Monday, July 16, 2012

Finally settling in, maybe

I am a graduate student (PhD student heading into my 2nd year) preparing for a life in academia. Yes, I know the odds and I know the dismal hiring picture at universities these days. I know that I spent nights last year crying, convinced I was in the wrong department, wrong university, in the wrong field, in the wrong life altogether. That view was reinforced when there was a little snafu and my scholarship acceptance had never been processed - they told me everything was fine, but one day I get a bill from the university for nearly $20,000 (for a single term) and when I called the appropriate office I was told that "they had never heard back from me and the money had gone to someone else." Good thing I responded via email and cc'ed several people in my department. Thankfully, that has been resolved. Anyway, I have been adjunct teaching a course this summer and although I have been been in front of students loads to times (years of test prep at the Princeton Review have come in handy), this is the first time I have had my own class. I'm teaching graduate students. The experience has been challenging and some days it has been demoralizing. I always somehow feel like I am failing my students somehow, that no matter how much prep work I do, no matter how many examples I put in the lecture, I can't shake the feeling that it is somehow not enough. Anyway, today I got my peer observation report and it was overwhelmingly positive. I'm thrilled and it does go a distance to alleviating that failing feeling, but not entirely - I guess that comes with time and teaching experience. Perhaps I'll get used to the idea that some students will fail no matter how much help they are offered. Another nice thing happened today - I may join a training grant. the PI on the grant is a professor whose course I took this past term and really enjoyed. I was the only doctoral student and I may have been the only one there taking the course just out of interest. It would mean giving up my scholarship money, but since that is so anxiety-provoking, that may not be a bad thing. The training grant would cover my tuition and kick in a stipend. I think I'll be able to keep my job as well - which is good, they are in complementary areas in my field. I just submitted the application and personal statement. I feel anxious and yet relieved at the same time - no matter what happens, it is out of my hands. Now I just need to survive the next two weeks of teaching and grading. Oy, the grading. Wish me luck.