Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Intro to The Holocaust
So last night was the first session of five for Intro to the Holocaust. Traditionally, I hate history. I have traumatic memories from high school trying to memorize dates and details of historical events that seemed too trivial for my party mindset. Perhaps it was my teachers that didn't engage my mind, perhaps it was me being lazy, knowing exactly what I had to score on a particular assignment to nail a good grade in that class... and that instructor wasn't getting anything more than my minimum.
At SNU, I've been enrolled in "bridge classes". This is an adult study program where I can go to school one night a week (4 hours) and in five weeks, I've finished a class that would have taken me an entire semester. It's wonderful for those who are working and just can't devote 4 to 5 nights a week to class. I take five classes a semester, but I take them one at a time. It works for me! Granted, it's a private university, so the cost is a little high, but it's worth it to me.
Anyway, some of my classes are kinda odd. And truth be known, you really don't get a lot of say-so in what you are enrolled in. The object is to get you to the credit requirement so you can start your degree program requirements. Basically, whatever you need is compared to whatever is available at that time, and that's what will end up on your schedule.
For the Spring semester I ended up with Juvenile Delinquency, Earth's Natural Disasters, Discrete Math, Intro to the Holocaust and Intro to Art. All of them were a piece of cake as far as I could tell, except for the Holocaust class. I already had anxiety about that one, and this was at the beginning of the semester lol. The syllabus even had me more anxious. I glanced over it in January to find that I would be writing two 5-7 page papers, three 1-page video response papers, 10 1-page conversation starters and have a final exam. I about crapped my pants. FIVE WEEKS MAN! This class is only five weeks! Oh... and I had to read "Night" by Elie Wiesel prior to class and have one of the 5-7 page papers done, and then another paper was to be on an assigned book we would get the first night of class. Oh! And there was a Genocide project that was also due by the 5th week consisting of ANOTHER 5-7 page paper and a 1-page oral presentation. WTF!
Not only do I not like history, I don't like reading about history, I don't like history videos, and I certainly don't like writing papers on historical events. I love to write. But I love to write about things I'm comfortable with. Things I know about. This... the Holocaust... was definitely unfamiliar territory and I hadn't the faintest clue how I was to bullshit my way through this class.
So I get to class and thank God I was 4 minutes early. My instructor, a lean, tall man looking to be in his 50s... bald head, pressed jeans, cowboy boots and a gray blazer over a Harley Davidson t-shirt... looked intimidating. I immediately thought of Bull from Night Court when I saw him, but only in a scary kind of way. Then precisely at 6 this man tells us, "Thank you all for being here on time. I start promptly at 6, but tonight I will give 5 more minutes because this classroom is difficult to find."
Then again, promptly at 6:05, he started class. Not only was I scared to death of this class, my face was beet red after climbing three flights of stairs and running through every hall imaginable in this building to find my classroom. I'm fat. Fat girls don't run down halls and willingly climb stairs when there are elevators available.
So he starts rambling on about his own personal history. I could feel my insides twisting and turning, thinking this class couldn't possibly get worse. He tells us he joined the military at 17 and retired after 32 years service. He has also worked for SWAT and other special forces in the Oklahoma City Police Department. He described himself as a "crotchety old bastard" and told us that if his occasional cursing offended us, to report him. He further explained, we wouldn't be the first to report him and he's certain we wouldn't be the last.
After the first 15 minutes or so of class I caught my breath and was able to relax a bit. This professor, even with his background, seemed very personable, joking with us and all that, so I didn't fear him nearly as much as I did 15 minutes prior.
The lecture started and I can honestly say, this man put this whole time in history into perspective for me. I didn't even have to ask any questions because he had already answered them. He put things into terms where even a 5th grader could understand, and if there was something that was unclear, he was pretty good at reading faces and tried to invoke conversation within the students. And to top it all off... not only did I understand what the heck he was saying, I was excited to learn more. It was really refreshing.
Oh! And not only was he able to get through my mental block for history, he cut down our workload as well. He completely wiped out one of the papers we had to write... the one on Genocide. Instead, he told us to find any case of genocide in history and answer these questions: Who? When? Why? What? and of course... How? He said to make an oral presentation of no more than 5 minutes to answer those questions. Easy enough. Then he cut out the final exam. WOO HOO! He said our video response papers are due at the beginning of the last class. We still have to write two 5-7 page papers, but I can certainly deal with that! Oh - and because he cut out the final exam, which was worth 20% of our final grade, he decided to put that 20% toward, punctuality, preparedness for class and participation. Nice!
I am honestly looking forward to next weeks class!