Category Archives: school

Not Good…

Today was quite possibly a disaster. I went for a tour to one of the campuses I will be applying to. Luckily, because I am pedantically punctual, I left over an hour earlier than I needed figuring I would rather sit in my car in the parking lot and read or grade than risk being late. Instead I sat on the freeway in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire and no phone reception.

The details of that were not fun, and involved me climbing a hill on the side of the freeway to get enough reception to call AAA. After everything got sorted out and I was on my merry way again, I managed to still get there on time. Which might be the only good thing about today.

During the introduction to the program I found out that their one medievalist in the department left (and will not be replaced any time soon), and should I still wish to go there I will have to concentrate on early modern English literature and take several courses in the history department since their early modernist isn’t really an early modernist, but more like a regular modernist so I need to get the historical background elsewhere. And they only have one early modernist, so should she leave before I get to the dissertation stage of things I am kind of screwed. My best bet would be to go into modern American lit because they have a lot of those. So, how exactly did this conversation get from medieval literature to modern American?

I decided I would still apply and hope for the best, just in case the other schools don’t take me. I have to realize this is a possibility. I have a great GPA and test scores, but I have no extra curricular activities, club memberships, or extended conference experience. These things are apparently very important, and I just never did any of it. Also, I haven’t taken the subject GRE yet, so who knows…

The last part of the tour was comprised of sitting in on a class. They didn’t tell me in advance which class, so I couldn’t prepare, and I found myself in a modern American literature course where they are studying an author I have never even heard of. I was asked what I knew about him and I said I didn’t know. He asked whether I meant that I was unfamiliar with the work they are studying. This was a great time for me to lie and say “yes, that is it! I just never read this particular novel.” But I didn’t and admitted I have never even heard of John Neal. I may as well have committed heresy.

Longest three hours of my life.

As if my day wasn’t exhausting enough, as I was walking back to my car I took a detour to the campus coffee shop (they don’t have very many, which seriously makes me even more hesitant to apply… yes… I know… but really, you don’t understand). Anyway… a man on a skateboard, being rather reckless ran into me, and knocked me over. The palms of my hands are totally scrapped up, and thankfully I am wearing almost all black so no one will be able to tell that I have coffee all over me. I pleasantly smell like Italian roast. Hopefully none of my students tonight get too close to me.

Since the flat tire incident completely drained my phone battery I had quite an adventure getting back to work, got lost in Pasadena, and barely just made it back in time for my office hours and the rest of my evening.

Wife of Bath will be very interesting tonight.

Explaining School

There is nothing more abstract than education, and today I found out just how much. I was getting my nails done and the lady started talking to me. She usually asks about my kids and my work-out regiment. I usually bring a book with me in case there is a wait, so today she asked me about my book. She assumed it is a novel, but I told her it was theory. Our conversation went something like this (this is an approximation of the conversation to the best of my recollection) (also, I took the liberty of fixing her English):

Her: You study that for school?
Me: Yes.
Her: What class are you taking?
Me: This is actually for a class I am teaching.
Her: Oh, so you are done with school.
Me: No, I am about to start more school next year. I guess I am kind of on break.
Her: How far have you gone?
Me: I just finished my MA, and going to start my doctorate next fall.
Her: So you are going to be a doctor?
Me: In a few years, yes.
Her: So you are going to make new medicines?
Me: No, no, not that kind of doctor. A Ph.D.
Her: What is that?
Me: A doctor of philosophy.
Her: What is that?
Me: Well, it is like… um… a fancy degree… um…. well… um… it is the next step after the MA.
Her: What is philosophy?
Me: I guess it is the study of different ways of thinking? Probably. Let’s go with that.
Her: So you are going to become a doctor for thinking?
Me: Sort of.
Her: Like a head doctor?
Me: No, not like that. I will be focusing on literature. So basically different ways of thinking about literature.
Her: Not like a psychiatrist?
Me: No, nothing like that.
Her: So what kind of doctor are you going to be? Who are you treating?
Me: No, no, I won’t be treating anyone. I will be teaching. I am not going to be a science kind of doctor.
Her: So you teach, but you can’t make medicine?
Me: Right. I won’t be a healing doctor. A doctorate isn’t really a doctor, it is kind of… um.. like… a pretend doctor.
This conversation went on for a while, but in conclusion, I think I convinced her that I am about to spend several more years in school to get a make-believe degree, and will write about things that don’t exist. Self promotion is not my forte.

Home School Sheltering

Home schooling is a very touchy subject, so I will start this post letting everyone know I am about to be very offensive to some. I do not mean to. If you are looking for pros and cons and objectivity, this is not for you. I have an opinion, and a stubborn one at that.
With that said, I am in no way trying to tell you how you should school your child. Home schooling works very well for some people. I have friends and neighbors who have had great success with the method. My kids are currently in day care and far from joining the ranks of school age children. But when they do, I will be sure to send them to public school.
Here is a little back ground. Growing up I was very sheltered. To the point where I had not really come into contact with other children until I was six (God forbid I caught a cold). And then it took me about ten years to figure out how social interaction works. In fact, I am still trying to figure it out.
There are certain things children learn directly, or indirectly, in a school setting that just cannot be replicated in the home. I have no problem dabbling in the world of academia. When it comes to other people’s children. I am a mother, and therefore partial and biased. As far as I am concerned, my children are perfect and brilliant in every respect. Which is why I need someone else to burst their little bubbles and identify the problem areas where they need improvement.
Home schooling provides too sheltered of an environment. Even when there are multiple children. I think kids should be exposed to being around people who they are not immediately related to, and who do not have a vested interest in their well being and pending success.
They need to come into contact with the school bully (but only briefly). They need to make and lose a few good friends. They need to know that not everyone has their best interest in mind. 
They need to learn that they must share, and not only with their family or those they care about.
Currently one of my daughter’s favorite books, Pinkalicious, has a wonderful line “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” Sometimes you do everything you are supposed to, and in the end you get cheated with no fault of your own. Sometimes there are things you are just not good at. And someone needs to tell you. You may be great at science, but can’t write a short story to save your life. You may be well coordinated, but really a terrible dancer. Someone needs to tell you that too.
As a parent I want to be honest with my children, especially when it comes to their skills. But also as a parent I am ill equipped to do so. Every poem they will write will end up on the fridge. I will clap and squeal at their dances. I will praise their artwork. And all of this will be genuine, because they are my babies. Someone else needs to tell them if their art won’t be in a museum any time soon (and I am going to refrain on my commentary on contemporary art). They need to know what their strengths are. But they also need to understand their weaknesses.
Once in a while they need to be misjudged. They need someone to tell them they won’t succeed, or that what they are doing is no good, so that they may try harder. They need a few unfair teachers, and they need to enter a system that just doesn’t care about them.
I want my children to grow up and become well adjusted individuals with a real sense of how the world works, not a skewed picture of how they grew up with mommy, daddy and their siblings at home. I mean, what kind of a mother would I be if I didn’t let my children experience getting screwed over by the world at an early age?