School’s In – For Now

One class down, 14 more classes and 9 courses to go.

Such is how paralegals are made.

Norwalk Community College, my home-away-from-home for the next few Wednesday nights

Yes, I survived the first meeting of Introduction to Paralegalism, and quickly remembered how long it’s been since I’ve taken a real class. Sure, there have been many workshops, and one graduate class in playwriting that I audited. But this is the real thing: A syllabus! Homework assignments! Tests! Papers! A grade! A disgustingly overpriced textbook!

And, not surprisingly, the first class stirred Crisis-like thoughts. Do I have the commitment at this age to do the work, do it well, while trying to stay on top of the other parts of my life – work, playwriting, blogs (which have suffered greatly as of late, both here at C?WC? and over at the History Nerd; but look for a scintillating take on historiography there soon!), marriage, some semblance of a social life? I do not know.

I was reminded there is no shame in taking the course and deciding not to stay in the program, if I don’t really think I want to be a paralegal. But there would be shame aplenty, and perhaps a boot in the butt, if I bailed without even trying to finish the class. So, for once, I will not take the path of least resistance. I will give the work my all, no matter how silly some of the text material is (“Keep a list of your most frequently used URLs in a notebook.” Uh, ever hear of browser bookmarks?).

The students are a diverse lot, with some from foreign countries and some mere tykes taking their first college course, so a little hand-holding and stating the obvious might not be out of line. Easily half of the 22 students, though, seem to be over 40. Several are over 50. Many, like me, have a BA. Others have graduate degrees and one guy has a J.D., though he has not practiced in years and never in Connecticut. These folks are looking for a career change, just as I tell myself I am (though sometimes I am not convincing. I don‘t want to stop writing; I just want to write about different things. For better pay).

Everyone can use a paralegal, even ESPN is hiring

One guy can no longer do the physical labor he did, so he seeks a desk job. A teacher who moved here from CA is sick of the classroom experience. Another young woman has burned out after a few years doing drug-rehab work. Others fear changes in their industries that will leave them jobless. A few have already gotten the pink slip and are on the fast track for completing the certificate program. They don’t have the option, like me, of being wishy-washy or half-assed about this endeavor. And for most, the law seems to offer challenges they think they’ll enjoy and the chance to tap skills they’ve already cultivated. Or, at the least, a decent paycheck.

Our instructor says she enjoys the varying backgrounds of the students in the evening classes. She’s given up what could have been a high-powered law career to teach full time at this community college. (One previous gig: working for Rudy Guiliani back in the days when he prosecuted the Mafia in New York.) The adults looking for a new line of work bring a wealth of career and life experiences that often shed new perspectives on the issues she teaches. So, of all of us in the classroom, she may be the only one who truly enjoys her current job.

What do you mean, an F on my final?

In the weeks ahead, I know there will be moments I will dread: working in small groups, presenting to the class, writing tests neat enough for someone else to read. (I’m already having trouble reviewing my own notes; I can’t imagine the prof deciphering more than every fifth word of a test unless I take about four hours to spell out each letter two inches high. I need those lined sheets we used in 2nd grade to learn penmanship, with the dotted line for the small letters running between the two solid lines.) And then of course there is grade anxiety, in case I do stick this out. Imagine the humiliation of passing an intro undergrad course with, say, a C-?

Oh, there you go again, worrying about what could go wrong. Just take it for what it’s worth – an exploration of a new intellectual endeavor. Enjoy it, if you can. And remember that after Wednesday night, just 13 more classes to go.

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~ by mburgan on February 2, 2010.

5 Responses to “School’s In – For Now”

  1. LOL…see thats why I never stopped taking classes, I don’t have any anxiety..I even suck it up when I don’t turn in my homework, saying i had a bad week and didn’t feel like writing the papers. I just can’t sit still for 3 freaking hours.

  2. They say a secret part of lawyers {who are litigators} and professors want to be in show business; but to reduce an aspect of my professional life to a “gig”? Very humbling indeed.

  3. No. no, not a reduction at all; a gig is a good thing. Or can be, depending on the nature of the work. It sounded like a good gig to me.

  4. It was fantastic!

    {You posted during class time?}

  5. I never go online during class; I’m not a good multitasker. I think the WordPress time stamp is not set to EST (because your comment reads 6:07 pm on the 23rd, and I’m reading it at 3:03 pm on the 23rd).

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