10.15.2009

in which i turn a corner

I've just completed week five of my first term of graduate school, and I feel as if I've turned a corner. I no longer feel like I'm living someone else's life.

* * * *

My debate went really well, much better than I could have anticipated. That had as much to do with my opponents as anything else. They both read from prepared statements, barely looking up or addressing the room. In their concluding remarks, instead of responding to points raised during the class discussion, they read another prepared statement. They were full of citations and academic jargon, but short on real-life application, and wholly without engagement or passion.

But even without that contrast, I felt good. I had a good command of my material, I moved smoothly from point to point, I was able to amend my statement to address new points raised in the discussion.

In the pre-debate poll, the class was split: 15 agreed with the statement "copyright is obsolete", 11 opposed, and five were on the fence. After the debate, 11 people agreed, one person was on the fence and 19 opposed. So I had a modest win in those terms, too.

This "win" was a bit more impressive. There are two open-source activists in the class, who came fully prepared to argue against copyright. What my debate opponents lacked in practical application and passion, these two young women supplied. It was really four against one.

I am thrilled to get this over with! And I actually now see the value in the debate format. It does stimulate valuable discussion that the other class lacks. It connects the theoretical concepts to their practical application in our lives. I still dislike the format, but now I can just relax and participate for the rest of the term. Whew!

* * * *

I also got my first paper back: a B. It's only the first paper of my first term, so it's possible my grades will improve as I go along. However, I've decided that if they don't, if I go through grad school as a B student, that will be fine.

I'm unwilling to - absolutely, firmly, will not - put any more time into classes than I'm doing right now. So if that means getting Bs, Bs it will be. As or Bs, I'll graduate, I'll get my Masters degree, and I'll start a new career.

I was mostly an A student in university, and that was before the days of grade inflation. I worked hard for those As - the first time I had ever worked at school in my life - and I enjoyed it. But that was long ago, a different person with different goals, needs, priorities. If the same amount of reading and writing now yields As, that will be fine. If it yields Bs, I'm fine with it.

* * * *

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I feel comfortable with my classmates now. I feel a part of things - as much as I want to, anyway. This reminds me that some of my feelings of outsider-ness are my own doing. I have a tendency to move through worlds without being fully part of them. But I'm friendly with a few classmates, I feel comfortable chatting a bit before and after class, and the whole experience is becoming integrated for me.

Next week I'm going to try to attend a Campaign meeting, and see if I can add that back in. I really miss it, but I'm not sure my energy level will permit it.

In the coming weeks, I may be even more absent from wmtc than I have been. I have another paper to write, and when that's done, I want to write an essay, for here and elsewhere. I have a little break between papers and I'd like to see if I can still write.

18 comments:

M@ said...

Well done on the debate and nice to see things are going well for you.

I had a similar experience with school -- I never had to work hard for grades (and didn't bother working hard) until I got to university. In first year I was a B student and I figured out I needed to work much, much harder to get As. So I got in gear and was on the dean's honour list for the rest of my time in school.

I can totally understand your perspective on doing what you need to do for this degree, though. You don't need to impress anyone, you know who you are and what you need to get out of this schooling. That's far different from where most people are in their early 20s. I'm sure recognizing this will pay off quite well for you as you go through the program.

L-girl said...

Thanks, M@!

That's exactly it. I don't need the grades for any feelings of self-worth, and I seriously doubt I need them to get started in a library career.

You uni experience is just like mine. I also got Bs as a freshman, and somewhat repeated my pattern from high school (just minus all the drugs). I skipped class when I felt like it, and didn't work very hard. Then I realized my potential as a student, and started working much harder.

I got almost all As after that, including in graduate-level classes that I took just for my challenge. I graduated magna cum laude and phi beta kappa.

I was very proud of that, but I sure ain't gonna do it now! :)

johngoldfine said...

"They both read from prepared statements, barely looking up or addressing the room. In their concluding remarks, instead of responding to points raised during the class discussion, they read another prepared statement. They were full of citations and academic jargon, but short on real-life application, and wholly without engagement or passion."

I had classmates like that in grad school. I never understood their attitude.

Here we were--no longer under the threat of the draft, concentrating in a academic area we presumably loved, many of us getting a full, tax-free boat from the school, dealing with professors as junior colleagues instead of as punk kids, writing and researching original material we had come to on our own--and these fellow students were dubbing around, dragging ass, never quite prepared, never nearly as sparkly-eyed as I felt.

What the heck kind of librarians are they going to make tomorrow if they think copyright questions aren't worth their energy today?

L-girl said...

What the heck kind of librarians are they going to make tomorrow if they think copyright questions aren't worth their energy today?

Oh no no, I either didn't represent them clearly or you misread me. They put a lot of work into the debate - far more than I did. But they were both very nervous and inexperienced public speakers. That's what the difference was down to.

Also, these particular students are more invested in academia than I am. They approached the debate as if it were an academic paper, which was a mistake.

johngoldfine said...

Ah, sorry, got it--I misread.

Jen said...

This post just goes to show that top of the class doesn't necessarily mean the student that aces everything. I'll bet that your opponents got A's on that paper, but do they "get it"?

It sounds like they understood their points for themselves but failed to make that info accessible and persuasive to others. Kind of a critical skill for future librarians I would think.

I cruised through nursing school with grades that ran the gamut from B minus to A (no A+ at UOttawa) but with feedback from profs and clinical instructors that let me know that I "got it" no matter what my transcript said.

This infuriated the hell out of some of my [usually younger] classmates who worked hard for their straight As but got the vibe that profs let me lead a bit more in the class and in the hospital.

impudent strumpet said...

You are hereby entitled to buy fries next time you pass the chip truck for having completed this stupid ridiculous excuse for an assignment.

Also, anyone else find that major projects in university (and even OAC ISUs) were way harder than actual grownup job-you-get-paid-for work?

Lisa said...

"I no longer feel like I'm living
someone else's life. "

Nicely put!! I'm definitely feeling the same way. It's takes time to ease into it. I was totally feeling like an outsider, but after a few tutorials I started to relax a bit...and looked around and realized that aside from the few who always speak up, there are a lot of others who probably feel/felt just as out of place as I did.

The debates in my tutorial have been successful. And they definitely break the ice. It also gives (in some cases, forces) the quieter types a chance to strut their stuff.

I feel much more settled..glad to read that you do too!

And from what I understand, it's pretty hard to fail grad school, unless you really don't work at it all, or you're just not getting it. And I'm pretty sure that employers don't care if you got Bs or As. It definitely feels good to get an A, but a B is NOT the end of the world. Also, its the first paper, and it was difficult. We didn't really know what the expectations were, and we were expected to condense a LOT of complicated information in a very very short paper. I find that much more challenging than writing a 15 page paper. But I did well (enough) and feel good. My debate is in two weeks...ack!

I love reading your observations on the coursework and classes....it makes me feel less alone! :)

Amy said...

I am so glad that things are working out for you with school. You sound like my more mature students, who also say that unlike their 22 year old classmates, they are in school to learn and not worrying about grades. Somehow I think you will still end up with terrific grades even without worrying about them!

I'd love to hear or see more about the substance of the debate, if you can share what was written or said.

L-girl said...

Thanks, all! I appreciate it.

Jen, that's cool, I think I will be the same way. I remember when my brother was in dental school (he is now an oral surgeon). He was at the very top of his class in all the clinical and practical work, really gifted. But at the bottom of his class in the written work, because he didn't focus on it very much. Who would you rather have working on your teeth?

Imp Strump, thanks! I might just get some fries next week.

L-girl said...

Also, anyone else find that major projects in university (and even OAC ISUs) were way harder than actual grownup job-you-get-paid-for work?

Mine were, for sure. What was harder about work is more the humane element - office politics, people playing games for which I had no rules. But writing papers on literature was often much harder than most of what I've done to support myself. But then, I haven't had the most challenging jobs, so maybe it's not a fair comparison.

L-girl said...

Lisa, I'm glad to hear you're settling in too - excellent.

and we were expected to condense a LOT of complicated information in a very very short paper. I find that much more challenging than writing a 15 page paper.

It's always more difficult to go short than long. I did have an advantage here because I'm used to it. But it didn't help me very much grade-wise!

I see you're being quiet about your grade... but I'm curious!

L-girl said...

Amy, thank you :)

I'd love to hear or see more about the substance of the debate, if you can share what was written or said.

Most of it was just verbal, and I can't recreate it here. I could send you my notes, but they're pretty bare bones.

I'm sure you would have enjoyed hearing it. It wasn't so much legal as philosophical (what's best for society, what's best for creators) and practical (can this be enforced, who really benefits).

Amy said...

The philosophical and practical aspects are what interest me the most also!

Duchess Wow said...

I got a B+...with some comments about the organization needing to be enhanced (yes) and something about needing a better "roadmap" to introduce the argument. Which was correct, but given the space limitations, not actually possible!

Lisa said...

Duchess Wow is Lisa... (damn double google accounts!)

I know you know that...

nick said...

I concur that that phrase was a nicely put and apt. I have a number of friends (in which I include you) who have gone back to school this year afer hiatuses (hiati?) and it's definitely been a challenge for most. It's been interesting to hear of people's experiences in adjusting to and reacquainting themselves with academic life. I was last in college 14 years ago and the thought of returning (which I probably ought to do one day) is, if not overly so, quite whelming.

L-girl said...

Nick, definitely whelming! :)

27 years for me, and something I never intended and never thought I'd do.

Lisa, congrats on the B+ !