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Making a start

08 October 2012

So then, here I am in the library of the university. My second week of lectures has started and it is quite full on. Not so much with lectures but with homework. We are expected to write a Reflective Learning Essay of around 3 hand written pages for EVERY lecture we go to this module. Topics are different per lecture so I am expected to write individual essays about Hygiene, Aseptic Technique, First Aid, Basic Life Support etc. Eleven in total. And they need to reflect what I have learned as well as prove that I have done more reading on the subject. So it all needs to be referenced etc. To be handed in by the end of November. And that is just for the first module. A 'light load', we have been told.

I am finding this all a bit confusing. Unlike in school, they don't actually tell you what you are expected to know. You have a lecture and they give you recommended reading. Then in the Reflective thingy, I need to show what else I have learned. Surely this means all students learn different things? So how do I know I have learned the thing they want me to learn? This is a case of Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense:

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know."

So how do I know that there is something I don't know, if I don't know I should know about it? I guess I will have to accept that this is the way university works: You find your own learning.

Now for someone with Attention Deficit Disorder, this lack of clarity is extremely confusing. I need structure. I need to know what is expected of me. But the modern nursing degrees are all about self-reflection, finding your own way, discovering what you need to know.

Which is a pain in the backside. For example, here are some tips for lecturers on how to teach ADD-students:

It is helpful to give students written and oral information about their assignments; to be very clear regarding expectations; to provide examples of good and poor quality products; to be willing to discuss the assignments and look over drafts (class size permitting); and to offer choices whenever possible (e.g. oral presentations, essays, group format, etc.).

So basically the opposite of the approach my course is taking. And so for the first time ever, I have made an appointment with the disability student support people. I am not struggling too much just yet. But if I start struggling in the future, I can not longer say: But I have ADD, as they will assume I am using it as an excuse. So reluctantly, I am basically asking them to classify me as having a learning disability. I am pretty upset about that. Because surely if I can't study to be a nurse, then I can't actually BE a nurse either, right? It makes me feel like a fraud, that really I am just lazy and should get on with it like everyone else.

But then again, it turns out many of my course mates have not even started looking at the Reflective essays yet .Not put pen to paper at all. And I have. So maybe I am not behind at all. Maybe I am ahead. Maybe I am making too high a demand on myself. Maybe, therefore, the ADD is not a problem at all. Maybe, therefore, I am just setting myself up with an excuse if I fail. A nice and handy bit of protection. That kind of makes me callous and lazy. Right? And so we get back to the start: Just get on with it. It seems I have maneuvered myself in a position where I just can not win. Where my conclusion about myself is always going to be: not good enough.

Take today. I have spent the whole day at the computer. And maybe only done 60 minutes of actual work. Last week, I spent 4 hours on these essays. And maybe only did 2 hours of actual work. But if my output in those hours is higher than the output of other students, then surely this is not a problem? I guess not. But the way I see it, is that if I was able to use ALL these hours constructively, I would nearly be done already!

I have been looking for strategies that help me work. So far, it appears I can not work at home. I am too distracted and I get nothing done. So I have sat in pubs, bars & libraries. Not much better but at least SOME work gets done. Girlfriend is very helpful in listening to me discuss my lectures. I talk to her, she asks questions. She is helpful with strategies and ideas on how I could work more efficiently. I think in the end, I am glad I did not go to Plymouth, or even Coventry. I would have felt utterly lonely without friends and Girlfriend to fall back on for relief.

Oh dear, this is all a bit navel gazing, isn't it? That is the risk of writing as the thoughts come to my mind. Of having no structure or defined topic before starting to write these blog posts. Tough shit for you, dear reader. I suspect it will only get worse in the next few years.

Keep Reading: "Making a start"