Tag Archives: grad school

Wait, where am I?

28 Feb

Freshmen are precious little gifts from the academic g/God(s). While I empathize with (now more than ever) the individual challenges and personal issues each student has that I’m blissfully unaware of, I can’t help but find it funny — and maybe a little bit of offense — in the things that come out of their mouths.

I recently gave a lecture on Salvador Dalí to prepare the class for their evaluative essays on art, thinking that they would enjoy writing about pretty paintings and sculptures more than books (plus it forces them out into the community to actually look at local art). A student who’d been absent for the last two weeks looks at me and say, “I thought this was English class.” Confused, I looked around the room, and replied, “Wait, where am I?” Then gave my best really?! look and proceeded with my (Sur)really awesome lecture.

Puns!

Today has been one of the most difficult days of teaching so far, probably because everything seems to be culminating all at once in every aspect of my life.

Academically and professionally, I’m completing my thesis, still waiting to hear back from PhD programs (any day now!), preparing to organize and present at a conference next week, staring at stacks of 100+ student papers and annotated bibliographies to grade (which I’m constantly reminded of during each class when a student asks when they’ll get back the papers they turned in last class), and preparing to go to a huge national conference in two weeks which adds more work because now I need to figure out alternate assignments for the days I’ll be gone.

Romantically, (hah! I say that in jest, of course) there’s not much going on aside from realizing my selections keep getting more and more outlandish. I did, however, write a long, heart-wrenching letter to Red Ranger who I’ve loved for years, telling him exactly how I feel. He wrote an equally long letter that explored the philosophical underpinnings of romantic love vs. universal love. It’s probably the best written, most philosophical “it’s not you, it’s me” piece of bullshit I’ve ever come across.

Personally, and the impetus for my complete love of all of my students despite the nonsensical things they say, I found out last night that a long-time family friend committed suicide.

He was 20.

To write about it and see these letters come together to form that sentence is bearable, only because I’m not entirely sure it’s real. But to say it out loud destroyed me.

Teaching today was damn near impossible because in every one of their faces, I saw his face. He was a student. An RA. He sat in classes, made excuses for not having his work done in time, rushed home to finish the assignment before the extended deadline. He laughed at corny jokes made by desperate professors.

And as much as I wanted to be a hardass on them because they had annotated bibliographies due today and I knew a lot of them still weren’t following directions, I couldn’t. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s okay to be more human and forgiving in classes, because it really should be okay to be more human and forgiving in the “real world,” where second chances are given and we don’t have a set formula for how to deal with circumstance. All too often we take this prescriptivist approach to teaching or simply being citizens in this global community, rendering in “Situation 1, Action A correlates with Consequence B,” rather than taking into account the thousand, tiny multipliers to the human element.

I wanted to give each one of them a hug and tell them that they’re important, because they are — to me, to each other, to this entire experience of life. I wanted to tell them that even though I know very little about their lives, they’re all going to be okay. They’re allowed to make mistakes. They’re allowed to be hurt or disappointed. They’re allowed to be human.

What today reminded me is that while I have all of these extracurricular issues going on in my own life, I put my business face on and be the most helpful, cheerful, positive teacher I can be.

And so do so many of my students. I forget that sometimes.

So I hang onto their witty quips (“Look who decided to show up” when I’m exactly on time rather than ten minutes early due to a snowstorm), random statements of truth (“Snow makes me believe in the possibility of unicorns”), and grateful emails (when I am made aware of their circumstances and make arrangements to help them successfully complete the coursework) to tide me through and remind me of just how human they can be.

–AM.

10 things more interesting than writing my thesis.

22 Feb

My committee chair needs a completed draft of my thesis tomorrow. I have approximately twenty pages. I need approximately twenty-five more. I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure I’m fucked — and not in the way I’d like to be.

To force my procrastinating ass to actually write it, BFF and I have locked ourselves in our office to write. (She had me hand over my phone and turn off my wi-fi. I’m sitting across from her, furiously typing. She doesn’t know it’s not for the thesis. Withholding snortles at my own humor might make me explode.)

I spent the last ten minutes doing yoga and counting fibers on the carpet. I’ve also compiled this list of things exponentially more interesting and appealing than completing my thesis:

10. Combing through employment contracts to determine the legality of the tiny bottles of wine we have surrounding research and what exactly constitutes “working hours” since this definitely counts as “working hours” for prostitutes — the most logical occupational option I have if I do not complete my thesis.

9. Tracking menstrual cycles in relation to the moon as well as environmental hygienic habits.

8. Using the fluorescent lights on the ceiling to work on my winter tan.

7. Turn the area rug into a tortilla and make like a burrito.

6. Take an online quiz and self-diagnose as moderate to severe adult ADHD.

5. Vacuum the cat.

4. Bathe in a tub of spaghetti noodles.

3. Penguin-dive down a waxed linoleum hallway.

2. Naked snow angel.

1. Hedgehog bowling.

0. Get into a bar fight.

— AM. (Okay, I know that was technically eleven. But I have an English degree. So.)

Post-publishing edit: we finally took a bathroom break. Here’s the conversation:

Me: Synchronized peeing!

BFF: Well after as many years as we’ve been friends, it’s not surprising we managed to synchronize that.

Meet me at the flagpole. It’s going down.

30 Jan

I graduated high school in 2008. I was over high school in 2004. I was a nerd who socialized with my teachers and I was never invited to parties.

Granted, I’ve come a long way since then as far as not being as obnoxiously nerdy (and I’m fun as hell at parties), but the fundamental core of my person hasn’t changed: I don’t do shenanigans and I don’t give a fuck.

A few months ago, I wrote a couple blogs and created a beautiful meme about being a graduate student and engaging with my cohort (See “There’s a story, I swear.” and “The cat says no voting this year.”).

In summation: I hate them. And I know “hate” is a strong word, but I’ve never had to swallow seething rage like this.

It came to the attention of our graduate student organization that some students were frustrated with the behavior of several of their peers in the program, citing the facts that these students admittedly didn’t read the assigned work, showed up to class in sweats and behaving like a pack of freshmen, and outwardly disrespected the professors. If it was one student, it’d be one of those “damn you’re an asshole” situation, but there’s a hoard of them. A hoard. 

So at our last meeting, we brought this to the attention of the members, one of which is a student who is part of the problem. We compromised — much to this student’s disdain who said the idea of coming up with a professionalism/code of conduct document was patronizing (she often removes her shoes DURING CLASS and props her bare feet on the chair next to her) — and sent out a six-question survey to graduate students and faculty in the department.

We (BFF and I) knew there’d be some shitty answers because the hoard actively hates two of our faculty members — both of these faculty members are some of the hardest working, most dedicated, and most helpful people either of us have ever encountered — and consequently actively hates us because in their eyes, our successes have nothing to do with academic or professional merit and everything to do with the fact that these professors enjoy having us in class and have taken on mentorship roles in our lives.

‘Cause we’re fucking awesome. And smart. And work hard.

The responses reflected this hatred accordingly, and also demonstrate a solid need for a code of conduct to be enforced.

While none of the questions or the accompanying email said anything about how clothes or appearance impact professionalism, the initial discussion during last week’s meeting brought up what we thought were basic understandings of how to look and act like a graduate student. A few of the responses were ridiculously reactive to the notion that as a graduate student you should dress like a professional.

Shame was bestowed onto BFF and I, the questionnaire writers, in those responses. (Mind you, we sent the questions to our graduate coordinator for final approval before ever sending them to the students and faculty to remain as professional, poignant, and unbiased as possible.)

The final question: “What do you expect of your graduate cohort — both in and out of the class?” The crowning response: “Just say no to hipster glasses.”

Now, I may be reading too much into this response, but I’m the only graduate student in the program who wears “hipster glasses.” Sorry I’ve been rocking the bottle caps since my blind, nerdy ass was eight.

The thin frames don’t work with my vision because the lenses are about, oh, half an inch thick.

I wish I were exaggerating.

As we went over these responses in the meeting in an effort to be completely transparent and include all responses in the open, I paused at this question.

“I’m not entirely sure who or what this response is referring to,” as I adjust my frames, “but thank you, whoever you are.”

After a feigned smile, “And I’d be happy to meet with you after the meeting is over to present my cock that you can subsequently suck.”

Because I’m a goddamn professional.

–AM.

P.S., any experiences or observations or literature about professionalism in graduate programs would be much appreciated. I’ve been hitting the Google like the finest ass in town for resources to verbally punch these assholes in the face.

P.P.S., I’m well aware that this blog is the antithesis of “professional” which is why it’s in a blog. And has no identifiers of the people involved. And in real life is only spoken to BFF in the privacy of our closed office door or over drinks with nicknames. Again, I’m a goddamn professional.

I need a new bendy straw.

27 Dec

I’m one of those people that constantly needs to be doing something to maintain any semblance of sanity. Since school let out and the holidays are over, these last two days have been hell.

Not to mention my younger sister is officially engaged and my older sister will be within the next week.

Meanwhile, I’ve sent out four applications to doctoral programs on all four corners of the United States so as to get away from everyone I possibly could know.

And my left eye hasn’t stopped twitching since November.

At any rate, I’ve been working extremely hard to get something together so I can feel like I’m being productive. Teaching part-time at two institutions (which ends up being full-time) while working as a program assistant and being a full-time graduate student has me in the mindset to where if I’m doing nothing, I go crazy. Which, to be completely honest, is why I date. It’s a distraction and something to keep me occupied.

I deleted my online dating profile after receiving a message from a former student, saying he was totally intrigued by my profile and wanted to get to know me better. He didn’t realize I was the teacher who failed him.

I’m back to dating in the real world.

I had a really great date with Beard guy, but he kind of face-raped me while we were at a bar. 1) I don’t kiss in bars. 2) I don’t kiss in public. 3) I don’t like being face-raped. 4) I don’t do well with guys that are overtly complimentary. 5) I don’t do well with guys that are insanely insecure and continuously ask why I like him. Dude, put your vajay away. Needless to say, I haven’t seen him since.

Although things with Team Jacob were going pretty well, he has this weird complex that I find incredibly annoying. There’s a fine balance to be struck, and he’s on the side of awkward enough for me to be attracted to, but almost too awkward to pursue anything with me.

Finally realizing that completing my applications to doctoral programs would be the best use of my spare time rather than making something “work” with some guy temporarily because I’d be leaving in a few months anyway, I have the boys on hold.

So after sending out my final applications and scrolling through the engagement/marriage/baby feed of my Facebook, I decided to celebrate/mourn/cope with a jug of sangria. It’s the cheap kind, so I mix it with schnapps. Twice the alcohol content and a significantly better flavor.

According to the history of my browser, the following are Google searches of this endeavor:

  • Exercise while drunk
  • How to properly shave a cat
  • Life size Barbie
  • Colorado prostitution laws
  • I think my cat is trying to kill me
  • How to tell if you have a brain tumor

–AM.

That, my friends, is what “failure” sounds like.

7 Nov

My office door faces the lobby of our departmental offices. I use the term “office” loosely, because it really serves as a glorified storage closet. I’m currently staring at two stacks of about 36 boxes holding 6,897 books from some program that happened who knows how long ago. Other “office” decor: antiquated binders, cassette tapes, an archive of anthologies, pillows, and a broken coffee maker.

My desk is ridiculously and unnecessarily huge. There’s also a “conference” table which is made of two square tables with a set of six uncomfortable, foldable chairs. Last year, I had the office to myself because I worked for a federally funded program that paid for the room, and due to sensitive information, I was justified to have it all to myself. Since the funding has been cut, I now share it with two other instructors (one of which is BFF). As I said before, I don’t like to share. We’ve pushed the “conference” table/s against the gigantic desk to form a “collaborative workspace,” or what I like to call it, MegaDesk.

It’s not so bad sharing an office, except I’m easily distracted and easily distractible, so whenever I’m in here with anyone else, I get absolutely nothing done. For example, I’m currently sharing the office with BFF who is grading. I’m listening to 30Rock on Netflix and writing this blog. I would be grading, but I keep getting distracted and wanting to tell BFF things, like making smartass comments about the paper I was grading (“Many individuals believe they’re capable of operating a vehicle after one or two drinks until their car is totaled or worse, dead.” To which I reply, “Car is dead?”)

There was also one time when BFF and I were sharing a room on a study abroad trip and we were supposed to be writing essays in our hotel rooms in Athens, but I was distracted taking pictures of myself with a scarf wrapped around my head making angry faces in complete silence, causing BFF and other roommates to laugh and pass judgment, blaming me for their inability to write a paper. In my defense, I didn’t invite them to play with me.

The Scantron machine is right outside the office door, and every so often, another professor has a shit ton of Scantron tests to grade, so my brilliance is interrupted by the sweet sound of this:

It’s not unlike the sound my grandmother’s shih tzu makes when you blow in his face.

It makes me want to vomit on the stack of papers I have sitting in front of me that I grade instead of shoving it through a machine to tell me how well my students are doing. Such is the strife of teaching writing.

My only way of maintaining any semblance of sanity during these Scantron tests is to play little games with myself where I mimic the sound the machine makes, communicating mutual failure. I then pass judgment on the anonymous students whose responses anger the machine. I cheer inside when I hear only a few blips. It’s like I’m taking part of their victory because for a few seconds, I don’t want to strangle myself with a phone cord.

But, naturally, there is ne’er a thing to say because of my lowly, delicate position. The office is cold, it’s crowded, it’s poorly lit, but I have an office and I have a job. That’s something to be grateful about.

I also get to keep the sound of my students’ failures to myself, so there’s that.

–AM.

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