of being; perhaps it has meaning in itself. To silence, however, is to suppress, to forcefully turn off the music that is an extension of ourselves. Music is our hope to never be silenced. Also, shout out to Vanderbilt letting me take music classes despite having no musical talent.

In my PSY-PC 1207 class (Minds, Brains, Contexts, and Cultures) with Professor Craig, also known as the introduction to the Cognitive Studies major, I learned that cultural evolution is both the most dangerous and most promising aspect of the human mind. Our ideas, intelligence, and ability to be changed by external sources have the capability to destroy us, but they also have the capability to propel us toward a better world. I learned that I, as a human, can have a role in social revolution by doing this final project on women in STEM

Also I learned how to juggle.

Professor Craig. That is all.

You probably get the idea. As in any class I’ve ever been in, I’ve learned things, but this semester, I’ve learned so many things that I want to take with me. In my education class, we learned that teachers shouldn’t just think about what they want to do in class: they should think about what they want students to walk out of the door with.

This is what I’ve walked out of the door with, and it’s safe to say that I’m pretty happy with it.

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