Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I officially graduate from the University of Southern California with a Master's Degree in Arts and Teaching this Friday at 3:30 PM. As much as I would love to make it to the ceremony, braving the downtown traffic, parking and the tens of thousands of people that will be attending USC's campus wide, day long activities, I have too much homework, a potential paying job on the east coast that prevents me from attending. It has been a rigorous journey, and a difficult one; and I'm reminded of other journeys when searching for a comparison or metaphor. I will admit that when I announced that I was going to Grad school at my age, I bristled when not just one, but a few friends chuckled and told me I was crazy. I can't say that I wouldn't warn others past the age of 45 about the learning curves, challenges and difficult professors I have had. More on that later.. onto the metaphors. As I type this, (as an aside), my creative writing students are working out their one act plays in the library on old Dell desktop computers with keyboards akin to a sticky upright piano. I am sneaking a moment to catch up with y'all. I miss my friends! I feel like I have been in a vortex of anxiety and 10th graders!

Taking on this program was probably the hardest thing I've done in my life. Harder than gutting homes in New Orleans after Katrina. Harder than trekking the 32 miles of the Inca trail in the rain. Hard. Feeling as though I've been under the poison pen of Professor Umbridge, this last semester has given me more opportunities to spiritually grow and learn in the art of, to quote Kenny Rogers, "knowing when to hold them,and knowing when to fold them".

One of my 7th grade students, Cary, asked me last term what it was like to be a student AND a student teacher. I had to think about that. "Well, Cary", I began, "I've been writing a lot about what types of learners students are. I never thought about that when I was your age. And you know what? I've come to the conclusion that I'm no different than you. I don't want to do my homework. I have anxieties that I'm going to fail. I'm excited when I'm in the classroom. I dig my heels in." Cary looked back at me and said "I know what you mean." 
What is different about being 47 is that I call my mother all the time. Like daily. Last week,she had to administer some tough love. "You're in graduate school. This is what is expected of you! Get over it and do the work!"  Let me just say that summer cannot come fast enough. I am OVER homework!! Grading papers - love that. Writing them. Blech.

Before I get caught for not "monitoring student progress", I want to tell all of my readers how much I love you. Thank you for your support and kindness and for sticking with me.

P.S. Two more things:  I am happily mired in Macbeth with my 10th Grade English students.That has been really fun. I told them that I had to read the Scottish play in 10th grade as well, and all I remember of the experience was that we sat in a circle and read it aloud. I might have written a paper. After it was over, I told one of my favorite high school teachers, Mr. Puchalsky, that I would probably never read Shakespeare again. I didn't have time for these old playwrights when there were so many good 20th century writers to sink my teeth into. Oh, the words of a precocious fifteen year old!!  Now that we are at the crux of Act III, the students are sinking their teeth into it. It also gives me a chance to teach adaptation, and making critical decisions with presentation of text. But you don't want to read about all of this academic learning theory and strategy I have to employ, then write about and properly cite.

The second thing I wanted to tell you was that I passed my PACT with flying colors. This is essentially a 35 page paper and about ten minutes of key video teaching moments in which I defend my ability as a teacher. It is an essential component of obtaining my credential and license to teach. It took me all of my spring break to complete. And Sally (my mother) can tell you that it was not without tears. As soon as May 31st gets here, I will be able to start looking for work.

In the meantime, from the trenches of the Dennis-Yarmouth High School Library -I send you love and joy and dreams and counter to the words of Macbeth, stars to light your fires....
Two of my colleagues emailed me this from graduation! 

Both Brooke and Chelsea have been a HUGE part of getting me through this last term. Way to go gals!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Resurfacing... just in time for Fall Semester

I've started this entry twenty-six ways til Sunday. I have paragraphs and pages drafted, which become lost under piles of paper and school books. My friends, I have been in Graduate School.  Almost a year ago, I wrote a Thanksgiving entry about non-gratitude, and an angel responded to it, and offered to give me assistance in realizing my dream of becoming a teacher.  Graduate School at my age is not easy. One of my classmates last semester was incredulous that the rumors of "going under" were true. She told me "I always heard about people dropping out of the picture and resurfacing two years later with a degree. I didn't think that would actually happen to me." Honestly, I didn't think it would happen to me either. I have had a lot reactions from people about my decision; mostly positive, but there have been cacklers (I would NEVER do that! You're crazy!).  And.. me being me, I think more about the cacklers.

I've had a lot of doubt, written a TON of pages of academic APA style writing, the origins of which still make no sense to me. I mean, why must we use a tool that the American Psychology Association created for our academic writing on Learning Theory? I've called my mother more than I have ever in my life. I've cried, I've struggled through texts that are so arcane and boring, but I made it through my first semester ...with flying colors, much to my surprise.

After traveling most of the summer, and bouncing to and from my temporary housing in Wellfleet, I am back on the Cape just in time for fall classes to begin.  I can report they are much like a chariot race must have been. Stampeding, dust flying, unable to really steer around the bend, the six or eight horses a heavy load to wield, speeding along to a finish line you cannot see with the thrill pounding in your breast.
So bear with me - I want to stay in touch with all of you lovely friends. I feel so removed, buried in my books and my classroom observations and my exhilaration, my fears, that I forget to post, even 500 words, to let you know where and how I am doing and to find out from you what adventures you are in the midst of...

Please comment - I love to hear from you!