Friday 14th December. The celebration began with a meet and greet at the uni; a chance to put faces to a names of fellow students and staff some are very familiar from the many discussion boards. Because I had attended summer school I knew where I was going yet I still felt nervous and a bit alone when I was dropped off in the car park. Would I recognise anyone? Would anyone I knew already be there so I could make a beeline to them or would I once again just slide into the corner and wait for someone to speak to me? –it is still easy to pretend to be confident just not so easy to be confident. I walk past a group of students –no not sure who they are, keep walking. I went into the building but come out; I might wait for someone I know. “Angela?” I heard my name, I look and wave. A woman approaches me and tells me she is Katherine and adds- ‘a friend of Taimi’s’ just in case I wonder. I know Katherine’s name from the discussion boards we have been in a few units together and Katherine has organised a dinner for that night. I follow her back to her group, we all introduce ourselves and we head off for the afternoon tea -safety in numbers?? A quick stop at the fishbowl for Katherine and Rebecca to collect their caps and gowns (why didn’t I ask someone to collect mine for me it would have saved some worry). The afternoon tea is a wonderfully informal way to begin and because everyone has name tags conversations are easy to start. It is also an opportunity to learn about the fine art of ‘doffing’ your cap and learn what to expect at the ceremony itself and learn that it would be wrong to kiss, hug or hi-five the chancellor (thanks Sharon).
The next event is the traditional get together for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. This isn’t an official event but as I said a tradition and a chance for partners to join us to celebrate. There wasn’t much opportunity to mingle but we had photos, good food and many laughs. We also checked our timetable for tomorrow- THE BIG DAY.
Saturday 15th December
I woke up to the sound of rain. Surely not, it couldn’t rain today; we had a parade to participate in. We had been looking forward to this day for a long time but sure enough it was persisting down outside and I mean PERSISTING down. The sky was grey there was not a ray of sun anywhere. All too soon the message came through the Town and Gown had been cancelled; there would be no cheering, no feeling like Santa in the Christmas parade, no brass band. There would still be the formal ceremony of course just not the parade. Oh well I got dressed in my new dress and got undressed again because I decided I didn’t really like it and put on my black pants and white shirt and headed off to the Grand Chancellor to meet Chris and Prue to pick up our caps and gowns. All of a sudden it felt real. As we walked down the corridor the display was there for signing up for photos, there we signs on doors saying UTas graduation, there was lots of people arriving and excited chatter going on. Because the parade was cancelled and our ceremony was not until 2:30 we had five hours to spare so we all decided to go back to our accommodation and meet back later. I hung up my gown, got changed we went for a drive.
Finally, it was time to head back to accommodation to get dressed once again and collect the cap and gown and return to the Grand Chancellor for photos. Now it was real I was wearing my gown. I fixed my cap and secured it with a heap of bobby pins –mine was not going to fall off! Next stop photos. We were ushered into the room where two photographers were set up and told to head to second photographer and wait. Now I can tell you I don’t really like having my photo taken but I had promised I would so I did. Sadly this did nothing for my love of it. Our photographer was obviously learning I was instructed to stand on the line and face one way and I was given piece of plastic pipe with the UTas logo to hold! I am sure that a piece of paper rolled with a ribbon would have looked better and would have been more natural but I am not the photographer. I was pushed, shoved and moulded like play dough into the desired pose then Peter joined me so we could a photo together, once again we were pushed and shoved and moulded then the obviously more experienced photographer came over and showed our man what to do and what instructions to give. That over we joined Chris and her husband and walked to Albert Hall ready for the ceremony.
Of course by now the sun was shining which was good for some nice photo shots. Mind you there was so much positive energy I think we would have burned off any rain if it had tried to fall. The time had come for us to take our seats inside but that was easier said than done. We were directed to a door around the side but when we went in we were told we needed to go out and find the other door so we went in there; hang on that was the door we just came out of! In the end someone guided us to the correct door and said to get our name marked off (yes I did complete my degree on my own it is just I have no sense of direction). We were given our seat number and quickly sat ourselves down.
It was real, we were here, surrounded by similarly excited people wearing the same gown some adorned with a different colour on their hood and a smattering of people with bonnets rather than caps. We were given a welcome and an entertaining demonstration of what to do when we were presented. I kept practicing reaching for my cap, Tim had warned us that it was much higher than we would expect I missed every time; higher Angela, higher. It started, the procession of Graduands, some missed their cap, some forgot completely to doff (or was it some kind of statement and done on purpose) some didn’t shake hands; some seemed to sprint on and off. The row in front stood and took their places side stage. Rebecca and I looked at each other and took a big breath our own moment of glory would be very soon. The signal was given we stood up; made sure we had our name cards and made our way to side stage. Breathe Angela; my hands are sweaty, I can’t look at the stage in case I make eye contact with Tim or Sharon. Too late I saw her and smiled before quickly turning away to steady myself. Breathe, think, up the steps, hand the card, wait for name, walk, doff shake, and off. I did it, I really did it I managed to doff my hat at just the right height, I smiled and thanked the chancellor when he shook my hand but I also turned and looked at Sharon before going down the steps, I so wanted to shout WE DID IT! But I didn’t I just grinned. I am sure she knew what I was saying anyway. Back to our seat, smiles and quiet congratulations all around and before long it was over. I know I should have been listening to the speeches but I couldn’t. I was too excited, plus I was trying so hard not to cough that I ended up not being able to breathe and having a coughing fit anyway. I had to rummage in my bag for a sweet there was no way I was going to be able to get out for a drink. It was lovely to witness one of our beautiful lecturers receive her doctorate and I felt privileged to be there I would have loved to congratulate Helen in person but I didn’t get a chance. We were given the instruction to stand and row by row we filed out of the auditorium to wait for our friends and loved ones for more photos. It was then time to go back to The Grand Chancellor for our reception. The down side of this for me was it was like a market day, every step you took toward the room there seemed to be something which invited you to spend money-copies of your degree, bears, plaques… of course you didn’t have to but it was a bit commercial for me. Inside the room we mingled, we met, we chatted and some even ate. Feeling a little like Cinderella I watched the clock because we had to have the gowns back by a certain time. All too soon it was over time to go, time to end a magical day. I needed to go back and say thanks and goodbye to Sharon, Tim and Robyn that was when the emotion hit me I felt the tears rising, I tried to hold it together this was a happy day, but it also marked the end of something wonderful something I never, ever thought I would achieve, I had graduated from University as a teacher.
It’s time; time to set off on the final leg of my journey. No I am not travelling around the world I am heading to Launceston to attend my graduation from university. This journey has been a long one- more than 40 years, in fact maybe even closer to fifty! No I am not a very slow learner, I completed it in 4years but I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I remember.
This blog is really about the graduation itself because Sharon said she would be interested to hear my thoughts (can you actually hear someone’s thought?) but I will tell you a little bit about the beginning of the journey first.
At the beginning of 2008 I was forwarded an email it simply said ‘would you like to upgrade your qualifications as an SSO to a teacher while still working as an SSO?’ I clicked on the link and started reading but I dismissed it because it was from a university and after all I wasn’t university material. A couple of months later I received the same email again from my principal. This time there was an information session being held in Elizabeth. It couldn’t hurt to go and just listen I thought, at least it would confirm that I couldn’t do it so I could justify my decision and not die wondering. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going (I didn’t want anyone to laugh at me for even entertaining the idea) I just said I had a training and development session to attend. When I got there I sat by myself and listened to the three ladies ‘sell’ it to us. When it was finished we had a chance for an informal chat and when I was asked what I thought I said that I thought it was fantastic and that if I was younger or cleverer I would have jumped at the chance. I can still see the look on Sharon Pittaway’s face! I may as well have said that anyone over 30 should be put out to pasture or at least sat in a wicker chair in the sun and given a pair of knitting needles. When I came home Peter asked how I went and did I learn anything new. I fessed up and told him where I had been, he only said two words ‘do it’ so I did. I started the process of applying. I was accepted and began what I thought would either be a short dabble in study if I failed the first unit or a long 8years of part time study. Well I can proudly say I finished my four year degree in four years.
I actually had 2! I had my actual graduation when I finished and received my degree but I didn’t attend the ceremony. I had decided to attend the Ceremony in December and do a walkthrough. (This is where they call my name and I am presented to the Chancellor but my envelope contains a congratulatory letter rather than my degree). It is this second graduation I will share with you in part 2.
Once again I asked to leave in plenty of time so I was not late. We heard on the radio that a major accident on one of the roads was causing huge traffic bank up so dad took another route and I arrived in plenty of time.
Now, being the sophisticated traveller that I am I calmly walked up to the check-in counter as if I fly every week only for the girl to tell me I was on the wrong terminal! What how can this be? This is departures I had checked, double checked and then checked again, The sign said Qantas- I am flying Qantas she looked at her must be mistaken; She gave me ‘one of those looks’ and told me thios was Qantas LINK not Qantas. I wasn’t feeling too sophisticated then when I had visions of having to go and find a bus or something to take me to the correct terminal. She very nicely directed me to simply walk to the other side of the carpark. I didn’t have time to say anything before she just smiled and said “Follow those people; they have done the same thing.”
A brisk walk and a smooth check in, and I am set to make my trip home.
This time everyone boards from the front and I am about the third person on the plane so I once again take my seat. Again I am in the middle seat so I wait to see who will join me. Before long a pleasant young man (well he was younger than me) arrives and introduces himself as Adrian and we exchange pleasantries. I settle back to my book and then have a sudden awful feeling- I am in the wrong seat! I need to check my boarding pass but it is in the overhead locker. My face must have given me away because Adrian asked if something was wrong so I told him I thought that I should be seated in 13B not 13E. I was about to ask him to get my bag when the flight attendant approached and asked would I mind moving to the window seat because they needed someone there on exit rows- problem solved I thought. Now another flight attendant approached and asked me where I was supposed to be sitting so I quietly said on the other side of the isle but quickly added someone had asked me to sit here (well it was only stretching the truth a little bit) He was fine with that and I stayed where I was.
As we travelled Adrian and I chatted. He had just had his first book published and was nervous how it would go. I told Adrian I was a teacher and that next week I would be attending my graduation in Tasmania. Adrian said that was fantastic and explained that he was a life/performance coach and loved to hear stories about how people had made changes to their life. It was a lovely trip and although we talked we each gave the other time to enjoy our own time –me to read and him to write his Christmas cards and write messages in the front of his books which he was giving as Christmas presents.
Very quickly we were on the ground in Adelaide and the trip was over. We said goodbye and I headed once again to a taxi rank to find my lift home.
When I was finalising travel plans I decided to save everyone the hassle of picking me up from the airport for my very quick trip to Sydney this weekend. I thought I would catch the train. Its simple- just go down the lift at the terminal and get on a train, change at Central, board a new one and Bob’s your uncle- you’re at the destination. WRONG! When I checked the timetable I discovered there was track work so I would have to catch the train then change to a bus. No problem I thought-I would catch the ferry from circular quay instead. Ok where on the timetable were the Saturday times? It clearly had Mon-Fri; Sunday and Public holidays. I relented and allowed my brother to pick me up from Central.
Now all my friends and family know I am a bit of a stress bucket until I am sure everything is ok and my friends and family also know I am a long way from qualifying as a frequent flyer. I must have checked my booking at least a dozen times I emailed it to every email address I own and copied it to at least 3 memory sticks (can’t be too careful). At the duly appointed 48hr mark I logged on to do an online check-in. Ok I have the details, yes I am me, yes I confirmed my seat selection. What? I need to make a decision about how I would like to receive my boarding pass? How can someone make such an important decision on the spur of the moment? If I get an SMS what if my phone goes flat? What if I can’t retrieve my messages? What if I forget my phone? What if…. On the other hand if I get it emailed to me what if I can’t access my emails? What if I can’t print it out? What if I lose the bit of paper? Oh my goodness why isn’t anyone home to help me make a decision. Breathe Angela just get it emailed.
I made it to the airport with my boarding pass; passed through security and went to the gate so I couldn’t possibly miss my flight. Boarding call; rows 1-15 board by gangway at front; rows 16+ go across tarmac and up back stairs my seat 16E… never mind on I go and take my seat.
I watch as fellow passengers look for their seat and my neighbours are soon settled into theirs. Both quickly pop in earphones and close their eyes. I think I will be in for a peaceful trip. As soon as we were in the air the lady next to the window takes out a little parcel of food and a drink she is obviously prepared. The gentleman on the aisle starts sniffing (I hate sniffing). Still his eyes are closed. The cabin crew begin selling refreshments but are quickly advised to stop because we have hit turbulence. Now the man has fallen asleep and he is snoring and his head is leaning dangerously close to my side- what should I do if it lands on me? He also has a terrible odour about him so I really don’t want him that close. Thank goodness for turbulence it woke him up.
Before long we are in Sydney, all I have to do now is find my brother (his instruction was to go to the country concourse and he will meet me near the taxi rank). I wish he had a mobile phone! How can someone who is younger than me not own a mobile phone? It’s all good, I find him and we set off towards Wentworthville.
Ok so it wasn’t really all good -The car started to overheat badly, not a good thing when it has to not just get me to my dad’s but then needs to get my brother to Coffs Harbour the following day. We did make it to
Dad’s but the car was not going anywhere else, the NRMA was called and duly diagnosed as having a major problem requiring a tow. (As a mentioned in an earlier blog post this weekend was also about reconnection for my brother and he needed to get to Coffs Harbour- again it is his story so I will just say that after much ado he finally got there and it had a happy ending).
I had a lovely weekend catching up with family I had not seen for a long time but not with my dear friend. All too soon Sunday was here and it was time to leave again. My Dad insisted on taking me to the airport and it was nice to have that extra time together while we travelled through traffic.
My last post focussed on the reconnections that will be made in December but December will also be a time of ending for me. 2012 has been a momentous year for me for many reasons and will stand out forever as being the year of ‘firsts’. As each of these firsts come to an end I will feel a little sadness but I also know that they are really only just beginnings. The most significant of these will happen in less than two weeks –I will say goodbye to my class –my first class yes MY class. I cannot describe how wonderful it has been to set these little people off on their journey. Knowing that I have so much influence is actually quite scary. I knew if I was too hard they might end up hating school. If I was too soft they may not learn about self-discipline and responsibility. I knew I had to fill them with a desire to learn; a passion for learning, an understanding that you shouldn’t believe everything just because someone tells you it’s true. I want them to become inquisitive, I want them to question. I really don’t think you can learn that too young. I know that I will have a chance with another class of students but these are my first students –they are special.
Another ending will take place in two weeks from today. It is the ending of the end in a way because I will attend my graduation ceremony. I actually graduated in August but I wanted to wait until now to share it with some very good friends and study buddies. I have met some wonderful people during my study and a few have become close friends but these particular girls and I have been together since day one. We were all more than a little nervous when we turned up to orientation day all believing we would be the oldest person there. We had not met before that day but have been firm friends since. Sadly the other part of our awesome foursome will not be there in body but will sure be there in spirit and we will all be there to cheer her along as she finishes early next year. The graduation signifies the end of four years of study; the realisation of a dream. The end of something I never thought I would experience never mind complete (and complete well I might add).
2012 will be a hard act to follow but I am sure that when I say goodbye to it on 31st December I will not say it with sadness though I will say it with happiness and pride and know that I can make 2013 another year of firsts.
The next few weeks are going to be busy. I know December is traditionally a busy time for everyone but for me it should be the beginning of my holidays. a time to rest, a time to smell the roses- but not for me THIS time.
This December is a time for great celebration and a time for reconnections. The first reconnection will be when I fly to Sydney to see my family – Coincidently the last time I was in Sydney was a time of family reconnections too but they were sad times not a time to celebrate these reconnections. This time I will celebrate with and for my family. My brother who has made a significant reconnection of his own (but that is his story not mine) will also be there. I have seen him once in almost 20 years. My cousin will be visiting from England. I have not seen her for 14 years. My sisters will be there. My Dad and step mum will be there and so will be my nieces and nephews and great nieces. I will be in Sydney for less than 48 hours but it will be filled with reconnections. One reconnection that won’t be a biological family member will hopefully take place on Sunday before I go home. One with my best friend from primary school. Her family came to the rescue at a time when we needed rescuing. I have not seen Vivien and her family in over 30 years but thanks to the internet we have recently begun our reconnection. Our lives have many parallels -we both have 2 children, both have a son and a daughter, we are both teachers…. We are hoping to see each other in person on the Sunday. We will have so much to talk about but so little time.
My second opportunity for reconnection will be the floowing weekend at something that has been a lifetime in the making- My Graduation as a teacher! I always wanted to be a teacher but circumstance didn’t allow it. Not until a chance email forwarded to me lit that desire again. I will be reconnecting with someone special then too, someone who gave me the nudge and the confidence to give it a go. Someone who has challenged, supported, frustrated and encouraged me all the way through -someone who I now call a great friend . There will also be other tutors who have played their part in my journey two in particular who I feel a connection with. Importantly there will also be other students who understand the sacrifices, the joys, the frustration of online study. Study that would possibly have been easier if we were doing it face- to -face in our home state. Who knows? Who really cares? we did it! we made it! We are all teachers.