Challenge of Being an Adult Student

I still remember this huge argument that I had with my classmates while attending Cal Poly SLO as an undergraduate. The professor decided to put her students in groups of 3-4 and have us do projects. Because I was living in Santa Maria at the time and was married with children, not many students were willing to include me in their groups. To make a long story short, the 19-year-old students who got “stuck” with me were angry that I was dragging down their grades. I still remember one of the students yelling at me in the hall way, “If I get a B, it’s because of you. And if I get a B, I won’t get into a law school. You are ruining my future. This is what I get for trying to be nice to people.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love Cal Poly SLO because its academically rigorous program that prepared me well for the future. However, it has never been a very adult learner friendly school. When I was looking to get my teaching credential, they only offered classes between 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM. Clearly no consideration for adult students with full time jobs. And I feel for the “kids” who had their whole life ahead of them, who got stuck with me as their group partner. After all, it was not their fault that I had children and was a second-language learner who was barely able to write college-level essays. I am certain that she felt betrayed by me and the professor for making things that much more difficult for her.

But in light of what happened over this past week while I was in school, I couldn’t help but wonder about how higher education institutions treat adult students. My dear friend Robin had to leave class during our last face-to-face sessions to be with her son who was diagnosed with cancer. One of the professors was worried that Pepperdine University would monetarily penalize her for not withdrawing quickly enough if she were to decide to take a leave of absence.

Robin and me

Robin and I, during our last face-to-face

Pepperdine Univeristy is a Christian university that values people. I have been extremely thrilled to be a part of this amazing university. I love my cadre members who are simply amazing people and highly intelligent scholars. I have learned so much from being a part of this institution. But if what my professor said were true, it still seems unable to truly foster adult learners whose needs are vastly different from young, single students who never have to deal with real life issues and whose focus is solely academic.

Let me be clear. I am not blaming the university. After all, an institution must have rules and regulations. I like that Pepperdine is a Christian university with Christina values. What I am saying is that the polices and procedures should somewhat match to those values. Robin shouldn’t have to decide to withdraw right this second simply because she might lose a big chunk of tuition money. She should be given time to figure things out without having to worry about that.

When my Cal Poly incident happened, I advocated for my classmates. I went up to the professor and pleaded with her to grade the group essay with the authorship in mind. I told her which part was mine and which parts were my classmates’. I don’t know what she did, but I hoped that she took my explanation into consideration. Turned out I got a B on the assignment, but ended up getting an A in the class. So I am assuming my group members got good grades as well. I have no idea since they stopped speaking to me after that.

Years later, I found out that the girl who was angry at me for “ruining” her life ended up getting into a law school. I doubt she remembers what she did that day. Still to this day, I am extremely hesitant to participate in group projects in fear that I might let my group down. I am overly sensitive to the quality of writing. She nearly stopped me from starting this blog.

But I also learned to persevere. I found people who have encouraged me to continue. People who remind me that I moved to another country, learned a new language, and became a teacher. I learned to ask for help from others who can edit and correct my writing. I learned to communicate my inadequacies with people up front, so they are aware of my shortcomings. Most importantly, I continue to work hard to become better at writing.

Robin has been posting her son’s progress online. The latest report said that he could be cancer free in 30 days due to the excellent treatment he has received. I am hopeful that this university I love will be kind to my friend as it has always been to me. I also hope that other higher educational instutions will reconsider how they treate adult students. We may not be the most astute researchers, but we have a lot to offer to the world as adults.

Gabriel’s West Point Appointment

I love being a teacher especially when my students accomplish great things. I want all my students to go places, achieve their goals, and be the best they can be. That is why I am a teacher, and I love it.

But nothing, I mean, nothing made me happier than being told that my son Gabriel received an appointment to West Point. I am beyond EXCITED!


When I moved from Korea as a 23-year-old college dropout, I never imagined that my son would be accepted to the one of the best colleges in the United States. I also didn’t imagine that I would be teaching English and getting my doctorate in Education.

Since I moved to the United States, I have had many challenges. Aside from having to learn to speak English, my family has experienced a serious illness and financial difficulties resulting from it. As a senior English teacher, however, one of the things that I tell my students often is that one should never give up. I tell them one of my favorite lines from a hilarious Broadway musical Spamalot is “I am not dead yet” because it is so true. When I dropped out of college during my senior year with only 6 months from graduation to come to the United States and didn’t return because I married my husband, my parents stopped speaking to me for nearly 15 years. They treated me as though I was never going to recover from any of it. However, now they are beyond thrilled that I have a career that I love and my son will have a chance to attend West Point.

I am not sure whether he will choose to attend West Point or not. We still have to see what other colleges he will be accepted. But for now, I am a proud mother of my son who wants to choose a life of service to this country that has given me and my family so much.

Gabriel. I love you, and I am so very proud of you!

Identity Management

One of the toughest things about my journey since I came to the United States has been managing my varying identities. About a year after I arrived here, I became a wife and mother. Then I went back to school to get my degrees. I was still a second-language learner at the time – I  still am by the way, so forgive me for any errors that you see – trying to manage being all the other “people” in different contexts.

I am not saying that other people don’t have to manage varying identities. But I am experiencing a different phenomenon because of technology.

Since I moved to Bakersfield, I maintained a website. Because I found a great deal for my domain name, I was able to maintain a professional looking website with a personalized domain. But the site was mostly for my students who wanted to know what was going on in my class while they were absent. No one other than my students looked at my website, so I had to keep it looking friendly toward my population of high schoolers.

I spent about two years maintaining it as a class website, accumulating various artifacts along the way. However, I am starting to see that my website needs to be a professional website to help me cultivate a more sophisticated online presence. Since attending the 2013 DML Conference, it has beoame clear to me that I need to put my ideas about education and my project out in the world, so that people can read about them if I ever wanted to be considered seriously as a researcher and a doctoral student. At the same time, I still need a student friendly website for my students.

But how does one maintain that separation? I can barely find the time to write a class blog. Now I want to write about my research interest and my readings while writing all of that for the forums so I can pass my own classes at Pepperdine.

I suppose sleep is for the weak? But seriously. Someone find me more time! Please!

A Lesson from the Olympics

Every time I watch the Olympics, I am impressed by so many great athletes and their incredible accomplishments. But I am also equally impressed by all the parents who sacrificed so much for their children. Even though I always thought that, it didn’t really hit me until my own son began to participate in sports.

This past summer, Gabriel – my oldest – decided to join Cross Country, which meant 5 a.m. runs for five days a week. Since he didn’t have a driver’s license, my husband got up every morning at 4:30 to take him to practice. By the end of the summer, Gabriel was getting better at running. He says now he enjoys running which he didn’t before.

Just this morning, when I saw the report that Ryan Lochte’s parents are facing foreclosure, I thought about my own son and his 6 weeks of participating in Cross Country. It has been well documented that most all Olympic swimmers began swimming at the age of 5 or 6. Thinking back on our 6 weeks, I can just imagine how many hours these parents spent on the road.

But this makes me really think about how much parental sacrifice is required for so much greatness. I think about how many other children with equal talent don’t get to do what Ryan Lockte has done because there is no one to drive them to the pool at 4 a.m. The athletes have to do the work, but some don’t even get the chance!

And that’s not it at all. Kids also need help from countless others. Just yesterday, I saw four teachers who stayed up all night with my son and his friends during an ASB lock-in at the school, so that the students can have a fantastic year filled with exciting activities. The kids – including my own son – will probably get into prestigious universities because they had this experience as leaders at their school. Without all the help from volunteering teachers, who don’t get paid any extra money for their time way from their own families, these children’s chance of becoming successful later in their lives will certain diminish.

I am sure Ryan Lockte will help his parents because it is what any decent human being will do for his parents. After all, he is an Olympic champion! And I sincerely hope his example will serve others in how to graciously share one’s successes with people who have made enormous sacrifices for you to become a success: parents, teachers, and coaches. After all, they have helped us get wherever we are literally – by driving us to a 5 a.m. practice and by being at the practice with you – as well as figuratively.

Of course, I am so very proud of my own son for showing up to practice for 6 weeks straight and all the other fantastic athletes for their amazing accomplishments. But they didn’t do it alone. I hope they act like they truly appreciate it.

Now if only Gabriel gets his driver’s license, so he can drive himself to practice at 5 a.m.!

First Days of Tech Camp at Pepperdine

While growing up in Korea, I learned one thing really well. I learned to be a great student. Even when I moved from Korea to the United States, I continued to be a great student, I think, because I figured out the pattern and tricks to becoming a very good student in Korea. Here are the three most important rules.

First, you never ever contradict your teachers. Never. Contradiction means death. Just don’t do it. Just stop.

Second, you never ever miss your homework assignments. Again, never. But if you “forgot” to do the assignment, simply keep your head down and wait for the punishment. Do not, I repeat, do not make eye contacts or alert your teachers of your indiscretions. You will be considered disrespectful. It’s disrespectful enough that you didn’t do your work, but by making your teacher notice that inadequacies is thousand times worse. So keep your head down and take the punishment.

Finally, always take notes and memorize all your information. If you were too slow and couldn’t write down all the incredibly wise words of your teachers, just memorize the entire book. That will cover what you will have to learn.

I lived by those rules for 23 years in Korea. I won numerous scholastic awards, scholarships, and an admission to a great university.

Now I am beginning my doctorate program at Pepperdine. I am ask to think outside the box, speak my mind, and challenge the norm.

I am freaking out. Period.