A meme about my experiences with education, courtesy of New Kid:
I remember not wanting to go to kindergarten at all. In fact, when the school bus arrived that first day, my sobbing mother had to force me to board. “You have to go to school – you don’t want to be dumb forever, do you?” my Mom asked*. Tears were streaming down my face as I screamed, “Yes, yes, I DO want to be dumb!” Needless to say, I got on the bus and traveled to my Catholic elementary school, where I was greeted by the lovely Mrs. Smith, who hugged me and said (and I can still hear her sweet voice), “Hi, MyRealName! I’m so glad you came to school today!” I loved kindergarten and adored Mrs. Smith, and soon discovered I had the neatest handwriting out of all of the students and that I was the only left-handed student in the bunch.
* My Mom often says that she didn’t realize that when she forced me to go to school that day, I’d never STOP going to school for the rest of my life!
In Elementary School
I went to a Catholic elementary school until seventh grade, and I can honestly say that I loved it. My classes were always small (my “graduating” class in seventh grade consisted of eight students, four boys and four girls), my teachers were always outstanding and compassionate, and I remember feeling excited to go to school almost every day. Highlights for me were the annual Christmas plays, student-led Mass every Wednesday morning, winning the school district spelling bee in sixth grade, the annual school district science fairs (where my “solar system” project won first prize one year, and my “color” project won first prize two years later), starting flute lessons at the public elementary school, and hanging out with my best friends Sarah and Bridget. I remember that we only had hot lunch in the cafeteria on Tuesdays. The only thing I dreaded about elementary school was gym class, and especially the day of the fabled “Mile Run.”
In Junior High
Junior high for me was eighth and ninth grade. It was my first time in a public school (our Catholic school only went to seventh grade) and I remember being completely overwhelmed by the number of students in all of my classes. I liked having a locker, though, and liked seeing different teachers every day. I remember really enjoying being a part of the wind ensemble and looking forward to playing the flute every day before lunch. I also remember really loving my English class, which was run as a “Writer’s Workshop.” We had to write something every day and give it to a partner to critique before handing it in, and then decide if we wanted to “publish” it. (“Publishing” meant sending it as a letter, submitting it to a magazine, giving it as a gift, etc.) I published one short story I wrote in a magazine for children. In eighth grade, I also began studying German.
In High School In Graduate School
High school (10th-12th grades) was also a very positive experience for me. I was in the school’s top symphonic wind ensemble as first chair flute and I won several district and regional music awards and earned a space in the All-State Band a few years in a row. Wind Ensemble was really where I built my personality, where I had most of my friends. I loaded myself up on AP courses and was completely absorbed by them, especially AP U.S. History, AP Comparative Government, AP German, and AP Literature. (I took AP Calculus as well; the teacher was fantastic, but I learn mathematical concepts very slowly and so this class did not go well for me.) I had a short story published in a national magazine and was "interviewed" about it in our school newspaper, which made me feel like a celebrity. I had my first taste of romance in high school: in tenth grade I was courted by a smart, handsome senior drummer, but we never really dated because I was friends with his childhood sweetheart and I felt guilty about coming between them – they’re now married. As a junior I had my first real boyfriend, a lovely romance that lasted for two years. I also met Jim, a treasured friend and confidante for many years until our falling out in 2002. Overall, I was sad when high school ended because it had been a glorious time for me.
My first year in college was fairly miserable. I broke up with my high school boyfriend, who was a year ahead of me at the same university. I started out living in an all-girl dorm and had a psycho roommate who wore her underwear twice (once right-side in, once inside-out), refused to cut her ratty hair, used all of my stuff and ate my food, and flatly denied that the Holocaust ever happened. I hated my intro classes because they were boring. Things started looking up when I found a great house to live in with some friends of my then ex-boyfriend’s, I tested out of my intro courses mid-trimester, and I figured out how to be happy without a boyfriend (although I dated a little, but nothing serious). I made some wonderful friends and figured out what I really wanted to do with my life (become a professor, although I initially thought I wanted to be a German professor, which is not what I’m going to be after all), spent almost a full year in Europe, and finished college in three years due to guidance from an excellent advisor. In my last year of college, right after coming back from Europe, I met T. In a journal I kept then, I wrote that “I could never marry a person like T.” Hmmm. Guess I was wrong!
I’ve been to grad school twice: first right out of undergrad, taking courses toward a Master’s degree while T was earning his professional degree at Private Expensive University. This first attempt, although I was successful, was a waste of my time. I now have a Master’s I never use, and only debt to show for it. Oh well. I applied to Major Research Institutions after T finished his professional degree and was thrilled when I was accepted with full funding to Doctoral University. I started my studies here in 2000 and absolutely hated it. Things started looking up in 2001, when I was able to choose my own courses, teach for the first time, and form a relationship with my advisors. I enjoyed graduate school a lot, even my comprehensive exams, until I started the prospectus-dissertation process, which has been quite the rollercoaster. Now that I am nearing the end (first deposit for summer graduation is June 29!), I can say – for the first time in my life – that I am READY to be done with school. And with that in mind, I’d better get back to Chapter Six.