10 Signs You May Be Ready for Grad School

from PhD Comics by Jorge Cham

10) You find yourself hanging out in your professor’s office for no other reason than the stimulating conversation.

9) You take certain classes because you’re “looking for a challenge” or found the other classes to be “far too easy.”

8) You can’t decide if you should be proud or insulted when your professor doesn’t notice that you B.S’d your way through that whole essay.

7) You spend more on books each month than some people do on food. (And the books may be reproducing on their own because you’re pretty sure you didn’t have stacks leading down the hallway last week).

6) You walk into Office Depot because you love to stare at all the pens and pencils and dry erase markers and notepads… and you keep buying them for no reason whatsoever – except perhaps that they smell good.

5) You have a bad habit of volunteering/applying for more things (jobs, clubs, committees, projects, etc) than a reasonably well-stocked militia could reasonably be expected to deal with.

4) You then proceed to scream and rant and cry about your insane schedule which has become so full you discover you’re actually signed up to do 2-3 things at once and haven’t scheduled yourself time to sleep or eat for at least the next 6 months. …And then you proceed to sign up for more.

3) You’ve decided that sleep is something you can worry about when you’re dead, and food is best enjoyed in sporadic bursts of first forgetting to eat for a couple days, and then eating an entire large pizza in one sitting. (Also tums and ibuprofen are you’re first and last meal every day).

2) You have a large persistent streak of masochism that refuses to be eradicated despite the friends who beg you to stop working yourself into the ground, the parents who remind you do occasionally have to eat, the accumulating therapy bills, and the enormous bar tab that should be a sign you may be a bit stressed…

And the top sign that you are ready for grad school…

1) The idea of joining the “real world” — with a 9-5 job, a 401k, buying a house, paying off your already-enormous students loans, and all that other “normal adult stuff” — is so terrifying or abhorrent to you that even 3-10 more years of collegiate torture (and even more student loans) (and possibly an ulcer or two) seems like heaven in comparison.

also from PhD Comics by Jorge Cham

Crowdsourcing a Compilation of Adjunct Working Conditions

For those who are unfamiliar with adjuncting conditions, here is some good (and depressing) information about what many of your college instructors live on. Folks, it ain’t pretty. There has been much discussion in various places (such as the MLA, various teachers organizations, and a few individual departments) about assuring that adjuncts can receive a livable wage and some basic benefits. But the chances of forcing universities and colleges to do this when they’ve been getting away with not doing it for so long are pretty slim unless enough people make enough noise about it.

Banned Books Week 2011

Bookworm Wednesday: Banned Books Week 2011

As most readerly and writerly types know, this week is Banned Books Week, when the American Library Association and a number of other groups try to bring awareness to the American public about the vast problem of book censorship in this country.  Every year groups and individuals challenge and attempt to censor or ban a large variety of books from schools, curriculums, libraries, and bookstores.  People offer any number of reasons for censoring a book: inappropriate language, inappropriate sexuality, religious concerns, the promotion of “rebellious” behaviors, etc.  But, while it is true that some care needs to be taken in when and how you expose certain age groups to certain activities, themes, etc., this kind of censorship is always a fearful, knee-jerk reaction that rarely reflects any true “danger” in the book in question.  And wholesale censorship of any kind is just plain wrong.  Period.

Also, Banned Books Week is in its 30th year now, which is a pretty impressive mile-stone.

To learn more about this kind of censorship, Banned Books Week, the books that are challenged most often, and things you can do about it, you can go to:

The Banned Books Week Official Site

The ALA Banned Books Week Page

Wikipedia Page on Banned Books Week (which offers a little history on the event)

I have been bothered this week by the complete lack of any mention of Banned Books Week on the University of Houston campus.  I realize that state colleges do not have to deal with the same problems of censorship and challenges to books and free speech as K-12 schools and public libraries do, and this is a wonderful thing (though that thing about free speech is looking a little shaky after this incident).  However, this sense of safety enjoyed in colleges should make them the perfect place to start the conversation against censorship of any kind, but especially of books and literacy.

I myself have wanted to discuss the topic with the students in my Composition class.  However, I have so far been unable to figure out how to make the conversation anything more than: “Hey guys, did you know it’s Banned Books Week?”  I want to do more than simply mention it in passing at the beginning or ending of class; however, I simply don’t know how to effectively and legitimately make it a matter of discussion in a class on argumentation and of interest to college Freshmen and Sophomores.  The resources and discussions offered by the ALA website and others mainly focus on K-12 and public libraries, and does not translate well to college students.

So, what I guess I’m trying to say is: if anyone has any suggestions for ways I can bring the conversation into a college classroom meaningfully, I would appreciate it.  It’s probably a little too late to do much with it this year (my class only meets Tues and Thurs), but I’d love some ideas for next year.  I’m also thinking about ways I can get the campus as a whole more involved next year.  Maybe a Banned Book drive?  That we can arrange to be sent to places where books are being censored?  It’s a thought anyway…

In the meantime, go the ALA website and check out the list of Most Banned Books for 2010-2011, and see how many of your favorites made the list.  I think for the me, the one I love most but am not particularly surprised about is Slaughterhouse-Five.  The two books that I also love, and whose inclusion surprises me a little, are Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Which of your favorite books made the list?  What kinds of things do you (or can you) do for Banned Books Week?  And if you have any suggestions for my classroom, that would be awesome!

What Was I Thinking?

Free-For-All Friday: What Was I Thinking?

stressed like this

This week has been crazy.  Frantic, stressful, exhausting, and amazing.  As some of you know personally (and others know from reading my ‘About’ page), I began my PhD in Literature this week, after being out of school for a little over a year.  I was more than a little worried that after all that time off I would not be able to switch back into “school-mode” early mornings, heavy work loads, enormous stress, etc.  And the first week of class did not make it easier, that’s for damn sure.

I do not have classes on Monday, but I began the week on campus in order to fill out paperwork, take care of some logistics, finalize my syllabus (because I also teach Freshman Composition as a Teaching Fellow), and so forth.  I was greeted with ridiculously hot and humid weather (even for Houston), long lines, downed computers, and a screw-up that meant I would not be able to access the office I share with several other Teaching Fellows until NEXT Monday.  Not an auspicious beginning for the semester, to say the least.

Tuesday was my first day of actual classes.  For those of you who are curious, my classes are: French for Non-Majors (which I need to fulfill my foreign language requirement) on Tues and Thurs, teaching one Freshman Composition course on Tues and Thurs, Intro to Doctoral Studies on Tues, and Sociolinguistics on Wed.  By Wednesday night, having been to all of my classes once, I was already exhausted, stressed, and laden with homework assignments.  I already have to read two entire books and give a group presentation by Tuesday.

I guess my professors don’t want to give us any illusions about how easy the PhD is going to be.  “Welcome to the first day of your PhD. Now get to work!”  Part of me keeps screaming in the back of my head: WHAT WAS I THINKING???

One thing I can say is that my Sociolinguistics course, while extremely difficult, is going to be absolutely awesome!  The subject matter is simply so fascinating to me, and the professor seems understanding, friendly, egalitarian in her treatment of graduate students, and more than a little funny.  And seriously, I get to talk about language all day!  How could that be anything but a good thing?

I also think my students this semester are going to be wonderful.  After only two class periods the first of which was merely getting all that introductory stuff out of the way they seem to be mostly attentive and at least somewhat interested in the class.  Granted, these are all college freshmen in a composition class, and few of them (if any) really enjoy writing research papers.  But at least they were all willing to enter into discussions in class.  That is always a good sign.

All in all, I suspect this is going to be a very long semester.  I think (I hope) I can manage it, but it’s not going to be easy.  You may hear some exhausted whining on this blog, though I will try to keep it to a minimum.  I just thought I should give you all some fair warning.

surprised a little like this

However, what really made this week particularly insane, was being featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed page.  I’m not sure you can imagine my shock and glee when I was told on Tuesday morning by the lovely Piper Bayard on Twitter that she had seen me on the front page of WordPress.  I never saw it coming!

It was an absolutely wonderful feeling to check my email in between classes on Tuesday and see how many people had commented, liked, and subscribed to my blog.  Of course, I was far too overwhelmed by the sheer number of comments to do much more than sit back and stare at my computer screen in awe.  But it was (and continues to be) an absolutely astounding sensation.  Once again, I cannot thank you all enough for your interest and support.

I am currently trying to go through all the comments.  I read every single one of them, but unfortunately there is simply no way I can respond to all of them.  I am trying to respond to as many as I can, but I hope you’ll forgive me if I fail to respond to your comment.

I also hope you’ll forgive me if this particular post is a little too personal and boring to keep the interest of all my new readers.  But I wanted to get this out there.  I promise that next week’s blog posts are all written, ready to go, and far more interesting than this one.  So I hope you’ll bear with me and come back on Monday.

yeah, kinda like that

In the meantime, I need to read Professing Literature: An Institutional History by Gerald Graff.  And possibly put my head through a wall.  So I’ll be going.

Have a wonderful wonderful weekend everyone! Thank you again! And I’ll see you next week!