Sunday, October 25, 2015

Friends...How Many Of Us Have Them?

I am working on an assignment for my qualitative methods class that is part of my professor's research. She is looking at the socialization of grad students at the beginning of their PhD program. Our assignment was to interview a first semester PhD student and transcribe the interview for coding. Although this is my first semester as a matriculated student, I had a couple of semesters under my belt, so I didn't qualify as a subject. No matter, I just went about the task of interviewing a first semester PhD student from one of my courses.

One of the questions that we were to include in the interview was whether or not the subject had interactions with other grad students outside of class. Memories of my grad student days came flooding back, and they were not good. My master's degree program was very cut-throat. If you were not a native speaker of the language or a TA, you were excluded. Needless to say, despite my near-fluency in the language and experience as a secondary teacher, but not a TA did not count. The two years I spent working on my master's degree were very lonely. I can honestly I did not have a single friend. Law school was better, which is odd, because that is where one would expect people to ostracize others. In fact, I had some great friendships that started in class and are still in place to this day. It seemed that everyone felt like we were in this thing together, so we might as well work together. That is not to say that there were some ass-hats, believe me, there were. But, law school was actually a great experience and nothing like what was depicted in the Paper Chase!

Fast forward some 20 years, and the friendship issue comes up again. It's werid because although, I have friends in my classes, I have not engaged in anything beyond class with anyone. It's not for lack of trying or because there is a cut-throat, ostracizing environment. My program consists mainly of people who work full-time and take classes part time. Many have families. Some are full-time, but they have research positions and may also adjunct at other colleges. I just don't think anyone has any time for friends. I thought that maybe this was an non-traditional student issue. But, my subject, who began her PhD work right after her master's and bachelor's degree, indicated that she does not have much interaction with other grad students outside of class. With working as a research assistant and taking a full load of courses, she doesn't have time.

There's that word again. Time.

Friendships take time. Time to develop. Time to nurture. As I think about the friendships that I don't have in grad school, I think about my current friendships that I have neglected because I have been so consumed with the PhD and HBCU. And, I am really behind on reading blog-friend posts. That makes me sad. I have put a couple of friendships aside because they are draining me and causing me stress. That makes me even more sad. And now, knowing that even younger grad students do not feel they have interactions, or friendships, with other grad get the idea. many of us have time for them?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Back to One

I spent most of yesterday in a total funk. A friend said some things to me that really hurt. This was the second time that this person crossed a line with me, so I was pissed and hurt that this person did it again. After two weeks of being on an emotional roller coaster with work, classes, research and other stuff, my friend's remarks to me were the straw that broke the camels back, if you will. 

It goes back to my New Year theme of getting rid of the noise. Getting rid of those things that interfere with my health and happiness. The reset that I talked about in my previous post was also about redefining boundaries. I have allowed people and things to inch too close to my boundary or cross it altogether. That is not OK.  I doesn't help me physically, emotionally or mentally. Those who encroach or cross the line take up way too much space. They need to be put back in their place.

For starters, I took a break from FB. I deleted all my apps, so that I could not log in. I just can't deal with all the noise that goes on there anymore. Honestly, it has become a huge time-suck. It doesn't do anything to make me happy. If anything, it leaves me either angry or depressed. I am still on Twitter, which does not have the time-suck factor that FB does. Plus, some really cool folks are there that I enjoy.

In addition, I reworked my daily/weekly schedule to get back into my yoga practice. I am also slowing returning to running after an injury.  Yoga has given me clarity, something that I am missing right now. And, running just helps me de-stress and thing through things, like research.

Also, I reworked my course syllabus for my students at HBCU. Less work will provide less grading that I will have to do. If someone cheats, their grade will take a huge hit. I'm just not in a place where I want to fight the system.

Finally, I am going to focus on my friendships that bring me joy. My friendship with one particular person will change. That friendship no longer brings me joy.

Monday, October 19, 2015


I've wanted to write something about the past two weeks, but honestly, my world has been super crazy.

Let's see:
  • Midterm grades were due at HBCU'
  • 10 students have cheated on assignments in my course. Two have done it twice. The response from the administration was less than what I believe to be a suitable response and punishment. 
  • Lots of work in my PhD classes that take up a good portion of time, Papers, projects and reading do take a lot of time. but I really enjoy them and I am learning so much interesting stuff.
  • Submitted two conference proposals with my advisor, which will also be submitted for publishing next year. Lots of research work. Again, I really enjoy it and I have a good rapport with my advisor. 
  • Hamstring strain has stalled my running, along with a minor cold. Right now, I can only run about 1.25 miles without significant pain. 
Needless to say, the past two weeks were filled with lots of stress, both good and bad. I am also rather tired. That scares me, because excess bad stress will trigger a RA flare. I certainly do not need a flare to complicate matters. I am doing everything I can to keep the flare away. I've been trying to rest, as much as one can in a PhD program. I even canceled class at HBCU to get some rest and to get caught up on PhD work and research for my advisor. Husband has been truly amazing with helping out with little things like housework, cooking and taking Junior for walkies while I work. That has helped me keep my head above water enough to finish what I needed to finish these past two weeks.

Sadly many of the good habits and strategies that I incorporated over the summer and the beginning of the semester have suffered. I am not happy about it. So, my plan this week is re-group and re-focus my attention to what matters and to dump those things and habits that are hurting me. 

Time to hit the reset button.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What's It Gonna Take?

This semester, I have caught 6 students who submitted the same homework assignment word for word. Four of them claimed that they were "working together" and all came up with the same response. The other two involved a female student who either intentionally or negligently allowed a male student access to her homework. He didn't bother to change the header with her name on it. When I confronted the female student, she was very non-chalant about the entire situation, which leads me to beleive that she intentionally allowed the male student to copy her work. Today, I found two assignments that were very close to being similar. I sent them to my department chair for clarification, even though my gut and years of experience with this says that it is cheating.

I am angry. I am hurt. And, I feel disrespected. Do these students think so little of me, the college and their future?  Do they not care about the amount of time and effort that I put into this course for very little in compensation? Do they realize that from this point forward, I cannot trust or believe anything that they do?  Do they not care that I am busting my ass to help them be successful? Do they even care about how this reflects on them as a person? What about the student who has struggled, but still makes tries to do the work honestly?

I used to tell myself that these are the exception to the rule. There are more good students than bad and I should focus on the good.

I am finding it harder and harder to do that.

I guess it's just a bigger part of what is wrong with the world. Regardless of what your beliefs are politically, religiously or whatever, we as a society do not value each other. We do dishonest things because others get away with it. We call each other hateful names because we don't believe the same things, yet we claim to be righteous and virtuous. We glorify bad behavior, and find good behavior suspect or acting as if we are superior to those who have not attained such good fortune.

So, my question is: What will it take to make things different?

If I knew the answer, I'd probably have a Nobel Prize.