My New Students

My new students are great.  This year, I was moved up to teaching a 200-level course and I am the only TA.  I have about 120 students and they are pretty great.  I have said that about every group of students I have had, but it’s always true.  I have several of my former students, which is quite fantastic.

Two of the sweetest things happened on the same day.  I had one student invite me to her sorority’s professor’s dinner.  So apparently they have this nice dinner and they invite their favorite professor to come.  I am her favorite!  I was so honored.  Unfortunately I couldn’t attend because it is on a Monday night and I have the class from hell that night.  Her simply asking me was pretty great.  I really needed that pick-me-up.

I also had another student ask to interview me for a class.  She had to find someone who loves their job and she could tell that I love my job.  So that was really great too.

I pretty much love my students.  Just love them.

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The Best Friends I’ll Ever Have

This deserves its own post.  Grad School has brought me the best friends I will probably ever have in my entire life.  Don’t get me wrong, I have always had friends.  I’m a very social person, and I enjoy having friendships.  I have been friends with my best girl friend since 6th grade (around 25 years or so).  I have been friends with my best guy friend since 9th grade (22 years).  They are still people I love.  I have kind of grown in different ways from the female best friend, but we still talk regularly.

Then there are the people I have met here – both in my cohort and outside of academia.  I have a group of 3 mom friends who have been lifesavers.  We go out, we have playdates, we have wine nights, and on occasion we have late night benders where we really work our shit out.  I love these women.  We get each other.  We are there for each other.  These are the friends I picked as an adult.  Don’t get me wrong – 6th grade and 9th grade me did a dang good job.  Adult me did really great too.

The people in my cohort are fantastic.  I spent 2 hours talking to one of them today (let’s call him George).  He’s one of my best friends – hands down.  He told me that when he gets married he is thinking of asking me to stand by him as a member of his side of the wedding party.  I was honored.  I would even wear a dress for that man.  I don’t wear dresses, but I would for him.   The other girl in my cohort (let’s call her Elaine) is fantastic too – such a kind, sweet friend.  I absolutely adore these people I’m in school with.  Even the new people (the first years).  I spent Tuesday in TA training with one of them, and she and I got along famously.  I’m looking forward to getting to know her more.  And even more interestingly, I made a friend in another department.  He is no longer at my institution but he was a solid influence in my life all of Spring semester.  These are relationships that will last a lifetime because we couldn’t even go a summer without hanging out, talking, being there for each other.  It’s truly amazing.

If I had to say what the best part of grad school is – I would have to say (at this point) it is definitely the people.  The people make it all so much easier.  I would be so lost and alone without them.  I love my people.

Progress is Impossible Without Change

Wow.  Yeah, so as you (all 2 of you…maybe) reading this can see, I absolutely suck at writing this blog when I am not in school.  This is my stress relief, and when I reach this magical point at the end of the semester where I’m mostly done, I no longer need some sort of creative outlet.

I finished my first year of grad school – with a 4.0.  I was commended for my hard work.  I was assigned to an ungodly number of projects.  I had plans to work my face off all Summer (despite knowing damn well that would never happen with all 5 kids in the house).  I also had plans to take it easy my second year.

No one else in my department had those plans for me.

I was informed over the summer that I was changing offices.  I would now be on another floor (with the anthropology department!) and I was worried.  Was I a pariah?  Did I anger my office-mates?  Was I now the bastard child of my department?  Thankfully, the answer was no.  I later found out that I was actually being promoted to lab manager.  I am now co-manager of the behavior lab and our big fancy physiology lab.  That’s pretty awesome.  I really like my co-manager, and we now share an office.  It’s a nice office too.  It has its own refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven.  I feel that the toaster oven is a bit overkill, but I’m not going to complain.  I can have toasted something whenever the hell I want, and I can lord it over the plebeians from my ivory tower.  Or not.  I’m so not that kind of person.

My sweet new digs are really quite nice.  I’m 3 floors higher, have a MUCH better view, and it is a lot quieter.  Maybe I will get more work done this way.

I also received my TA (Teaching Assistant) assignment – I will be working with one of the big guys in the department (the same one from Spring).  I’m pretty excited about that.  I’ll be honest – I am in way over my head with this (or at least I feel like I am).  Because we actually teach at my university, I am going to be teaching about the genetic basis for ideology.  I’ve read several articles, studied it a bit, but I’m not certain in my material.  I am basically praying for some sort of miracle – only I’m not actually religious so I’m not sure how that’s working out for me.

This semester I have 3 classes to take, a class to teach with 120 students, I’m a co-lab manager, I’m on 6 research projects, and I’m going to spend my semester working on my dissertation.  Oh, and I have my own undergrad RA (Research Assistant) to train and supervise.  What am I doing with my life?!?

But really – I am really excited for the many opportunities that have opened themselves up for me.  I am thankful for such an amazing department.  I hear about (and saw the fallout from) these horror stories from some departments, and I am so lucky that mine is a solid, congenial, positive department.  I am so glad I chose to come to this random state that I had never ever considered living in before.  I am glad that I chose the university, not based on ranking, but on who I wanted to work with and how I felt about the people.  I am glad that I had such amazing mentors who prepared me for grad school (or at least prepared me the best that they could).   I am honored to have the friends I have – those that support me and make going through grad school such an amazing experience.

First Year = Finished

I did it!  I finished the first year of my PhD program!  I not only survived, I have a 4.0 gpa.  That means I got at least a 93 in every class.  I am ridiculously happy with this.

It is really quite interesting how one year has changed me so much.  I thought I was smart before, and now I realize that I am not even close to knowing anything.  I never had anxiety attacks before grad school.  I now have them every time I have a test or anything stressful.  I have gotten better at writing and research.  I still haven’t learned to say no, because I am now working on 6 different projects.  I am basically a mess, but an intelligent mess that is doing some pretty cool things.

I am certainly not the only one who has changed.  I went out with a large portion of the grad students in my department on Friday, and everyone was working out their shit.  Seriously, it was wild.  I didn’t drink (just started this whole fitness thing to save myself from this grad school 20) but everyone else did – a copious amount.  It was so fantastic to watch everyone just let loose after a long, grueling year.

Now, I am off to enjoy Summer.  And by enjoy, I mean do research and not get paid to do it.  Fun times are ahead.

“I was not calling you an asshole”

“I was not calling you an asshole” is something I just had to say to a student.  I must explain.

Class ended.  My students had mostly left the room, except for one guy (leather jacket guy).  He mentioned the professor that teaches in the room before me and how she must love purple.  (Honest to goodness, she wears purple clothes, shoes, lipstick, and her hair is even purple!)  I explained to him that I could probably do that with hot pink.

He said, “Even the hair?”

“Oh absolutely!” I replied.  “I had hot pink hair when I was younger.  I was goth and tried out every hair color at least once.”

“You were goth?!?!” He asked, exasperated.

“I sure was, but I acted the same as I do now.  I was always happy and chipper.” I explained.

It was at this moment that he was nearly to the door while the other students for the next class were coming in.  He made a grand hand gesture and said “I can’t even believe that you chose to dress like that (grand hand gesture) when you act like this! (another grand up and down hand gesture).”

The young lady that entered the room had this insane look on her face and she looked mad.  Like how dare he say that to me?!  She had fire in her eyes and a look on her face that told the entire story.  I said “Oh….no…he was reacting to the information that I used to be goth.  He wasn’t being an asshole.”

It was then that I realized if he heard only part of that response, he might take it wrong, so I call after him and say “The girl that came into class only heard your last statement about how I dressed and act and she was very upset.  Just to be clear, I defended you and said that you were only reacting to a previous conversation and that you are definitely not an asshole.”  He laughed and we chatted for another minute.  To end, I reiterated, “Ok, well, I just needed you to know that I was absolutely not calling you an asshole in any way.”

I turned around to use the elevator and saw 3 other professors looking at me like I was absolutely insane.

I took the stairs instead of the elevator.

The Third Amendment

There are moments that make teaching worthwhile.  It makes the grading, the prep, and the 5 billion questions a week totally worth it.  One such moment was when I asked my students to list the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution (the Bill of Rights).  I then asked them to rank order them by personal importance.  Following this, I asked them to explain which one amendment they would choose to get rid of and provide a reason why.  Simple enough.

I asked my students which one they didn’t want to keep.  In the wise words of Shakespeare… I shit you not, she said the most truthful and hilarious thing I have heard all semester.  She said “I would get rid of the 3rd Amendment.”

Fully expecting this, I pushed for a reason why this amendment had to go.  She then said, “Well, I would be okay with getting rid of it because I would sure love to quarter some soldiers at my house.”  Her tone and inflection said it all.  I died.

All Caught Up – Don’t Know What to Do…

The title is a play on 311’s song All Mixed Up.  If you caught that, you’re cool in my book.  Anyway, I am actually all caught up with school work.  I am maybe even a little ahead.  I wrote my final reaction paper of the semester.  I have my second draft of my research design paper submitted for my scope and methods class.  I also have my final research design for my political psychology class mostly finished.  I am not behind in my stats class.  I have some work to do on research, but that’s it.  I am caught up.  I truly don’t even know what to do with myself.

To top it off, I have started this annotated bibliography for comps (comprehensive examinations) that is quite possibly the most spectacular thing ever.  The front page has a list of all of the political psychology topics, and each topic is a link to that section of the document.  I kinda feel like a badass on that one.  I’ve shown people in my cohort and they are seemingly quite impressed.  We are clearly easily impressed.

So in the absence of all this avalanche of work, I have found a couple ways to occupy my time.  I am currently reviewing travel grant requests for other graduate students.  I am also going to be the grad student rep to the faculty (or whatever the fancy title is), and I am going to make a concerted effort to finish the basement.  What’s that you say?  I’m finishing a basement?  Yes indeed and it has sucked.  I will probably make a post about it at some point.

In any event, I have learned that I cannot sit still.  I cannot just relax.  I must have some sort of project or crusade to be on.  I have to do a ludicrous amount of crap all at once to feel like I’m making the most of the time I have.  It’s silly.  Maybe that partially explains why a mom of 5 would even consider a full-time PhD program in the first place.