Last year, I kinda fought my way through grad school. While I had supportive professors and colleagues, I felt like the last frames of this by the end of spring 2013.
Now I feel like I’m on the verge of something, like in an old school video game, when you’ve built up all your energy and you can do a special move. Now, I just have to figure out the button combinations to unleash a research fireball. Luckily, I have a great deal of support on this quest.
I work as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Teaching and Learning. My team provides services for graduate student instructors, usually related to pedagogy or higher ed job market topics. We have a large amount of data from a scholars’ seminar we’ve offered for the past few semesters. I want to pull out and analyze data from the foreign language instructors. I have so many research questions and ideas brewing up that I literally feel like my mind is buzzing.
I’m also a 2nd year doctoral student taking classes and experiencing varying degrees of self-efficacy. Today, I took an exam in SLA (second language acquisition). I enjoy the topic and the course, but didn’t feel good about the exam. I wrote the following intro to the essay portion of the exam:
“NB: I am not at all happy with my answers to the essay questions. I do realize that a timed-test situation can produce anxiety and may not fully reflect my authentic ability to fully synthesize theory and empirical research. I am slow and typically require a ridiculous amount of time to think and re-read in order to tie together theories and studies. (That’s why I need so long for the take-home exams in Diane’s Psyche of Learning). But that’s life as a doctoral student, and something I need to accept and plan for in order to succeed at the qualifying exams and dissertation.”
I texted Molly, my colleague and academic derby wife, that I might have bombed the exam. She brought me a chai latte; it tasted like pure love. We then discussed my anxiety and disappointment during a break from a meeting, and both Molly and my supervisor, Joanna, were so great at helping me put things back in to perspective. Joanna is not only an educational psychologist who specializes in topics around graduate students, but is also incredibly supportive and seems to always know the right things to say. Today, it was something like this: the slow researchers are the ones who are most thoughtful in their research.
So while many grad students experience caves and cliffs, I feel lucky to have a job that comes with scaffolding and a grad school safety harness.