“The Box”

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A red Budweiser case box sits on a shelf in a closet. The box shows wear from many moves the past two decades. On the front is an index card labeling what is inside, “Research Paper”. This box is special, a trophy. Not stylish or fancy to put on a shelf and admire for its beauty, but a trophy nonetheless.

Recently, when my oldest daughter, Mrs. J, was visiting with me and her younger sister, Mrs. E, she asked,”Mom do you still have your research paper?”

Mrs. E instantly responded, “Mom is never going to get rid of that, it is too special.” She was not joking or being sarcastic, but serious about the value of the box. A value I did not know they had for an old worn box full of papers.

Mrs. J asked, “Can I see it sometime Mom?”

“Yes, when you come down next time for a visit, I will get out the research paper.”

This research paper is from college, a class required for graduation with an associates degree.

Colleges have stories about teacher and classes, this class was tough, grueling and not fun. Mrs. Ackrey taught the class, and it was a challenge. She was very particular on the steps, resources and how this research thesis was presented. Mrs. Ackrey had four Phds and was working on another, she was qualified on teaching students how to write a research paper that taught the skills to write a masters or doctorate thesis, the purpose of the class. The research paper written and presented to her was the total grade for the class. Because of the importance and amount of work required, I did not load up with the 18 to 21 credit hours I usually carried a combination from three colleges. I took a bare minimum of credit hours to get government financing to assist with the cost, 12 credit hours.

The first day, we were handed the syllabus and given a list of supplies needed, including 5 legal type notebooks, index cards, and post it notes. She went through the syllabus with us word by word. Everyone was to understand and be aware of the requirements for the class. For homework we were instructed to think about a subject for the research paper that had to be at least 25 pages in length. Leaving class that night, I knew what my topic would be – horses. I had a lot of books, magazines and personal experience with horses, as a topic, my research paper would not be so difficult.

Second class meeting opened with us voicing ideas for a subject. Mrs Ackery was quick to shoot some down due to not being a large enough topic to meet the required number of resources and pages. She stated some topics that were common for research papers in her class, and others that would meet the requirements if a person choose to do the research. Before class was over she looked at me, said my name, “You can not do a research paper on horses. In this area, you are known as an expert, and choosing the subject would not require you to learn the process sufficiently. And I will not accept you doing a paper on any animal.” My topic shot out of the water before I even started. Ok, now the work of picking a topic as we were to have a topic chosen before the next class.

Choosing the topic to do research on was difficult. The minimum of 25 resources from the following required: 1-5 books read cover to cover, 10 or more magazine and newspaper publications, at least one video interviews or movies or documentaries, 1-5 person to person interviews, and limit of 10 internet sources. What was I going to choose?

The movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, about John Forbes Nash Jr., a famous mathematician, was just released to VHS video. I had heard it was very good to watch. One of the topics Mrs. Ackrey mentioned was schizophrenia, a hard topic she said to compose, but a lot of resources. I would combine school and a movie night with the family.

My topic chosen I was ready to begin work. I had one semester to do research, work two jobs and care for four children and their various activities, and get this paper written and bound to present for a grade.

Remember the five legal size notebooks, one notebook for each chapter. Index cards were for quotes. We were to have a introduction quote, table of contents, an introduction, five chapters and a conclusion, resource appendix. We could not do research in the class meetings, that was for instructions on how to write our rough draughts, chapter by chapter, and typing of the final research paper.

In one semester, for one class I read four books, cover to cover. I was at the library with my children, me in the reference area, them in the children’s area. I read at work between waiting on tables, read and took notes while my children did their homework. My children experienced with me the research and writing of this paper. We watched the movie three times, then I read the book, “A Beautiful Mind” written by Sylvia Nasar. I had the resources and was putting the information together chapter by chapter. In total I had over 35 resources listed and quoted in the research paper. My hand written chapters were turned into the teacher on time, and I went over her notes in detail.

Now to type it all together. Christmas was fast approaching, and I had cut my hours at work in order to do this research paper. I am very proficient at typing and understood how to type the research paper in the format instructed. There were three fellow students who paid me to type their research papers. This was allowed, you could have someone else type your research paper as long as they were noted on the title page as being the typist. I did not get my research paper typed and bond on time. I was late in presenting it the teacher. Those that I had typed their research papers for, were on time and presented on time. I had to travel to the school where she taught to turn my paper on the last day of acceptance. This translated to I needed to make an “A” on the research paper because I was so late in turning it in, I would just get a passing grade.

Two weeks after turning the research papers we would have our grades. For the first and probably only time in her life, Mrs. Ackrey was not ready to hand back the research papers with the grades. She told the class she would need an extra week due to a situation she had to deal with. We would continue with moving the last week up one week.

The day arrived, we were to get back our research papers with the class grade. I had been praying for a passing grade, not wanting to have to take this class again and put off graduation.

She started the class saying our grades were late in being given due to having sent a student’s research paper to the board of directors to review and later meeting with them to discuss the paper and action. In my mind I thought someone had plagiarize another’s work, which meant expulsion from the college.

She continued tell the class a student had turned their work in late. When I read their work, it was beyond excellent, beyond excellent. I had my husband read it, and the director of this campus. They concurred with me to send it to the Board of Directors. I also sent a few copies to colleagues at other colleges and university who teach on the subject. All came back with the same conclusion – the paper is definitely a master’s thesis and could be a doctorate thesis.

The students and I were puzzled, if this paper is so great, just give it an “A”, why take it to the Board of Directors.

In conclusion, she stated anytime an exception is made in a course syllabus it must be made by the Board of Directors, she could not do it on her own. By the syllabus, the student would be entitled to a “D”, but this thesis is way above a “D”. I must make every student aware that an exception has been made and why. Putting the research thesis that she was holding on the table, he looks at me, state my name “has written a doctorate quality thesis without any format mistakes and it should be published. The Board of Directors and I agree that she should receive a B grade for this amazing work. This thesis has been scrutinized by people in the top of that field on information and presentation and all were amazed that a student, who is in their second year of college wrote the thesis. She has over 35 references, She read four books, I saw her read them at work between waiting on tables. She has a family to take care of and works I know of two jobs. Some of you did not put any effort into your papers. And those of you who had her type your paper, the format was flawless, I hope you paid her well.” Then she laid three more research thesis on the table, those that I had typed. “You can come up and get your papers from the table.” and she started laying others on the table. When I went to pick up mine, she told me “I hope you publish this, it is truly that good.”

I had never been praised for my work as I was that night in the classroom. Within the box is a copy of the research thesis, all my notes, all my note cards, the seven legal notebooks, and a couple of letters from the people she sent the thesis to for review. I never published it, as I thought I would use it in another class if needed.

The box sits on a shelf in my closet, a story within itself.



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