7 Things You Should Never Say to A Graduate Student
Especially if that graduate student is me.
“When are you going to get a real job?”
First of all, I had a “real” job. It paid me a salary, and I have a set of very valuable skills that I brought with me from my six years of experience in public schools. I’ve lived in the world where I got up every morning at 5:30 to go to a job with a 401K, a pension, and health care. It was fine, and I could go back to that world any time I want to. But I have chosen to go back to school because it was the best decision for me.
Second, I HAVE a “real” job right now. I bring to this job a set of very valuable skills from my six years in the public schools. I am treated like a professional. I make a monthly salary. I have health care and whatnot. I don’t think people realize this, but the full compensation package for a graduate assistantship is about the same as a first year teacher’s salary in my state. (Cue the The more you know! jingle…)
We’ll get to call you Dr. Anderson!
Well, yes. I guess I’ll be Dr. Anderson, but that’s not why I’m doing this. Being called Dr. Anderson when I’m done is the least interesting part of why I’m here.
“It must be nice to have so much free time.”
Yeah. It must be. Let’s go find the person who has some of this alleged “free time” and ask them about it, because that person is certainly not me. Unstructured time and free time are not the same thing. I have 29 hours each week where I must be in class or at work. I also have many meetings and educational activities I attend (workshops, lectures, etc). Beyond that, my remaining time is up to me. Even though I determine the order of tasks I attend to and the location where I attend to them (coffee shops!), it doesn’t mean I’m not working my ass off. Friday nights. Sunday mornings. Up until midnight or 2am. Getting up early to finish work before class. I have some free time, depending on the week, but I have far less than I did when I was working in the public schools. I’m just not tethered to a bell schedule and a 7-period day.
“I can’t believe you misspelled that. You’re going to be a doctor!”
I don’t know if it’s jealousy that leads to a faux superiority complex or what, but I’ve noticed that some of my acquaintances like to point out any mistake I make. Like being a doctoral student means I am now a flawless writer or something. If anything, graduate school is a place where I’ve made more mistakes than I’ve ever made in my life. And I’m learning to be okay with that. I don’t know everything, and I’m secure in the fact that I don’t. Perfect grammar is not a prerequisite for admission, and it is not a requirement for completion of the degree, either.
On a similar note, just because I’m a doctoral student in education doesn’t mean I know everything about education. Or English. Or gender studies. Or biology (seriously. People assume this stuff).
“But you get summers off!”
FALSE. I have to get a job in the summer. Otherwise I can’t pay rent or feed myself. In fact, I pretty much have to get a different job every summer. So I’m always a little anxious about the fact that I don’t know where three of my twelve monthly paychecks are going to come from each year. Even my summer abroad in Munich this year is for a research job — I may be going to Europe, but I’ll also be going to work in Europe.
“I always wanted to get my Ph.D.”
What am I supposed to say when people tell me this? I hear it A LOT. I have two snarky answers to this. (1) “Because wanting a Ph.D and getting one are totally the same thing!” and (2) “I’m so proud of you for not following through with your dream!” Both would get me slapped. So I just have to say, “Oh. That’s nice” and change the subject. I also find that these are usually the folks who are more concerned with being called Dr. So-and-So than actually doing research in graduate school.
And finally: “When are you going to graduate?”
In high school and undergrad, the goal is usually to complete the degree programs in a reasonable about of time. Four years. Three, if you’re savvy about it. But graduate school is an entirely different beast. If I stick around for an additional year, it’s not because I’m dillydallying or failing. It’s for a good reason. Flying through a doctorate in the shortest amount of time possible is not always a good thing, especially for those who plan to enter academia. So rest assured, I will let you all know when that date arrives in 2016…or 2017…ish.
What are some things that you think people should never say to graduate students?
Author: PJ Palacio
Publisher/Year: Knopf, 2012
Length: 313 pages/8 hr 6 min
Genre: Middle grades contemporary/problem novel
Format: Audio Book
Source: Purchased from Audible.com
Ten year old Auggie Pullman was born with a facial deformity. Even after years of surgeries, he still receives stares and gets pointed at in public. Auggie has been homeschooled until his parents decide to send him to middle school at Beecher Prep. Middle school is already a tumultuous time in a kid’s life, so everyone is a little on edge (including Auggie) to see how Auggie will fit in at his new school and how the other kids will react to him. Wonder is the story of Auggie’s fifth grade year, told through both his voice and the voices of those around him.
It’s hard not to like Auggie and Wonder. This isn’t your stereotypical book about bullying or appreciating differences. Palacio pulls together multi-dimensional characters, fresh dialog, and a healthy dose of emotion to script a powerful story for all ages. Though I’ve seen many adults lauding this book, I really think the real power here lies in the use in the classroom. The story is short enough for reading in a teacher’s jam-packed curriculum, and the multiple viewpoints will allow students to examine their own biases and behaviors. Teachers could also utilize the precepts activities that Auggie’e language arts teacher uses — what more can you ask for than a built in lesson plan?
My one complaint about the story is that Auggie is a little too perfect. I know there are lots of ten year old boys who are super kids and make your heart melt, but I know many more ten year old boys who are just that: ten year old boys. They make mistakes, have bad habits, and don’t always do the right thing. Auggie is just a little too heart-warming and too angelic. He can do no wrong! That being said, this is a book for kids, so I can see why Palacio kept things simple.
Notes on the audio book: The audio book was interesting. The voice of Auggie was played by a woman, who raspy-fied her voice to sound like a pre-pubescent boy. It was an interesting, slightly jarring, choice. In addition, the narrator made Auggie sound more like a third grader in his manner of speech — and those two years make a big difference! She made Auggie sound naive, though he’s not. However, the other narrators for each of the other voices more than made up for this in their awesomeness and I would still recommend the audio to anyone who likes to read in this format.
FINAL GRADE: B A good book. Probably not a top ten-er for me, but it’s well-written and I won’t ever forget Auggie. I’m most impressed with how Palacio kept the story interesting and relevant, and a little sassy, to appeal to actual kids. It may not be a book kids pick up on their own, but with a little guidance (reading together, read aloud, classroom reading) I know they’ll love this story.
Assigned reading: Assigned to all upper elementary and middle school teachers! Also assigned to anyone who enjoys good, high quality, non-boring middle grades fiction.
Library recommendations: Put in your elementary school and middle school library, but skip it for high school. I’m thinking this will be most appreciated by kids ages 8-12. Consider introducing it to your teachers and buying it in a class set.
What were you self-conscious about in middle school? (And yes, “everything” is an acceptable answer!)
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we are talking about the books we constantly recommend. This is almost similar to my favorite books, but represents the books I think others might call a favorite, too. I probably sound a little like a broken record, but here they are:
Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most
1.) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I love this book because it looks like the kind of sci-fi that might typically turn my friends off, but there is so much surprising amazing in there. I think pretty much everyone can enjoy the story.
2.) Looking for Alaska by John Green – John Green is my homeboy. I should probably walk around recommending The Fault in Our Stars, but I’ll stick with my personal fav of his, Looking For Alaska, as my go-to Green novel of choice.
3.) The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – I like non-fiction, so if I have a friend who seems non-fiction-y, or who I think needs to start dabbling in the genre, I recommend this.
4.) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – It’s such a powerful book.
5.) The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay – More recent, but the number of times I’ve recommended it in the past three months has been insane. I usually recommend it as a YA book for people who think YA is not as complex at adult fiction.
6.) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Because it’s fun. It’s adventure. It’s a great “can’t put down” kind of book.
7.) Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger – Another recent book. I think books that are fresh in my brain get more “rec” cred than some of the older ones. I recommend this book because I need other people to read it so we can talk about it.
8.) Every Day by David Levithan – An incredibly thought-provoking book. I recommend it to anyone who works with teens, as it can be a great book for teaching about empathy.
9.) Unwind by Neal Schusterman– If The Hunger Games was the book I was reading three years ago, claiming it was edgy and awesome, Unwind totally has that spot in my life now (even though it’s old than The Hunger Games). Imma need the Hunger Games folks to put down that book, and walk over to the real dark side.
10.) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart – Though Ruby Oliver is my favorite, Frankie Landau-Banks is a better introduction to my favorite author. This is a fun, funny standalone novel with a feminist twist and a good message. Plus I always hope it inspired people to try Ruby Oliver.
Which books are you always recommending?
Title: Being Henry David
Author: Cal Armistead
Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen
Release date: 3/1/2013
Length: 270 pages
Genre: YA coming-of-age
Source: Review copy from Netgalley
“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
– Henry David Thoreau, from Walden
The first thing Hank remembers is waking up in New York’s Penn Station. He doesn’t know how he got there, why he’s there, or where he’s going. He doesn’t even know his name, so he names himself “Hank,” short for Henry David, after Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau’s Walden is his only possession and the only clue to his past. Now Henry David is on a hunt to find out who he was, but he’ll also find clues to who he is and what he wants along the way.
This is a strange little novel, hard to categorize and hard to rate. The cast of characters is pretty cool: you’ve got some janitors, a way cool librarian, and all of the kids Henry David meets along the way. There’s also the mystery factor — what keeps the story moving are the questions looming over Henry David. Enough is revealed along the way to satisfy readers, and the answers are not cliche. In fact, I was surprised throughout this story. After reading lots of YA, I can see a lot of plots coming. That was NOT the case with ole’ Henry David’s story. So…kudos to Cal Armistead.
However, this novel left me wanting more. Not like a hundred pages more, but just a smidge more. More from the ending, more from some of the characters, more depth. Don’t get me wrong — it’s good. And I understand why Armistead ended it the way she did. And maybe the wanting of more is a deliberate choice, to parallel how we want more out of life or something. Overall, I felt it was good but not great.
Oh, and I loooooooooved that The Beatle’s “Blackbird” played such a big role in the story. Not only is it perfect for Henry David’s journey, but it’s also just a good song. I totally didn’t mind having it stuck in my head (I posted the video at the end of this review in case you don’t know the song).
FINAL GRADE: B- I couldn’t decide between a C or a B, but I decide the story is definitely good enough to deserve a B, with a few points subtracted for the lack of depth in certain places.
Assigned Reading: Assigned to lovers of Walden, all high school English teachers, and fans of YA contemporary/coming of age novels. Also great for fans of the great outdoors (the Appalachian Trail, in particular) and rock bands.
Library recommendation: Put it in your high school library, skip the middle school library. Consider adding it to the curriculum paired with Walden to make the text relevant to modern life. There’s definitely enough in the book to use in an English class.
Spring break starts in just 42 hours (not like I’m counting), and I could really use a break to chill for a minute. Maybe read some books for funzies. However, I’ll also be writing papers like whoa. Hopefully I’ll be productive and churn out some draft-y goodness for all three of my final papers. I got a head start by heading to the library and grabbing a fabulous stack of books. I know y’all bookish folks love a good book haul, so here’s my contribution…though I don’t know if anyone will find this as exciting as I do.
Without further ado, this is what I’ll be up to over spring break and for the rest of the semester:
Oh, and stay tuned, because I think I’ll have some exciting news to share after spring break. Good things are happening in grad school land lately!
What nerdy books have excited you this month?
A long time ago (like, this past summer) I read a post on Red Lips and Academics called “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You: Academic Edition.” She borrowed the idea from the Creature Comfort’s Blog, and it started as a sort of meme for crafty (like, Pinterest-perfect) crafty folks. The idea is that bloggers remove our air of confidence, the facade we wear that says, “We’ve got everything figured out. We’ve got our shit together. We’re so together that we blog about our amazing lives.” Okay, so those are my words, not hers. But today I’m going to share with you some of my vulnerabilities as an academic. I certainly have shared some of my insecurities along the way, but these are the biggies:
1. I’m a 95%er. Meaning, I’m not a perfectionist. I don’t have time to be a perfectionist. You can probably tell by the number of typos on this blog. I believe that perfection is terribly inefficient.
2. I was not a fabulous teacher. I wasn’t terrible, but I certainly wasn’t the teacher of the year. No one is very good in their first few years, so this isn’t surprising. However, I sometimes feel weird talking about all these ideals and theories of teaching when I look back on my experiences and cringe.
3. I get jealous of my friends who have lives. When I look at all my friends having babies, buying houses, going on vacations, getting married, I often feel stuck. Like I have this one thing I can do well (academics) and I’m a one trick pony. I regularly remind myself that things will look very different ten years from now, and I just have to be okay with that.
4. Now that I’ve started my Ph.D, I don’t know when I’m going to have children. My life will only get harder when/if I get a tenure-track position! There will be no good time. It’s just going to have to happen anyway, and I get tired just thinking about it!
5. I rarely miss teaching in the public schools. This makes me feel super guilty and I don’t really like to talk about it. However, I just love being treated like a serious adult and a real person. I like being able to go outside at various points in the day, eating lunch without being interrupted, and being able to walk out of class when I have to go to the bathroom. The introvert in me is loving all of the time I have to hyper-focus on things.
6. I have zero experience with research. And I desperately need some. And I will get some (I am already getting some), but right now it’s a huge deficit in my education that constantly stares me in the face.
7. I don’t talk fancy. I mean, my vocabulary has already changed a lot being in this academic wonderland. I’ve never been against jargon and ed-speak and fancy words because they are usually efficient for describing ideas. However, most of the time I just talk like a normal person. This may change over the next three years (…it will likely change over the next three years…), but for now I’m better at writing than talking.
So there you have it. Things I’m afraid to tell you. I know I’m not alone in these, and I know many of them will work themselves out over time. I’m generally a very confident, optimistic, person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my fair share of insecurities from time to time.
Also, please note that I’m not asking for solutions from anyone. I’m handling things very well in school and I’m very happy! I’m forging my own way and figuring it all out along that path. I’m fine with some stumbles and questions as I go, that’s life! The purpose for sharing this is to put a little bit of myself out there. It’s about transparency and realizing I’m not alone (and that you aren’t alone!) in the self-doubts of life.
Do you share any similar insecurities? What is one thing you are afraid to tell people?
Title: The Madman’s Daughter
Author: Megan Shephard
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: 1/29/2013
Length: 432 pages
Series?: The Madman’s Daughter #1
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Gothic
Format: Print ARC
Source: ARC from HarperCollins
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge, Feminist Reads Challenge
If you’ve ever read The Island of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells or if you even know the plot, then you know the story. A madman (Dr. Moreau) has been banished from London for his criminal acts of surgical cruelty on animals, leaving his wife and daughter alone as he flees to an island off Australia. After her mother dies, Juliet finds herself cleaning rooms in the medical school and hoping to find her father again. Her search leads her to that isolated island, along with her childhood friend, a shipwreck victim, and a whole host of very strange-looking villagers and staff. Juliet learns that the isolation of the island is hiding as sinister secret, and she is forced to answer the one question that has haunted her for most of her life: is her father really a madman?
The Madman’s Daugher is a novel about opposing forces: good vs. evil, animal vs. human, wild vs. domestic, jungle vs. civilization, curious vs. mad, chaos vs. order, science vs. nature, and even a good ole fashioned love triangle of the Edward/Jacob variety. While Juliet watches these opposing forces play out on the island and in her romantic interests, she also must face the opposing sides within herself. Though Juliet struggles with this opposition, she also has the brains and strength to have a hand in her own fate. Juliet isn’t a perfect heroine, and isn’t always likable, but I respected and understood her.
For a 400+ page novel, this story moves along very quickly due to the mysteries revealed and the danger at hand. AND THE TWISTS! You guys, there’s a plot twist, and I knew there’d be a plot twist, and I love a good plot twist. I kind of saw the plot twist coming, but it was still a great moment. Not to mention the cliff hanger ending, since this is definitely a trilogy. I know, I know…a trilogy with a love triangle, how cliche. How much I’ve complained about such things, right? Well, I take it all back. If Megan Shepherd wants to entertain me with two more hefty love triangle-licious volumes, I’ll read ‘em.
FINAL GRADE: B Wow. I enjoyed this way more than I thought! It loses a few points for a few ridiculous moments related to the romance, and for being a little angsty , but it was a great read. I love when authors play around with classics and bring them into modern storytelling. In fact, I may have been inspired to read The Island of Dr. Moreau next. I actually had HG Wells’ The Time Machine already downloaded to my Audible account, ready to go, so it wouldn’t be a far stretch (plus I’ve already read The Time Machine once, so it can wait).
Assigned Reading: Assigned to fans of HG Wells and anyone who likes creepy, dark historical fiction. I guess the technical genre here is historical sci-fi, but it’s definitely no steampunk. Also recommended to anyone who wants to read a REAL love triangle novel.
Library Recommendations: This would be okay, content wise, for either a middle school or high school library. I think high school students would be quite drawn to the story if you can sell it right. If you are a middle school librarian on a strict, slim budget…skip it. Otherwise, give it a go!
What do you think about classics re-imagined? Is a fun idea, cheap trick, lack of creativity?
I’d like rant a little bit today about something that has been happening in my fair state. North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, has recently spoken out about his plans for our university system. In particular, he spoke about funding to this system. It is no secret that our system features incredibly affordable public universities, heavily subsidized by the state government. Apparently, Governor McCrory is not a fan of our system because he feels our graduates fail to get jobs. Instead of giving money to universities based on the number of students enrolled, he proposed giving money based on the number of students who get jobs.
McCrory argued, “I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs,” and proceeded to cite gender studies and philosophy degrees specifically as producers of unemployable graduates. (BTW, Governor, if the educational elite shouldn’t be running education — their area of expertise — then who should be? Isn’t that the job they were trained to do? I’m confused.)
This has become, essentially, a battle between vocation and liberal arts education. It’s a very common educational debate: are we preparing student for jobs or are we preparing them to think critically with a broad base of learning experiences? I’ll say up front that I am firmly in the liberal arts camp. I went to college to get a liberal arts education, not to get a job. And this model has been highly successful at schools like UNC-Chapel Hill. It enrages me to see what politicians want to do in the name of “job creation” or “the economy.” The last thing we need is thousands of engineering students (who would rather have been philosophers) flooding the job market and making things worse.
There are many more good points stated in various articles and blog posts that I have seen posted around Facebook: businesses are actually looking for skills taught in liberal arts degrees, that Governor McCrory himself has a liberal arts degree (and a job…), that Republicans are anti-intellectual, that Republicans would have benefited from some gender studies knowledge during the 2012 elections, that the job market is too unpredictable to determine with majors will lead to jobs, etc. It just really makes me sad to see what the leader of my state values. Am I particularly surprised? No. But that does not make the verbal blow hurt any less.
If you want to know more about this issue in depth, you can read this article from The Charlotte Observer.
Or check out this blog post from Religion News Services that examines the politics of this debate.
What do you think is the value of a liberal arts education? Do you stand on the vocational side or the liberal arts side of this debate?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we are looking at amazing memories of reading. I have a lot of these, and I’m sure there are some that I’m not remembering when I write this. But here’s my best attempt at my favorite reading memories:
Top Ten Best Bookish Memories
[Celebrate good times...]
1.) A whole bunch of Harry Potter-related memories: reading the first four books in four days, receiving book 5 in the mail, going solo to the midnight release of book 6, and reading book seven in my tent (in the dark, in the middle of the woods, alone) at camp when I was a counselor.
2.) Reading Holes by Louis Sachar during my brother’s double-header baseball game. I had been stung by a bee (for the first time), and was crying SO HARD, because I’m terrified of bees. The book was in my mom’s car, so I sat and read the whole thing for the remainder of the games.
3.) Reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle with my sixth graders when I was a classroom teacher. It was my first experience with having students so into a book that they refused to stop reading.
4.) Discovering Agatha Christie in eighth grade, when I got several of her books for Christmas. The Murder on the Orient Express was such a good gateway book.
5.) In undergrad, when I was working on my degree in middle grades education, I was able to take a Young Adult Literature class through the School of Information and Library Science. This class not only opened my mind to both the genre and study of YA Lit, but also planted the seed for my future career as a librarian.
6.) The fun I had reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead with my book club kids last year. I still can’t believe I got all of those kids to read so many books just for fun.
7.) Remember those awesome Scholastic orders you could do in school? I joined The Babysitters Club Book Club and got three books in the mail every six weeks, AND a whole bunch of BSC trinkets. I know I still have all of those books somewhere!
8.) Reading Alice books at my friend Jennie’s house, because she had them all and I didn’t.
9.) In my first year out of college, I was really bored without homework to do, so I started reading every James Patterson book I could find. I think I read fifteen books in two months.
10.) Silent, sustained reading (SSR) in sixth grade. This was the only year in school that I remember doing this, but we got a lot of time (45 minutes, maybe?) every day in school to read independently and journal about our reading. For a book nerd, this was the best time of the day.
What are you favorite bookish memories?
While on my quest to read novels strictly for funsies, I also have a list of books I need to read this semester for academic reasons. If I’m looking at gender in young adult literature, I’m always reading/hearing about certain novels. They come up again and again in conversation and journal articles. Most of them appeared in articles I read for one of my papers on gender identity in young adult literature in the fall semester. I figure that I’ll need to have them all in my mental arsenal of knowledge, so I’m starting now. I’ll call this list a sort of self-directed, not-for-credit independent study that I’m embarking on for the spring.
1. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan — Sort of a gay high school fantasty/utopia novel that challenges stereotypical masculinity.
2. I Am J by Cris Beam — The story of a female-to-male transgender teen coming of age and coming out.
3. Ash by Malinda Lo — Like a lesbian Cinderella story.
4. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher — Logan discovers the secret of the girl he’s been dating: she’s male-to-female transgendered.
5. Luna by Julie Anne Peters — Regan watches her brother, Liam, transform to the beautiful Luna every night in their basement.
I’m sticking with five for the spring, which is about one book each month. I’m pretty sure that’s do-able. This is one of the reasons I love this blog: when I write my reviews, I’ll have a record of what I’ve read and my own summary of each. You never know when I’ll take those and put them in something publishable!
Can you recommend any interesting YA books about gender for my fall 2013 reads? The books I’ve chosen here look at transgender and non-traditional gender, but I’d also be interested in books that representing traditional gender in interesting ways!