Category Archives: The Grad School

I am a serial academic. There are bound to be stories about my crazy academic adventures.

Scare-Tactics


Every educational career is punctuated by educators feeling it their duty to scare the living poop out of you.

My fifth grade teacher told us about the horrors of middle school, while attempting to drill those pesky parts of speech for the 879th time. They’ll expect you to work harder, she said. They’ll think you remember everything you have learned until then, she said. We freaked out all over ourselves at the very prospect of being losers with no friends and the worst fate we could imagine: chronic hanging boogars. In order to commit to middle-school success, many took drastic measures. We bought our first academic planner. (Mine were always decorated with some sort of sticker and/or colored duct tape. Be jealous of my organizational cuteness!)

I organize stuff

My eighth grade teacher took an entire day to teach the values of note taking. Apparently if we did not master our own system of bullet points and outline formatting, we would certainly fail out of school… and eventually life (dying I guess?). I spent months making keys for all my notebooks to know that a triangle meant vocabulary and a shaded box meant history. But DON’T mistake an unshaded box for history, that meant “fun fact.” (I liked those a lot.) Failure was not an option! I would not meet death because I was a lazy note taker!

icon crazy

If every scary thing every teacher said were true, we’d all have died of coronaries at the beginning of every year. It’s always a pleasant realization when you get to the next step, and you realize the scare-tactics worked. You’re totally prepared to take on the new challenges of middle school, high school, or a college career. Things change, and stress is always present. You may not like it, but you’ve got this. Bring on the next step!

Then there is graduate school.

Graduate School is not required. It’s EXTRA school… a place where masochistic crazies go to hang out. And your teachers are no longer the only people throwing out the scare tactics. Have you watched a movie recently? Any movie that involves law school, med school, PhD programs… that’s some scary times, dude. There’s a particularly scary scene in the otherwise cute and fluffy movie Legally Blonde when a professor asks a student to stake another student’s life on an answer. WHO DOES THAT? And then there’s A Beautiful Mind. Graduate School actually makes you the insane kind of crazy. Not the enjoy-working-long-hours-and-try-to-fix-the-world kind of crazy… like hardcore seeing other people and making up trippy side stories kind of crazy.

Mass media, your teachers, even your momma is telling you that you are not ready for the craziness that is existence in graduate school! So you are terrified the whole time you fill out applications, interview, and visit. You are terrified when you buy books and notebooks and number 2 pencils (they still use those blasted things in graduate school). And then it begins, each moment bringing new realizations… staggering realizations…

First you know you aren’t ready. All the horror stories are true. On my first day, I had a professor ask a question. I answered it quickly, impressed with my background and the fact I could remember such things.

Is that a true statement

only truth from now on

reaction

realization

they actually do that

Next, it clicks. The amount of work you put into a single day has literally altered your chemical make up. I wrote an honors thesis at The University. It took a year and a half to put together a cohesive argument and write enough to defend. It was 40 pages long, and it was the longest paper I had ever written. At The Grad School I wrote 40 pages a week, sometimes 15 pages in a night, all semester. I couldn’t do that before! My brain is actually a different thing.

who are you?

Then the idiom “come hell or high water” finally makes sense. No really. I spent all of Hurricane Sandy reading for a class. I read something like 130 pages on different kinds of movement in sentences. I was faced with mother nature’s scare-tactics, and they were NOTHING compared to that of my professor.

But the most important realization for some is that for all the crazy, the difficult, and the stupid amounts of work… some people LOVE IT! (I do.) That’s when you know you’ve arrived! And the coolest thing of all the cool things: Now I get to be the person scaring the poop out of people.

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The Art of Teaching


The Man just landed a new adjunct teaching job, and I also have done and will do a lot of teaching in my life. Through observation, though, I have found many professors find it their duty to use the loftiest terms possible to flaunt their big and fancy degrees. It’s a big slap in the face with, “I learned so many things about one thing, and you don’t know nearly enough… MWAHAHAHA!”

Here’s my challenge to myself and to all the instructors in the world. Don’t teach it unless you can boil whatever it is down to the form of a children’s book. That’s right. And add those character names worthy of the game Mad Libs.

Fact: It’s always harder to explain something highly theoretical or advanced to a regular person, but it makes you a better academic. I promise. So for the moment… stoop low enough to entertain the thought of teaching EVERYONE what you know.

Those Organic Chemistry classes could be so much easier!

“So kids, Flor Ine was the most popular girl in school and could hold hands and form a bond with ANY boy she wanted…”

X-Bar Syntax becomes a breeze!

“So Adge Ective met up with her friend Deter Meener under A Bar in order to work out…” (Sorry… that was INCREDIBLY nerdy.)

And Nasal Assimilation begins to make even more sense! (adding a moral to your story is even better)

“Little Enn didn’t feel comfortable in her own skin and felt like she needed to blend in with the crowd. She would act differently around her friend Pee than she would around her friend Kay. This concerned the rest of her family. Sometimes they could barely recognize her!”

Equipped with this newest educational theory, go forth and be knowledgable. Happy Teaching!

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University of WUT?


Aside from telling stories about growing up and about that guy I married, I do exactly what I want to do in real life… for a “living.” I am a professional learner-of-all-things. Specifically, I am a Linguist. Now before you ask me how many languages I speak – know that I don’t speak a ton. Just know this… I am a scientist, and I am reallllly good friends with your brain and what it can do.

Was I always a Linguist? No – Once I was a fetus. After that, I was a Linguist.

Now no one gets paid to acquire language, very few people use language well enough to get paid, and I could never hope to be paid for my writing. So I had to do a few things so that people would be willing to pay me.

I had to research, get in, and attend The Awesome University for an undergraduate degree. Then I had to do a bunch of things to prove my brain did the brain things. They give you a diploma for the brain things if you do them well enough. Then I decided I wanted to do something with that diploma and applied to like a million other universities for PhD programs, interviewed 5 times, and finally decided on The Grad School.

My favorite memories of The Awesome University are the crazy stressful moments in gargantuan classes when asked to prove myself or the miles-long homework assignments. (A draft of my senior thesis actually has blood on it…)  Covered in blood, sweat, and tears – sometimes literally – I figure that four years of that makes you a super human. Add a couple of intense identity crises, and you’re set!

The only time I didn’t feel that my super powers were honed was when I decided to take online classes in order to finish up. I learned absolutely nothing. And when your brain gets a pass, it will definitely take a 3 month vacation.

That was my only experience with the whole online education thing, so I had stayed out of it until then. When I saw the chasm of difference between what I had done for 3 1/2 years and what I did for a semester, though, I couldn’t believe that entire degrees happen that way. What about becoming a super human? What about the scary moments and the brain things? What about the arguments that make you simply better?

So when The Search Engine threw an ad at me about getting my PhD online… I stopped. I just signed up for a 5 year obstacle course of hours long exams, grueling class work, teaching, and publishing. I signed up for defenses that would take the better part of an afternoon simply to move onto the next phase of the obstacle course. If I couldn’t get a semester’s worth of super powers through online classes, there’s absolutely no WAY the entire PhD could happen that way… right?

It’s baffling that 9 years of struggle can be boiled down to a check and a website with little to no requirements other than that. Academia, my training base and my beloved home, seems diluted and disrespected. I guess I can only hope that after all this is done, and I have my super human powers complete with the cape and the nifty mask —

— that I can defend what is mine when I stand next to a graduate of The University of WUT who just wrote a check.

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