Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Reality Check Just Bounced

Being back in Tallahassee is a rude awakening on so many levels. Utah was wonderful. Really. More than ever, believe it or not. And more than ever, I’m aching to get back there and just settle in. I’m tired of aspiring for something wholly other. I’m sick of the journey, quite honestly. I want the destination at this point. And I’m happy to grow and develop in my own way once I’m at my destination, but I’m tired of life being all about getting somewhere else. Somehow, even before heading to Utah, my mind started opening up and it’s like I started seeing things more clearly and honestly than I have in a while. I’ve been wanting to blog about all my thoughts and feelings, but I feel like I don’t have time, and I know from experience that I’ll get lost as I try to articulate things and end up not saying half of the most important stuff I want to say. Bottom line: I just want to be comfortable and in my place. And right now, I’m not. Being in grad school is a means to an end. And I’m growing tired of it. The best analogy I can think of is when you spend all day long in the same room, and after hours upon hours, you just want to get out and have some new stimulation and take a deep breath of fresh air. I feel like that’s what I’m aching to do. And I’ve only recently become honest enough with myself to say, without assuming I’m somehow mistaken or an idiot or otherwise in the wrong, that my graduate program just isn’t that wonderful or rewarding. Yes, there are extremely smart people who teach here. But I don’t feel like I’ve been inspired or wowed as a student. I thought a Ph.D. program was meant to be incredibly exciting, to take you to new levels, and to groom you to be a professional. I, on the other hand, feel much like I could disappear and nobody would even realize it. I know I’m not the most proactive student in the world, but I thought part of the point of a Ph.D. program was that they took you under their wings and made sure you were ready for the next phase of your life. That’s not happening here. I quite literally think I’ve gotten little more out of this program than I would have gotten out of reading books and articles on my own. That just doesn’t seem right to me.

More immediately, I’m stressed and admittedly rather upset about how my fall semester is shaping up. I’m set to teach an ethics course that currently has 138 enrolled students. When I was a TA for a class that size, I was one of three TA’s. But, due to various constraints that I suppose ultimately tie back to the less-than-stellar economy, I’m being given one TA to help me out with this course. One. To make matters worse, this class is supposed to be “writing intensive” so as to satisfy certain university requirements. That means that I am required to require the students to write a certain amount over the course of the semester and to give them feedback on that writing. With only one TA, this seems virtually impossible. I’ve TA’d for this very same course a few times now, and at my busiest, I was responsible for grading 61 students. At that time, I felt like I was constantly grading. It was a lot to do. So, how in the world am I supposed to make my one TA grade all 138 students that are enrolled in my class? Short answer: I don’t think I really can! But where does that leave me? Do I try to grade half of them myself? That’s not going to work! I’m going to be plenty busy just preparing for the class and, heaven forbid, working on my dissertation. So what am I supposed to do? I figure that even if I spread the writing requirement out over 10 assignments, there will be 138 (rather short) essays to grade almost every single week. And that’s just impractical for one person to grade, or even for two people to grade when one of them also has to teach the course. Being in this situation is irksome. I feel like this is a rather common thing in life, for the requirements to be impossible to satisfy if one tries literally to do so in the proper way. It seems like most jobs tell you that you have to (a), (b), and (c), and yet those things in some sense contradict each other. For example, when I worked at a call center, I was told I couldn’t work any overtime without prior approval, and yet I was basically always required to stay longer than my actual shift (the requiring of which was not to be construed as permission to work overtime). I think that’s pretty much par for the course at most places, and yet it’s agitating. I think most people get away with things by bending the rules, but for those of us who want to follow the rules, it doesn’t work out. And then we look like the incompetent ones because, hey, why can’t we do it when everybody else can?

That’s my rant for today. It’s a shame I feel like ranting because I was actually feeling quite inspired while I was in Utah. My motivation has now been disemboweled by reality, but I guess I should try to muster up some enthusiasm, thinking of it as a ticket out of this place eventually. That was my game plan, and then I was told I’d get one TA. I’m finding it hard to recover from that.


  1. Oh my friend! I feel your pain. In my profession I am constantly in the position where someone else set the schedule and I am the one being held to keeping the schedule even though the amount of work is double what it was originally. Yet no further funds or time are allocated to the project. I just have to convince myself that if I take everyday as a single day and do what I can within my abilities without neglecting my family, that things will turn out in the end. So stick with it and once you are done, you will have all new adventures.

  2. Maybe you should talk to Uncle Craig. He seems to always be cool, although I doubt that he's always that cool.

  3. Ah Ben, this makes me sad. I like to think you are always happy and everything is going along so fine. What would happen if you didn't finish? Not that you're even saying that's an option, just curious. You'll just keep plugging along eh? I can't believe the T.A. thing! Surely someone is aware! Do they have any suggestions!?!?!?!