One thing I realized very quickly was that the professors who had put together the course materials were not the people physically teaching the course. They were all men with PhDs, but not directly professors at the seminary. Rather they were “administering” courses that the professors at the seminary had put together.
Another key learning during my first semester: my first experience was not the norm of all classes. While the first class was all reading books, responding in discussion boards and taking quizzes, this one had DVDs to watch (several every week). Remember that each course only lasts eight weeks, so watching 25 45-minute lectures in those eight weeks is no small feat. My second course, Old Testament Survey I, was such a class. In all fairness though, what made this a really positive experience was the professor teaching this course. It was never dry or boring, and even my husband found his spot on the couch in the living room next to me many evenings. Either that, or he was just too lazy to go sit somewhere else and watch TV.
Of course, also here you had to participate in discussion boards and take quizzes (oh yes, and read on top of it plus a book report…it was a lot), but I really enjoyed the lecture format, especially as the lectures were taped in front of real students taking the class during what I have to suspect was an intensive – more about those later. A key to success for this course was clearly taking copious notes as very minute details showed up on the exams. I think I developed carpal tunnel during that class!
This course was really interesting also because simultaneously my Honey and I were taking a spiritual formation class at church called “Old Testament Survey”. This was being taught by Dr. E, yes indeed, the one who ultimately was the impetus for me starting seminary. So now, Dr. E. was always exactly one week ahead of where we were in the seminary course, and it was a good experience to hear the information twice from two different people. The course at our church was directly modeled on what I was taking in seminary. Regrettably, only about eight people showed up for Dr. E.’s teaching, which is definitely not a reflection on his teaching, but rather on the regrettably still rather small interest in Old Testament scripture in the body of Christ. This is becoming a really REALLY sad state of affairs to me, as I do not understand how anyone can hope to understand the New Testament without having spent time studying the Old.
During this time, Dr. E. also recommended I friend the professor in charge of this course at seminary on Facebook. Best tip ever! All of a sudden, I felt plugged in, I could ask more questions and simply felt like I was having a much richer learning experience. While I was communicating with the person responsible for our class, it was not anywhere near the richness I derived out of being able to ask questions from the professor who wrote the course. It just proved to me my old conviction that if you meet your professor, not only will your grade improve, but you will learn much more.
Of course, the first premise to make this a true statement is that you want to be there to learn. I am sometimes amazed at some of my fellow students. They just want to get done as quickly as possible to put the feather of the degree on their cap, but it is not about taking the time to enjoy the journey and to ask hard questions. Learning is about so much more than the degree. It is nice to have the degree as an award at the end of the journey, but each day’s walk within the journey has its own adventures and instruction – why would I want to miss that?
So here I was, at the end of my second class, ready to begin anew in the spring after the Christmas break. Was I glad I had begun? Yes. One hundred percent YES – what a difference just these two classes had made in my personal understanding! It was also important to get the pace down – how much class work could I take and still be able to perform in an outstanding manner at work? Little did I know that this problem would soon resolve itself, as I was going to lose my eleven year employment with a software vendor by the end of January. More about that another time, as it does play into my experience.