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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

Almost at the Top of this Mountain

Jacqueline Quillen

(May, 2010) Graduation - n. the ceremony of conferring degrees or diplomas, as at a college or school; the tempering or refining of something to a certain degree; the last day of the best time of my life thus far; the end of the roller coaster that lasted four years; four weeks, 25 days away; May 16, 2010.

Every day seems to go by faster than the one before and there is no slowing down. Some people are anxiously counting down the days until summer, and others are asking for just one more week before the end. It is crunch time for everyone. Only three weeks of classes remain before final exams and then summer time. I usually count down the days until summer, but not now. There is this huge thing blocking my view- that G-word that everyone keeps talking about.

Every Wednesday at 2:00 I leave the Career Center with a list of things to accomplish in the next week for planning out my future. I feel ambitious and motivated to live out the day and every day after with my head held high. Wednesday night rolls around, and I want to work on my "Future's to-do list," but I end up putting it off to the side for the time being. The pile of schoolwork I have to do is so high it might tumble over. I make a dent in the schoolwork, but by Friday afternoon the pile only grows taller. I never understood the saying "so much to do, so little time" as clearly as I do now.

Another week begins on Sunday, and I am already sleep deprived and struggling to finish all of my work for every class. The phone rings on Tuesday afternoon. It is the Career Center calling to remind me of my appointment on Wednesday, and I still have the majority of my to-do list left to finish. A personal statement about why I want to become a teacher or about my philosophy of education is not the same as a paper for an English class. In other words, procrastination and pulling an all-nighter do not produce good work. This is my future we are talking about.

I know what I want to be when I grow up, a teacher, but not knowing how I am going to get there is killing me. I know that grad school is necessary for me to become a teacher, but I have no idea how I will pay for grad school. The list of uncertainties goes on and on, and every time I take a step forward in figuring out the Future, it feels like I take another two steps backward. Meanwhile, I still have to pass a 19-credit semester to get to that big ceremony.

This is the time when teachers pile on the workload, thinking that their class is the most important or the only class that students care about. This is also the perfect time to be outside soaking up the sun. For seniors this is the time to enjoy our last spring in college and our last few weeks together.

I find myself in a pickle these days. I should be enjoying my last few weeks of English classes by reading the assigned books and participating in class discussions. Instead I find myself using the 50 minutes of class time to outline a paper I have to write later or making a list of everything on my mind that I hope to attend to. I walk around my apartment and find scattered to-do lists lying around, most of them unfinished. This must be what my brain looks like on the inside: a bunch of scattered lists.

Though I want to soak up every last minute of college courses right now, I'm also ready to start life after college. All I want to do every day is complete the list sitting on my night stand. It's staring me in the face every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed, haunting me, telling me my time is almost up. Homework and papers haunt me also. If I don't do the papers I will not make it to the G-word. I wish I knew I wanted to be a teacher back in September or last year so that this last three-week period was more manageable.

I applaud and envy the people who make the honor roll, play sports, do extracurricular activities, find a job, and make time for friends. How is this possible without superpowers? These people must not sleep at all. I get an average of five hours of sleep a night and still fall behind in school. What have I done wrong? Thinking back, I could have done some things differently. If I had the chance to go back and do it all over again, however, I would not change a thing.

Working at Mother Seton School helps me grasp the transition from college to career. My dreams of becoming a teacher feel more real. In my first lesson plan, students completed math worksheets to get reptilian body parts made of paper plates and green construction paper. I forgot how creative things could be in elementary school. Once the students collected all the body parts they created a turtle. The lesson took a little longer than expected, but luckily working toward the goal of making a turtle kept the students' attention throughout the lesson.

Turtle math received mixed reviews, but everyone worked hard and seemed pleased with their unique turtles by the end. My favorite response to the activity was from Madison, who joined the activity later than her classmates. When I gave Madison the second worksheet and her first turtle leg, she turned to me with a blank stare and asked, "Why are we doing this?" My gut reaction was to laugh and apologize for making her suffer. Of course, I held back.

Madison's comment felt like a mild foreshadowing of the comments to come when I am eventually a teacher, comments like, "I'm not spending my life's savings on my child's education for her to make turtles all day." Madison quickly had a change of heart when she completed all the math problems error free and got more turtle parts. While she made her turtle I sat next to her and made a turtle for myself.

I have always had a passion for children and a desire to work with them. Starting a new job or a first job will inevitably be nerve-wracking. I do not think my first day of teaching will be as stressful because children have a way of making a teacher feel at home in the classroom. Even if my first day happens to be prank-the-teacher-day, I would probably take the prank as an invitation to show tough love by giving my students plenty of homework.

For now I am going to keep living every second the best I can until G-day. My roommate, who is also senior class president, is working on her speech. She thinks of a way to secretly include her roommates and best friends in the speech by using code words. One of my roommates selfishly tried to claim the word "the" to get the most shout-outs, but such words have been declared off limits. Another roommate was just accepted to grad school. One by one, we are coming to terms with the end of college and the end of our time together, which has been the best part of my entire college career. I have truly had the time of my life, and I owe it all to the Mount. I thank my parents every day for giving me the opportunity to grow here.

Read past editions of Jacqueline Quillen's Four Years at the Mount