First week down!
It’s funny because I imagine that the first weeks of our program will be the lightest… nothing is yet due, we’re still doing a lot of introductory stuff… but for me it felt HUGE. It’s a lot to take in at first, plus we had a number of extra sessions scheduled, like CPR and library orientations, and we’re doing all of that first of the year settling in type stuff, like getting OSAP and trying to get OGS applications together. It’s all very new and very busy! Coming from an undergrad program that had few in-class hours and a lot of independent research, plus a very limited social life (I really focused on academics in undergrad, practically to the exclusion of all else), this new schedule for school and life is a big adjustment.
The other thing that’s a big adjustment for me is the McMaster culture… both in regard to the problem-based learning (PBL) and just the OT department’s culture in general. Group learning is a new challenge in the sense that you’re learning on two fronts… the content of whatever topic you’re dealing with, plus adjusting to the group dynamic. It takes a lot of self-awareness to see not just what you need to get out of the class, but to also see how you are affecting the participation and/or development of others. And at first, while you’re just getting to know one another, it’s really hard. Other than that I can’t really say much about problem-based learning because I’m still so new to it myself! I will try to talk about it more as time goes on though… I know people who are not in the program are curious about how it all works.
The other culture kind of thing that I’m trying to wrap my head around has to do with grades, and I’m really conflicted about this one. We have basically been told that students who meet all the expectations of the program will get B-grades… that B’s are perfectly acceptable and that we should not be motivated by the need to get A’s any longer. Now, part of me is freakin’ out about this revelation. I’ve been so driven for the last three years in order to get the grades that would make me a competitive candidate for grad school and scholarships that I’m not sure I can turn that instinct off right away. Plus, there’s a part of me that thrives on the external validation that grades provide. But on the other hand, the more time I have to sit with the idea of focusing on my own process and not just the end goal, the more there is a piece of my self that unclenches and starts to breathe. I’m not a competitive person by nature and I’m only now starting to really appreciate the internal burden I was carrying around in order to throw myself into the rat-race and succeed. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m actually glad that the culture in my program is more focused on the process rather than solely on the product. In both cases I will arrive at the same end… a MSc in Occupational Therapy… but with the Mac way I might also get to have a balanced life while I’m doing it! I simply need to convince the little voice in my head that is really unsure about this whole “grades don’t matter” thing that it will all be okay.
All things in time, I suppose. :)SweetPea