Tag Archives: graduate school

Sacrificial goat, anyone?

16 Feb

I suspect that at the end of this life, I’ll find out that I’ve really just been living in a simulated reality controlled by a failed Lifetime movie screenplay writer.

Or an angry teenager.

But I guess that’s probably the same thing.

(“I’ve heard it both ways.” Name that show!)

The last three years, I’ve been Valentine-less. So I usually just drink. But yesterday I had to teach, so my tradition had to wait until the evening. About half of my students showed up which crippled the lesson plans I had so we watched Harlem Shake and Bad Lip Reading videos on YouTube. And we ate candy.

I would’ve tried to be a little bit more productive, but about twenty minutes before I went to teach, I received an email from one of the PhD programs I’d applied to. They would not be accepting me for admission for the fall 2013 semester. I’ve spent the last five years postponing really trying to have a relationship (aside from the comedic adventures I find myself in to keep things interesting) in order to put everything I have into school so I can have my doctorate well before I turn thirty. So on a day already riddled with being emotionally rejected, I was now also academically rejected.

Yes, it’s just one school — and one of the most competitive in the nation — but I still couldn’t help but notice the irony and sadistic humor my comptroller has.

The YouTube videos helped.

And the candy. And the coffee that Barista Boy #2 made me that had “Olive Jews” written on the cup. And the donuts.

During “class,” I made a comment — within the context of our video watching — of how someday, when I have kids, I’d love to move to England so they grow up with accents. One of my ridiculously attractive black students (who’s on the football team and has dreadlocks) said “Do you want your kids to be in your own race or do you want mixed babies?”

In hindsight, there are so many ways I should’ve handled this. In the moment, my response was simply “I just want happy babies with British accents.” And skin like caramel.

To continue the excitement of my Valentine’s Day, I decided to tell my parents that I got a tattoo the day before. My whole life, my mother has been vehemently against tattoos. And for the last twenty-three years, I’ve never disappointed my mother. Well, at least not to her knowledge or in any way that I’d ever feel comfortable revealing to her. At any rate, she was silent angry. Which is the scariest. My father thought it was pretty. My seventy-eight year old German grandmother looked at her wrist and muttered “I want one…”

I then went to a pathetic concert at a small, local venue with approximately six patrons who weren’t in the band. The Chemist invited me. He wore a bow tie and an argyle sweater.

Last week he showed up at my door wearing sea foam green pants from the 1970s, a turtle neck, and a fedora. He then came in and made me a drink with his homemade limoncello. He also wore this outfit in public later in the evening. My younger sister was in town for a visit and kept remarking how much my life resembles a sitcom. She doesn’t even know the half of it.

Today the Pastor messaged me about a show at a coffee shop tonight, asking if I’d come out, and said he hoped I didn’t find it weird, but he’s been praying for me. I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted. So I’m going with contentment.

I’d go to the show — which starts in ten minutes — but I’m about to go explore abandoned tunnels under the city I live in with one of The Boys, the Quizmaster, and this really great girl I write with.

Seriously.

Here’s to hoping I don’t die or stumble upon death. I have a night vision camera and heat sensor camera app on my phone.

And a six-pack of Rascal’s Wild Red in my trunk.

— AM.

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Like a cheap whore on a busy avenue.

6 Nov

One of the most delightful experiences in being a new instructor is the joy of having your superior observe your class, taking notes and scrutinizing on a four-page rubric that decides how well you function as a teacher, how well your students react to you, how well planned your lessons for that day were, and how well you “fit” into their design of the curriculum that you have the distinct honor to regurgitate to (un)willing receptacles of knowledge.

I recently had this exact pleasure. One of the chairs (yes, one of the chairs) sent me an email about a month ago wanting to schedule observations. I know it’s a terrible, terrible habit, but I really have a hard time planning out an entire semester for a class I’ve never taught, let alone at an institution I’ve never taught at. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to cover the necessary topics. I pretty much wing it.

So I was faced with this pressure to come up with something brilliant that usually comes to me as I’m teaching or the day before I teach weeks ahead so my superior can come and tell me I’m good or a gigantic ball of flaming suck. I found a pretty fantastic lesson plan that I managed to tie into the assignment I had to teach, so I prepared for hours the night before, making copies, practicing the discussion in my head, imagining the worst case scenario where the angry racist student throws a chair that breaks into tiny pieces while the guy who hates me for giving him a bad grade pulls out a weapon of some sort — likely his fists — and begins attacking, bonobo style, the students around him out of sheer frustration and rage.

The superior came in and said “Just pretend I’m not here. I want you to act completely natural, completely normal. It’s not like you’ll get axed if today doesn’t go well.”

Yeah, sure. No pressure or anything, but that was basically a “don’t fuck up or you’ll be homeless and jobless next semester because you suck big time and you’ll get to live in a cardboard box and go to the shelter for food donations and all your pretty clothes will be worthless because bums don’t care how you look but the bright side is you’ll probably either get super skinny because you can’t afford to eat or you’ll get pulled into some sex ring where you’ll sell yourself for a quick score and you can die a cold and lonely death.”

Good thing my lecture went AWESOME. Every student spoke, they had smart things to say, they didn’t get side tracked, and most importantly, I didn’t even get yelled at. About an hour after class, I received an email from the other chair saying the chair who observed my class was delighted and my handouts were awesome and would I like to teach again next semester?? (Yeah, two question marks.) I said yes, of course, because being homeless scares me and I really like using make up and soap.

But through this experience, and many, many other days teaching when I had a bit too much to drink the night before/earlier that morning, and even days being a graduate student and asked to sit and write a few hundred pages on the spot to get ready for the upcoming assignments makes me realize just how much teaching/graduate-studenting is like being an actor, always performing.

Or it’s like being a trained monkey. I’m not a trained monkey. I can’t write on command. Actually, it’d be pretty cool to train a monkey to write on command. I’m sure someone, somewhere has done that. I’m sure that monkey could replace the seat of about 78% of my students. But, like a trained monkey, being a graduate student is all about performance.

In the precarious situation I — and all the other graduate student teachers delicately straddling the lines between student and teacher — face on a daily basis is the constancy of being on display, knowing superiors are lurking outside your doors or sitting in the back of your classroom, eagerly gripping their #2 pencils and frantically scrawling notes on a legal pad, or judging every word you put in front of them through papers you hand in or your contributions to classroom discussion.

Like a cheap whore on a busy avenue, the whole town’s watchin’.

–AM.

That’s the spirit.

23 Oct

I’m approaching the downward spiral of the semester. My day today (and, let’s face it, most days):

Woke up at 6:00 with every intent of going for a run. The neighborhood I live in truly is extraordinary. The entire avenue is lined with century’s old trees and homes. I live a 1/2 mile from a beautiful park, meticulously kept, surrounded by beautiful oaks and pines. This time of year, some type of bird chirp religiously all morning in the trees as I pass them, creating a beautiful contrast to the pounding of my tennis shoes on the pavement. But then I decided I liked the feeling of my thick blanket and the sound of my humidifier more, so I set my alarm for 7:00.

I then got out of bed, fed the cats, and showered with Shelley keeping a watchful eye from the rim of my tub. It’s cold in the mornings, so I keep a fluffy, pink robe and house shoes in the bathroom for when I get out. Shmow was laying on my bed, and she just made it look so perfectly comfortable, I lost balance of my legs and somehow fell on top of the bed, deciding to take a nap. Just a quick nap, really, since I didn’t need to leave until 8:30 to be ready to teach at 9:00 (to include a stop at my office to pick up the essays smoldering with mediocrity to hand back).

Woke up again at 8:00, threw an outfit together, pulled my hair into what resembles a Snooki poof meets Mae West, grabbed an apple, and fought Shelley to get out the door. He’s a sneaky little bastard and will take any chance the door is open as an opportunity to escape and investigate the outside world. (I decided I’m getting him a harness and leash to take him to the snow once winter comes. That’ll be exciting.)

My students were continuing their presentations today, so I got to sit there with my laptop open and give them feedback. As much as they annoy me with their banalities, I honestly think the best thing I can do as a teacher for introductory writing is help boost their confidence so they can have the lady/man balls to write something better somewhere down the line — hopefully for me, but I’m a burst of rainbows and sunshine, so I’ll find something good to tell them (“You spelled your name right! Good for you!”)

I spent my entire office hours catching up on homework for my graduate course tonight. Researching, annotating, alphabetizing, contextualizing, and trying to one-up everyone else (because I’m great and I need to continue to prove it).

By the time I got to my last class of the day, I realized I forgot to reread (since the last time I read it) what I wanted them to read, so I broke them into groups to present on sections while I skimmed it (‘cause I’m a fucking genius). Began a lecture on the rhetorical canons, then class ran out, with a “to be continued” note. They’re so ridiculously excited to pick up the discussion.

“Miss! Miss! Tell me more about Quintilian and Cicero and Aristotle and Socrates! The Sophists are just fascinating!”

Only not.

I came home for lunch, pulling together my expertise in culinary magic to make my lunch: a quesadilla, a spoon of cookie dough, and a small bowl of mango sorbet (‘cause I’m a fucking health nut) to finish my homework, despite Shelley’s efforts to convert my keyboard into a naptime spot.

Back to the office, continuing homework, meetings and strategizing with BFF about our ultimate takeover, then onto coffee. More coffee, and then another cup, you know, to make it through the evening.

Class for three hours, during which time I’m forced to work with a woman I actively despise, but since I’m the typist of our group, I choose to selectively ignore her stupid ideas (because they’re stupid and I’m more eloquent — clearly. Stupid).

Finally I get to come home, greeted by excited meows from the beasts as I trip over my once-clean apartment that is now for all intents and purposes akin to a frat house post Tour de Fat. Granted, the bottles of Wild Blue are from me, but still. They could’ve cleaned up a little bit and prepared for my arrival.

I took out the trash, lovingly guiding (or swinging bags, whatever) at Shelley, who attempted to run out the back door. There’s a gravel parking lot in the back of the house for the tenants of the building, and the dumpster is along the alley. The street light is motion-censored, so when a cat or bird or bat or zombie walk by, it turns on, but approximately 93% of the time it turns off right as I dump my trash in the dumpster. The dogs of the neighborhood sound the alarm (another reason why I have cats).

I decide on cereal for dinner, but then realize I have no clean spoons. I briefly consider using a fork and a coffee mug (because I also have no clean bowls), but then opt for cleaning some dishes. Another downfall to my cheap apartment: no dishwasher. Well, technically there is a dishwasher, but she’s a cranky bitch and generally refuses to wash dishes because she’s above that.

Before I even begin to wash dishes, I realize I left the washcloth in the crockpot to simmer. (What, you don’t cook your washcloths?) I find a new one among wine bottle openers (plural), lighters (also plural), coupons (yeah, still plural) for cat food, and a switchblade (singular. I thought more than one switchblade would be excessive). As I’m washing with the new cloth, it occurs to me that my housekeeping capabilities would terrify my grandmothers, serving as further evidence of my perpetually single life, and probably sending them to an early grave.

Feeling festive, I poured myself some eggnog in a wine glass because the other glasses I own are dirty. Oddly enough, my wine glasses are all clean. I typically only use wine glasses when I have company because, to be completely honest, I open a bottle of wine with absolutely no intent of drinking it one glass at a time. I’m classy that way.

The rest of my night will undoubtedly be filled with drinking Wild Blue (delicious lager) while watching reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” and dodging leaps from Shelley and Shmow as they engage in battle royale, burrowing under my carpet and knocking trinkets off my shelves.

Tomorrow? Same shit. I have to say, my twenties are turning out pretty delicious.

–AM.

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