Less Beaten by Myself

Complex Speed Limit Sign
Done With Math

You may have noticed I dropped off the radar the past few months. It really wasn’t part of my plan, but I had to make a judgement call. If you’re playing along with the home game, you know I’m employed full time, have two sons, and I’m attending college online full time. Needless to say, with an average of five hours of sleep per night as tracked by my Garmin, my time is spread thin.

This quarter I took what I thought would be a doable load. I’ll start with a reminder that I’m pursuing a bachelor’s in Information Technology, a field I’ve been in for around 19 years. The classes I had selected were:

  • Discrete Math Structures
  • Leading the Enterprise
  • Wireless Networking

This seemed a doable load. I’d been warned multiple times by the instructor and various “success coaches” about the difficulty of Discrete Math and that I might need tutoring, etc. Up until now, the only other course that gave me any significant trouble was Brief Calculus. The only reason I had trouble was due to the time I had available. The mathematical concepts were easy enough, but there was a lot of memorization. For some reason we’re still stuck in a society that finds great value in memorization as part of education. Having lived in the real world, I find the ability to assimilate and apply new ideas and information to be far more important than rote memorization. I’ve found that memorization happens naturally in tasks repeated in your profession and once you have memorized the core building blocks of math and other subjects, the details are far less important to have memorized. We have the Internet and vast references at our fingertips, cramming our brains with obscure facts isn’t particularly valuable. So all of these math courses are remote proctored meaning they audio and video record you for the duration of the test via your laptop’s camera. Before the test, you even have to sweep your room with the camera to prove you don’t have any notes or other prohibited items. This is an old school of thought that just isn’t necessary in modern times. But, it’s the current rule set.

About two weeks into this quarter I was feeling immense pressure. Discrete Math was challenging but achievable. What I hadn’t accounted for was how terrible the curriculum and instruction would be in my Wireless Networking course. Now, remember, this is an IT degree, not Wireless Engineering. The first week of this class was spent on logarithmic math complete with tests that were supposed to be closed book. The second week continued this trend with rather detailed definitions of wireless protocols, signal strengths, etc. Having had some exposure to the concepts, I was aware of signal drop off, etc. Having endured multiple video lectures of an old man with a southern accent saying “dB, not dbW (pronounced dub-ya), dBW, dB, dBW” over and over, pausing only to hack-cough into the mic (aren’t you aware video editing can cut that out?) with lots of emphasis on the fact there was a difference and very little building of the context of the difference or why it mattered, I was at wit’s end. There was tons of homework, unnecessary requirement of memorization, and a way too deep coverage of a technology when considering the context of a general degree in IT, without even a networking focus.

I had to make a call, I could do this and be miserable, or I could drop a course. I looked at both the math and networking course and found I could drop the networking course without losing money. So it got the boot. This is where we get to the title of this post. I had set the bar too high for myself. My priorities are family, career, school. Sure school feeds the career but it doesn’t have the same time preference as direct career or family related activities. The math course still ended up taking more of my time than a usual course, so I had to find some time somewhere. I came to the conclusion that to retain sanity, I needed to put a pause on blogging. This wasn’t something I wanted to do, but it was necessary to maintain quality of life with my family.

So how’d I do on that math course? I took the final last night, I got a 55% on it. That was fine though. As I’ve mentioned before, I took advantage of extra credit and I got as high a score as possible early into the course so that I could slip later in the course. I did calculations before my final, I could land a solid C (all that was required for my degree) without a stellar performance on my final. In fact, the grading structure was such that it was completely worth it for me to forgo my final homework assignment and only spend an hour total on the pre-test and actual final exam. By making that decision, I was able to spend several more hours this weekend with my family than I would’ve if I tried to get the highest grade I was capable of. After all, there’s that old joke: “What do you call the person that graduates last in their class from medical school?” … “Doctor”

Image Credits: Ajax von Kaiserpenguin, Challot