Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Doctoral Programs & Finality

Friday marks the last day of the fall semester, although for me the semester ends tomorrow: I've finished my last paper, which I'll be handing in tomorrow, and my students will be handing in their portfolios. I finished my paper earlier this evening, and it may be terrible, and it may be all right, but I'm done as far as that's concerned. I'll be grading my students' last papers and their portfolios next week.

Within the past couple weeks I'd officially decided not to apply to doctoral programs next year but it wasn't until tonight I passed on the news to two friends in particular who were extremely encouraging of my applying. It was a difficult decision, and I really waffled back and forth for the longest time. The people I'd talked to who were already enrolled in doctoral programs, and various professors with whom I've spoken, were very encouraging and thought I should apply, to not let Chris stop me from applying - or, to put it more aptly, to "not let a man stop me from pursuing my education." And for a long time I really was hung up on that argument because I know Chris wouldn't try to stop me from applying to doctoral programs; he didn't say a word when I applied to go back to school six years ago; he didn't say a word about my applying to graduate programs two years ago. And he also didn't say I shouldn't apply to doctoral programs down the line. The arguments that I shouldn't let anyone stop me from pursuing that which I really want is, actually correct; but I had not ever let anyone stop me from doing what I really felt was right and necessary. I finally realized the issue: I can think of many reasons why I should not apply, and really only one reason why I want to apply, and that one reason isn't really a good enough reason, but it's very tempting.

When I get my M.A. I'll have a basic level of education I need to teach. Whether or not I teach at the secondary level permanently remains to be seen, but I need to try teaching at that level first for at least five years, in order not only to get my permanent NYS teaching certification but, and not only to see if I like teaching at the level, but if I have any aptitude for that age range. I realize that much will depend on the culture of the particular school where I teach, but I can't necessarily be...

I was really having difficulty coming to terms with this because I can see that at some point down the line I may want to pursue advanced graduate studies, but now is not the time. I need a mental break mostly, but I need a financial break too. If I were to continue with more graduate school I would continue to learn theoretical approaches to teaching, while what I want right now is the chance to do the practical, to put into practice all the theoretical and pedagogical I've learned.

I think it says something that I enjoyed teaching Freshman Composition as much as I did; I enjoyed teaching so much more than my own classes as a student this semester. I love that transitional age of high school to college; I love talking to new college kids who are unsure and need someone to talk to because I remember being that age and being desperate for someone to talk to but not having the vocabulary for it, and not even knowing what I needed and wanted to be talking about. I could be extremely, extremely happy teaching basic writing and new undergrads. I think I would like to come back to that someday, and there would be nothing stopping me from doing so. I just need to try a few other things first. A small part of me is still unsure that I'm making the right decision, but that's it, now that I've written about it, I can be decisive.

I'm still surprised I graduated from high school; I certainly flunked out of Temple University in a truly spectacular manner. Aside from not being ready for college at the time, I was burned out from school and needed to be working. So many people complain about how taxing work is, but when it's a job I love - and I do love teaching, and tutoring - it doesn't wear me out like school does. School just wears me out; I'm worn out. And now it's time for a break.

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