Shifting, Shifting…

I feel stubbornly dedicated to the driving theme.

Picture me driving a stick shift, and I have to keep changing gears. I don’t stay in any one gear all that long. I’m continually shifting, shifting gears and it’s a bit tiring, challenging and requires some pull-overs so I can stop, walk around and stretch. Enjoy the view.

This is my summer so far as a student.

Not only do I have two 400-level electives on the go, but I have my practicum, as well. Mix that in with my daily life. Many mature students who are also partners and parents will identify with this scenario:

(this is kind of to the tune of This Little Piggy…)
Monday and Fridays are dedicated to coursework!
Tuesday to Thursdays are dedicated to practicum work!
Everyday is dedicated to getting in loads of laundry,
And at the end of each day, one is very tired!
And the student ran yelling “Aaaaaahhh!” far away from her textbooks!

Sound familiar?

Semesters like this one are immensely fulfilling, definitely demanding, certainly challenging and without question, require self-care and at least an attempt at balance.

So, along with shifting, I keep balancing: schoolwork, practicum days, family life, summertime activities, self-care…not necessarily in that order.

One thing I keep handy is my Daytimer. I splurged and bought one. It lives with my purse and school bag. It`s where I try to sync everything and is as important as my school calendar by the computer, with all of my assignment due dates and deadlines for learning activities.

I look forward to chucking it unceremoniously, come September (when UVIC MSW application info becomes available).

Here’s my two bits about summer school, including practicum work: give yourself a map to follow, marked with your work days, course due dates and assignment deadlines. If you can, make sure your practicum placement offers some flexibility, if you need it. You may need to take a day here and there, and make it up later, to complete some coursework.

If this all sounds like a bit of a grind, well, it is, to some extent. Learning is hard work. It’s exhilarating and tiring, at the same time. And, when one is learning in so many areas – theory and practice and life – it can be a bit overwhelming.

Don’t forget it’s summer. When you’ve had your fill of shifting, pull over and admire the view. T

Then, as my tea cup says, Keep Calm and Carry On!

***Some feedback I’ll later share with an instructor I will now share with you:

I wish instructors would not intimate to students just how hard and demanding their courses will be. Rather, notes that are welcoming and actually encouraging are much more appropriate. If, after reading the `”welcome note” from one’s instructor, one then wants to drop that course, (even if one is a very dedicated student) means that the note was not really all that welcoming!



Photos (above):

~ The quilting cupboard. ~ Quinn the Jack Russell and study companion. He naps while I work.

~ Various mini-quilt projects. ~ The sewing desk.

My fourth year practicum begins next week. I feel a bit like a driver accelerating and merging into traffic. So far, the transition feels pretty smooth and natural. I’m a diligent shoulder-checker; I put a lot of effort into determining where I wanted to be for the final practicum of my BSW: somewhere positive, supportive and anti-oppressive. A place I’d feel welcome and comfortable as a student-learner.
It’s been six long months since I arranged my placement..
My practicum will span over 400 hours. Along with it, I’ll be completing my two final fourth-year electives.
I can hardly say how excited I am to be in a workplace setting and look forward to getting to know everyone and spending time with different clinicians, helping with different programs.
I have been bidding farewell to my last three weeks that were completely free of studies. This past week, I really kicked up my heels: I watched the first season of Game of Thrones (“Winter is coming!”) and rented Chocolat, half of which I leisurely viewed during the day as unwashed dishes and uncompleted housework lay scattered about me.
I delightedly plowed through piles of pleasure reading books from my own shelves and those in the terrific little Enderby branch of our Okanagan Regional Library. I re-read The Sunday Philosophy Club (love, love, Alexander McCall Smith) and enthusiastically dug into The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (love, love Lord John Grey).
I am pointedly making no mention of housework.
I spent more time outside with my animals, taking my sweet time doing chores and enjoying the moody spring weather. I avoided (until this weekend, aarrgh….) calculating what early hour I will have to rise at to do morning chores, get ready for work, then drive into work.
I even picked up the dangling threads of a few unfinished quilting projects (see photos) and while I did not complete them, got them to the next stage, at least.
But once again, I’ve rather happily stashed my various projects for my school books.
I’ve had my rest. I’m ready for UVIC’s Summer Semester to begin!

Happy Birthday BSW?

~ Birthday ~

May 2012, when I begin my last semester, will mark the second “birthday” of my entry into the UVic BSW program.
I began back in May 2010, frantically planning my week on-campus in Victoria. Not sure what to expect, still buzzing with happiness at being accepted into the program. Helping my family plan how they would manage without me for a week (they did great). Feeling like I was beginning a long and interesting journey (I was).
The point I’m at now seemed impossibly distant.
Would I ever really be a fourth year student, in my last semester? Taking my last BSW courses? Doing my last practicum?
Back in my very first third year term, in class introductions, I wistfully envied those who introduced themselves as students wrapping up their degree. Would I ever get to that point? I knew that I would but it was just so far off.
Well, it’s time to bake a little cake and put a few candles on it. My almost-BSW-degree is two years old this May. My degree, framed and hung on the wall, will be a birth certificate of sorts.

Name: BSW
Weight: Darn heavy
Length: Spanning more than a few years
Joyful Parent: Tammy Thielman, proud, weary and ready-to-work

~ Now, the all-important question can be deliberated…What dress will I wear to convocation? ~

Cup of the Day on Day One

You know you’re a social work student when…you critically reflect upon your mug as being a symbol of colonialism.

If I were a racehorse, I’d be called a slow-starter.

Last week, I dutifully clicked around on Moodle (the on-line course delivery system), posting introductions and generally scanning the course content, but today seems like my true “first day” of class. I feel inspired to really engage in dialogue and post responses to introductions. I also feel excited to dig into course content. I wondered why I felt so reluctant last week, then realized I was working on a Friday and was really already in weekend mode.

Today, however, is a new day. The start of a new week, and it really feels like, the start of a new term. 400 Health Care and 451 Indigenous Policy, here I come.

The photo included here shows my companion cup for the morning.

A Small Light

~ Filling my cup today: My favourite charteuse flower mug filled with Tetley Chai is my companion for the morning as I log on to the UVic Moodle site.~

A very kind reader, interested in the UVic program, recently wrote to me that my blog “illuminates the unknown” for readers such as this person, a recent UVic BSW program applicant. Not only was this comment extremely kind and generous but also very touching for me. I was so pleased that in some way, I could share the glimmer from my own candle of experience with this person. I just doubt that it’s quite bright enough, but am heartened to know that what I share is helpful in some small way.

I answered some questions about the program, the work involved and the personal commitment. I am only too happy to do this, as the UVic program has been a very positive, transformative, and empowering one for me.

Another kind reader posted some other positive comments. These are such a joy for me to read, and inspire me to continue my blog about the BSW experience. I try to write about issues that may be helpful for other students to read: the challenges, joys, struggles and other points that I’ve learned to consider about blending life, school and work. If that can help other students or prospective students in some way, I am gratified.

Writing this humble little blog and connecting with others interested in social work and social justice is something that I feel honoured to do.


What Day Is This?? When Do Classes Start??

It was fleeting, but I, however briefly, had that wonderful mid-summer-holidays sense of completely losing track of what day of the week it is. Of course, in this case that mindless-timeless-what-day-is-this?-bliss was situated in mid-winter, between Christmas and New Year’s, a time that is delightfully devoid of much structure (in terms of school).

New Year’s looms, however, and I realize that I need to get onto ordering some fourth year texts for Second Term courses. I’m not in a rush, though…

My uncharacteristically laid-back approach to text book ordering for the upcoming term just points to my growth as a student (I’m laughing as I type that): when I first began my BSW with UVic, the textbooks would have been ordered, shipped, unpacked, unwrapped and half-read. Now, I feel I can be more relaxed (believe me, this is a good thing!). Everything’s not so new and uncertain. I’m familiar with the routine. I have confidence in the excellent service the UVic bookstore offers us distance students. My texts generally show up early. There’ll be lots of time to order, unpack, unwrap.

For now, I have a bit more holiday-time to lose myself in.

**I never did get to some of the projects I thought I’d delve into over winter break: completing some sewing projects, finishing some knitting. But I did get to deeply enjoy spending more time doing other things I enjoy just as much. Here, I’ll take this chance to speak to the notion of work/life/school balance again: each semester, and every holiday, do what works for you. When you have course demands, remember to balance these with self-care and rest. When you have holidays, enjoy!
~Lose track of time.~

In a Good Way

I suppose you’re a real student when you can’t imagine your life without school. Brief respites – that precious bit of school-free time at the end of each semester – feel like a luxury holiday. I noticed that I began this semester with less excitement than usual. That’s not a reflection on the work, or my teachers or school itself (dear old UVic!), but it does say something about me as a student. I’m really used to the way things work now, even with the advent of Moodle, it’s all become quite familiar. I grieved good old Blackboard, but Moodle is now “it” for interfacing with my courses.
This semester, there’s no kicking into high-stress mode around textbook ordering or class registration or even the start of term (okay, maybe there’s a little stress. I’m sure if you asked my family, I was indeed excited about the start of term), but from my perspective, it all feels a little more familiar, in a good way.
It helps that exciting things are happening after slogging through preliminaries over the past few years: fourth year standing, an exciting fourth year practicum confirmed, registration for next semester already taken care of. It’s all good, good enough that I even rumble around potential convocation dates in my head. Just once in awhile, for inspiration.
Hoodie discrimination? This is meant in jest, but do I have a point here? I recently received bookstore e-news about a fantastic UVic hoodie sale, only $16 each for hoodies that are great colours and styles. Not that I technically need another hoodie, but I can always use another one emblazoned with UVic (that’s how loyal I am). However, I was dismayed to see that the sale was “in-store only.”
Bummer, I sighed. One of the drawbacks of being a distance student: I can’t walk into the UVic bookstore and browse now and then, as a reward for studying and working. No new hoodie for me, I suppose! I hope the sale is on again on whatever distant date I’m back on campus…probably the convocation ceremony I like to let myself picture now and then.
To all my fellow distance students, keep working. Week Four is almost complete.