Embracing Adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~~Hellen Keller

Taking Summer Classes

I’m back! I can’t believe it’s been about two and a half months since my last post. (That might be a record for me). As you might have guessed, I’ve been busy with grad school. I’ve also been working as a substitute teacher, which I’m sure I’ll tell you about someday. Hopefully being on spring break this week for the school I work for (although not for the school I attend) will give me a chance to catch up on some posts for you all.

Because class is most of why I haven’t been on here, I thought I’d kick off my return to blogging with a post about the classes I took last summer. Since I had to take three foundations classes before I could take more graduate level ones, I decided to take three classes in the summer to catch back up. I took Family Counseling, Multicultural Counseling, and Human Growth and Development, and I’ll tell you a bit about each of those.

Family Counseling

This was a required course focusing on the theories of family counseling. What was not required was to take it as a hybrid, which involved two onsite weekends in addition to the online work. I elected to take it as a hybrid because I usually get a lot out of the onsite weekends. In this case, one of my favorite assignments took place during the onsite, although it was kind of intimidating when I first found out we’d be doing it.

This isn’t from a family sculpting, but it just happened to have two people back to back. Since they are still touching, perhaps this could illustrate that, although they have a communication breakdown, they still ‘lean on’ each other for support.

The activity was family sculpting. Basically, in a group setting, an individual picks other group members to stand in for members of the individuals family. The individual arranges the stand-ins in a way that is meaningful and then explains who each person is and what their arrangement means. For example, if two people have their backs to each other, perhaps they are no longer communicating. Then the individual explains where he or she would fit within the family. After that, there is an opportunity to talk to each person as if he or she is actually the family member, and each person responds back is if he or she were the family member as well. It may sound strange, but it was actually a really moving experience, both being the individual and being a stand-in. For reasons of privacy and confidentiality (for myself and for others in the class), I’m not going to get into any more detail than that.

Another assignment, which was actually optional but was ‘strongly encouraged’ was to keep a journal about insights and discoveries we’ve made while doing the assigned readings and participating in class discussions. Although I haven’t made time to do the same for other classes, I thought it was a good assignment. I also liked the assignment to choose a family from a full length biography or one of several films and explain them as an interactional system using a theoretical approach from class. I chose the movie The Great Santini, which focuses on a military family, the Meechums. Rather than stick to one theory, I used Satir’s Human Validation Process Model, narrative therapy, and Boszormenyi-Nagy’s contextual therapy.

Multicultural Counseling

This was an online course focusing on learning about cultures, customs, languages, and spiritualities of various cultural groups in preparation for counseling people from diverse cultures. To this end, I had various assignments such as writing a paper on a film with a cultural issue as the primary theme of the film, acknowledging conflicts within or between characters, and sharing approaches to counseling I might take with the “case”. I chose to use the film Gran Tarino and considered the cultural issues of the character Thao Vang Lor, a Hmong adolescent and second-generation immigrant living in the Midwest.

In addition to learning about other cultures, I also explored my own culture through an assignment to compile an ethnographic biography in which I discussed my cultural background including race (White), ethnic background (American with Italian, French, German, and Irish heritage), American culture and the culture of the Midwest region of the U.S., and some other things. According to the authors of one of the textbooks, their “White students tend to be the ones who have the hardest time figuring out how to answer questions related to their cultural identity” (Thomas & Schwarzbaum, 2011, p. 80). Although that was true for me at first, as I worked through the various areas of culture the professor had listed for us to consider discussing, I found a lot more to say than I originally would have thought I would.

Human Growth and Development

This was a class focusing on the characteristics of human growth at each stage of development as well as counseling in various settings to prepare to practice with clients of all ages. One of the assignments was a research project which required me to do something completely new to me: creating a Power Point Presentation. Somehow I had managed never to have to make one before, so I had to figure out what I was doing on top of doing the research. I chose to do mine on how we might best counsel a client who is dying. It turned out pretty well if I do say so myself, and I learned a lot from doing it. Another assignment was compiling timeline report about someone’s development based on an interview with an individual over the age of 45 who isn’t a relative. As you may have come to expect by now, of course there was also self-reflection, which happened in the form of an assignment to complete a developmental autobiography. I discussed some factors that have contributed to my development and may influence how my life will be in the future, including exploring my personality using the ‘big five’ factors of personality’ (openness to experience, contentiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism).

At the end of the summer semester I still had a 4.0, and I was 18 credits into my degree. It was good that I had taken those classes, because if I had been less than 12 credits in (which I had been before that semester) I wouldn’t have been able to continue with this degree due to the fact that UMUC-Europe is discontinuing the program. I’ll tell you more about the teach out sometime in the future.

Reference:

Thomas, A. J. & Schwarzbaum, S. E. (2011). Culture and identity: Life stories for counselors and therapists (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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4 Thoughts on “Taking Summer Classes

  1. Congratulations on being able to go forward with the program through UMUC. Some of what you write seems like a foreign language to me but very interesting, nonetheless.
    Welcome back to the blogging world (for now). I don’t even know how you find time during your break but sometimes it’s good to just to some writing unrelated to your degree and job, isn’t it?
    Love the new blog design, btw! I’ve been thinking about doing something new with mine, as well.

    • Thanks. Well as long as it’s interesting :). Thank you. I actually didn’t find much time lol. I managed to get that one post, and I have a couple of drafts I’ll probably post in the next few days. It is, although this one technically was still related to the degree lol. Thank you. I originally was going to keep the same design as the old blog which I found for a few dollars at the creator’s site, but the file didn’t work correctly and by the time he sent me a working one I had already picked this one and decided to stick with it. It’s kind of nice to change things up.

  2. Great to read from you! I have missed you! Sounds like you are doing some really interesting stuff! Hope you can find some time to relax as well!

    • Thank you. You too. I need to pop by your blog again soon. I am doing interesting stuff. I did not find as much time to relax as I would have liked to, but at least I feel like I got stuff done (although still not as much as I would have liked to).

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