Have you ever looked at your life and wondered, “what the hell am I doing here?” It’s like driving along and you’re sure the right lane is the way to go but you come to a point where you look up, have no idea where  you are and think, “I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque.” It’s a dismaying, overwhelming feeling. You want to laugh at your situation, but the truth is  you’re scared as hell and want your mommy. That’s where I’m at now. Question is, how did I get here?

Three years ago I came out of a depression haze that consumed my life resulting from my father’s death. Unable to think or do anything, I spent most of a year playing World of Warcraft, avidly avoiding life and living on social assistance. When the haze lifted, I realized this was not the life for me. I needed more and set out to do more. I tried to revive my writing career but I had spent the last ten years cocooned in the world of caregiving. HTML, Facebook, blogging and Twitter had all passed me by. I tried to apply for writing jobs, but when one said “must Tweet” I almost cried. I was way out of my depth.

Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way. So, I went to the Edmonton Metis Employment Association and begged them to send me back to school. I had two choices; return to University of Alberta where I could get a second degree in business over a two-year period and focus on communications or go to Grant MacEwan’s Applied Diploma in Communications in Professional Writing program. The PROW program. I chose the latter. The PROW program had a good reputation and gave me an opportunity to stretch my creative wings. I did not choose wisely.

At 44, I’m gracefully called a mature student. I’ve been out in the world, had a beginning writing career in journalism and ran a theatre company. I’ve cut my teeth a bit on the Edmonton writing scene. I came into a place full of people who’d just left high school and called themselves wizened. I found it annoying in the same way you find a mosquito bite annoying, but not enough to derail me. However, things quickly deteriorated.

In my first year, I found that the instructors, not the students, were the problem. Grant MacEwan has a policy of smaller class sizes and more intimate relationships with the instructors. Works well on paper. University of Alberta treats all the students the same. Teach the students, give them the work, they pass or fail on their own merits. The problem with Grant MacEwan’s system is the instructor wants to be your friend. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Think about the friends in your life for a moment. You love them, but they’re annoying. You have to deal with their insecurities and foibles just as they have to deal with yours. They can bring their drama to you because you’re safe. Now, translate that to an instructor. See the problem?

Writers as a whole usually have self-confidence issues. I don’t know why, but I think it has to do with ripping your soul out and putting it on paper. I think this is also why so many writers drink. So, imagine you have a friend who lacks self-confidence. They may cover it up by being arrogant or by telling you that you’re the one with the problem. However, at the root is their own inability to stand confidently. They wind up lashing out at those around them. Now make that person an instructor.

I don’t say that was true for all the instructors. Just an alarming majority. They were good enough at hiding it from a green 20 something, but a former freelance journalist can sniff that out like a bloodhound on a convict’s scent. I have my own confidence issues, but a lack of belief in my own writing skills isn’t among them. I’m weird that way.

As I said, I entered the first year a bit ahead of my peers. Much of the stuff discussed in class I’d done in the real world. I just didn’t know I was doing it. Okay, so I learned to refine my technique and get comfortable using a Mac (by the way, I am not an Apple fan. I think they’re useless toys. I’m an avid PC’er, myself). I also learned about HTML and social media. But it was the instructors who alarmed me.

There wasn’t a lot of overt hand-wringing. Most of it was so subtle I doubt the instructors knew they were doing it. One instructor  informed the class to not bother sending pieces to American magazines as we would never get published there. This instructor went on to say that it was her opinion that Canadian writers were shunned by American media and that we weren’t good enough to go there. I was stunned. American magazines often publish Canadian writers on a regular basis. When I said so, I was told that I would learn in the same way you’d tell a child they’d understand when they were older.

Other instructors covered up their feelings of inadequacy by being arrogant. I became far too familiar with the “I’m the instructor and I say so, that’s why” thinking. Ironic since Grant MacEwan makes the instructor your buddy. Yet others would tell inane stories over and over again, reminding me of my visits with my mother who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s. A few, possibly two or three, would demand my best and know when I was giving it. They would make me stretch my writing abilities and earned my respect through their abilities, not their willingness to be my buddy. Sadly, most had no idea when I was doing a crap job. For most of my instructors I would write something up a day before it was due and hand it in. Most times I hadn’t even edited beyond the spell check on Word.

Things came to a head recently with a particularly arrogant instructor. I liked this instructor. I trust those who are blunt and honest more than those who give sweet words. I knew where I stood with this instructor and I liked that. I liked him and trusted him enough to tell him, recently, that I hated an assignment I did for him.

Everything came to a screeching halt there. This instructor turned on me like a pit bull. I was told I was “rude and unprofessional”. He’d made it clear in class that he held grudges. He also separated people into groups and if he didn’t like you, you’d go into the “apathetic loser” group. I was being set up to fail and I knew it. I didn’t deserve it. Grant MacEwan wanted me to give the instructors my trust and when I did I got slapped for it. Now I was angry.

I went to the Student Services advisor and launched a complaint. She heard me out and told me to return and I’d find out what my options were. I was uplifted by this. I didn’t want to be the bad guy, but I wasn’t going to take that. Upon my return I got another slap in the face. I was given the option of finishing the course online which I opted to do. I let the rest of it go, not prepared to fight this big of a fight this close to graduation (which is in April of this year). Then came the bomb. She was glad I was letting it go. Some concerns had been raised about me.

Now wait a cotton picking minute. I have no doubt concerns are raised about me all the time. I’m constantly tilting at windmills and laughing all the way. Nothing has been said to me about any of this until I raise a complaint about an instructor? What?

The prior semester I had done an analysis on Playboy Magazine. I chose the magazine as it is an industry leader and the pictures of the women are tasteful and artful. Writers such as Alex Haley, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood have written for this magazine. Playboy is one of those that creates new trends. The instructor of the class had no problem with me doing the magazine, but someone else did. Really? Who?

I got angry. They were upset by naked pictures? Walk down the halls of the West Campus of Grant MacEwan. There are nudes and partial nudes all over the place. Some titty got someone’s panties in a bunch? Great timing, too. Nothing was said the prior semester when I might have been willing to change my choice or even defend my choice. No. It’s brought up when it looks like I might go forward with my complaint.

Now I took a new look at my program and suddenly I was very glad it was shutting down. Instructors who demand I validate them as human beings because I’m supposed to be their buddy is a waste of my time and energy. Instructors who feel it’s perfectly fine to have affairs on their wives with students IN THEIR CLASS is not someone who can teach me a damn thing. Let me say this clearly, if you can’t sort out what is or isn’t appropriate behaviour towards your students, and that includes whining to them or berating them or having affairs with them, then you have no business teaching me. Go get a dog or get therapy or something for your issues. Don’t bring them to class.

So now what? Here I am feeling like I’ve wasted 2 years of my life. I’ll get my career going after graduation, but I’m also bringing along a whole lot of baggage imposed on me by instructors who don’t understand what’s appropriate or not. I doubt this blog will win me any friends in the industry, but I’ll say this to them; hire me and you won’t get the drama or baggage that goes along with so many in this industry. Hire me and get the job done.

Enough is enough.

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