Wednesday, June 03, 2009


It is early in the morning as I log into the Harvard Extension school online.
I had to go back into my e-mail to find my login ID. Its really bizarre; with an "@" symbol as the first character and no discernible formula to its design. Which is probably exactly why Harvard chooses to do it this way - I.D. protection and all that.
I put in my password and the menu screen appears. I choose "View Grades", which brings me to this option:

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And I wait. The moment of truth has arrived and I am nervous.

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I came to the Harvard Extension school because I was wholly dissatisfied with Northeastern University and their slipshod way of running (read: butchering) the integrity of their English program by offering their program (mostly) on-line. I knew for certain that I wasn't being challenged at NEU and, as I have said before, for this Bachelors degree to mean anything to me it has to demonstrate both the work put into it as well as my hard-won knowledge.
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Over fifteen weeks of study my classmates and I accomplished the following:
  • We translated over 800 lines of Old English text into Modern English.
  • We read Beowulf in its entirety.
  • We read scholarly works regarding different aspects of Beowulf as well as all of Seamus Heaney's collected work "Electric Light" and selected works from "Opened Ground".
  • I participated in weekly discussions with both my professor and my peers and, finally,
  • we all wrote a mid-term and a final paper.

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Now, it is three weeks to the day after my class ended. I have continued to read the class texts assigned for the course because for as much as we covered in class there was so much more left uncovered. Thankfully, our textbooks seemingly cover the length and breadth of a solid overview of Beowulf. I would expect nothing less from the texts chosen by Professor Donoghue for this class.

Professor Donoghue is a master of his craft. He knows Old English and Beowulf intimately and yet he never made me feel inferior. He is a soft-spoken man whose insights were gently stated. He enjoyed probing a student for more information or to better elucidate their ideas when he felt they were onto something. I asked questions, Professor Donoghue asked questions of me, and we collectively discussed the work. One of my proudest moments of this class was when I made an observation regarding the growth of Beowulf within the poem and Professor Donoghue replied, "I have never thought of that; but it is worth consideration. Thank you for that."

He is a teacher who actually knows how to teach. He taught while he listened. I have learned so much in his class. Mostly, I learned how much more there is for me to learn.

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I miss my classmates, too; those people who tackled "Beowulf & Seamus Heaney" alongside of me. After the first week of class I was in awe of the students who sat in class with me. They are all so damn smart. We came from different walks of life but we all shared that quirky, unexplained gene that allows us to fully appreciate (as best we can) the mighty work "Beowulf". Most had taken the Old English class that was offered in the Fall semester so they knew much more about the language then I did. Yet, with all my questions for clarification they never once made me feel out of place or that I didn't belong among them. Slowly, week after week, I grew into my place at their table. They are an exceptional group of people who listened when it was appropriate to do so and who offered intelligent discourse in response. They offered encouragement when it was needed and each and every one of them brought a unique viewpoint of the text to the table. So, to Danielle, Candace, Joanna, Cat, Pam, Michael, Maura, Justin, Joanne and Sumeda I extend my sincerest thanks and declare my utmost admiration for all of you. I learned so much in your company and I am the better for it.
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No more stalling. The time has come.
I click on the button.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

Awesome! Congratulations! You worked your A$$ off and it paid! Good job friend!

9:26 AM, June 03, 2009  
Blogger Bridget said...

BRAVO! A well-written blog and such a well-deserved grade on your first, Masters level Harvard course. We're all proud of you in this household.

11:10 AM, June 03, 2009  
Blogger Cynthia said...

I loved the cadence of this post, the repeated refrain that created a true feeling of suspense and anticipation.

I suspect that you also grew in character as you kept pace with Beowulf.

Well-done, Andy!

12:29 PM, June 04, 2009  

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