roasting marshmellows in phd hell

The state of things.

with 8 comments

I think about this blog often but haven’t been able to make myself hit ‘publish’ on any of my thoughts lately.  Mostly because they’re just repetitive whiny crapnuggets about the following:

1. I haven’t looked at my thesis in weeks.

2. I’ve been waiting a few weeks for my adviser to get back to me, so I’ve been using that as an excuse to not do any work.

3. Teaching is getting me really depressed and I feel like I’m becoming a person I hate.

The last thing is probably the worst for me right now because I can’t shove it in

You won’t want to mess with me in the alternate Biff Towers future.

a drawer and pretend it doesn’t exist.  I am constantly telling grown adults to wake up, pick their heads up, put their cell phones away, and that it isn’t appropriate to leave class and come back 20 minutes later with lunch.  I feel like some 1950s school principal.

I know it’s more traditional to think of college as the place where you take a midterm and a final, and the professor doesn’t know or give a shit if you show up at all in between.  And that probably works at big universities with lecture halls with 300 people.  But when there’s 30 of them in a small fucking room (or more frequently these days, waaay less than that), excessive absences and douchey behavior are like flares in the jungle.

I tried to be all laid back and shit about this stuff at the beginning, and that was my big mistake.  I’d never taken that approach before but I don’t know what the hell was different this time.  I guess I was in this mental zone like, my ‘real’ job is finishing the shit out of my phd, and this is just a side gig so I don’t need to be World Police- if any shitbird doesn’t want to pay attention or do the work, they’ll get a bad grade at the end probably and it will all work out.  I didn’t think ahead to see that bad behavior is like the spanish fucking influenza and that things would quickly get out of control.

So I’m back to being World Police.  I don’t like it.  Pull my string and hear me nag you to keep your eyes open, head off the desk, phone away, no seriously put your damn phone away.  I don’t get the mindset.  If you want to do that shit, stay at home or drop the class.  I don’t care.  But why should I give someone credit for being in my class, when the syllabus stresses that its a small fucking class where discussion and participation are integral to the whole fucking thing, and say, ‘ah well he slept on the desk/chatted on fb the whole time but at least his body kept the chair warm for an hour (minus the 25 minute trip to the nearest cafeteria)?  If someone wanted that kind of college experience, they should have gone to an enormous university where they could fade into oblivion.

Why am I so mad?  They probably aren’t giving all this a second thought.  What really gets me is that something important gets lost in this whole power struggle.  The fucking material.  I have had to dumb stuff down so much that I am embarassed and horrified, and students still say to me ‘hey can you tell me again what’s happened so far bc I don’t remember.”  I can barely get them to keep the actual literal meaning of the text straight, so don’t even fucking ask me if I’ve gotten to any kind of closer look at language or interpretation of the ideas contained within.  I feel like some kind of sell out/prostitute/babysitter person.

And the best part- that I’m getting a phd so I can (somehow) be even more qualified to dilute literature to homeopathic remedy levels.  Good thing I have been suffering through grad school for this!!!!!!!!1

8 Responses

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  1. Not to be a jackass, but reading this really made me glad that I’m not teaching at all this year as I finish up my dissertation. Thanks for that, and you have my sympathy in dealing with this crap.


    October 23, 2012 at 20:10

    • no problem, nightwork. I’m glad you’re not dealing with this shit too. But do me a favor? Do something relaxing and fun, and I’m gonna live vicariously through you mkay?


      October 23, 2012 at 20:22

  2. The more I tried to focus on my research, the more my teaching suffered, and then it’s like a negative feedback loop. I really found students so much less irritating when I could focus on them.

    Mama Nervosa (@MamaNervosa)

    October 23, 2012 at 22:07

  3. Since leaving, I’ve been looking at my teaching days through nostalgia glasses (though it’s the only part of the whole grad school song and dance that I am missing), so I guess this is a useful reminder of the truly shitty aspects of teaching. The very last class I taught was by far the best, so I am sure that is coloring my memories a bit. One of my worst teaching experiences was in the one class where I was a real “TA,” when a horrible student who made teaching completely miserable for me that semester in all kinds of creative ways sent the professor an anonymous email from an email address that was something like literary_death_squad at to complain about my grading. This was on the same day that zie complained loudly enough for me to hear in class that zie was so bored by my teaching that zie wanted to put a bullet through hir brain. Most of my students were generally pleasant people I was happy to work with, but this student seriously scared me!

    So yeah…good luck with everything you are going through. I haven’t felt much like posting lately either. These transitional periods are tough, but I am sure things do get better eventually.


    October 24, 2012 at 00:44

  4. I can relate to a lot of this, especially the point about suffering through grad school (and the job market and the years of adjuncthood/temporary contracts) to get to this shitty teaching job at the end. It sounds like you’ve got a particularly shitty group as well. Good luck surviving until Christmas.


    October 25, 2012 at 07:08

  5. Felt a lot of the same things when I was teaching/TA’ing, even in a small lab class, students were always asking me repeat myself, even though I would go over the material before we started the activity. Now I teach kids and teens about animals, and for the most part they are so much more into it, have fun, and you don’t feel defeated that you put so much work into your lectures and no one cares/understands. Good luck getting through, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, just get out of academia as soon as possible, so many other interesting, fun jobs you can do!


    October 29, 2012 at 19:27

    • Thanks, Lauren. That’s a great point about how interested your audience is in the material.. sounds like you have a dream job now- so glad to hear that. I’m trying to get an escape plan going at the minute.. more on that as it unfolds..


      October 31, 2012 at 17:56

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