On graduate school


January 7, 2011 by 8junebugs

My course work is complete — final grades are in, thesis is on track for a late winter defense, and I have learned a great deal:

I can better formalize and verbalize what I believe about my profession and my own approach to my work. I’ve wrapped my arms around this bizarre skill set I carry with me and recognize its potential and value. My program and my peers were directly responsible for this.

There is a strong positive correlation between my concern about a final grade and my respect for the professor. When I can see that the prof is The Expert and cares about whether I get it, I want that A. When I think he is, perhaps, teaching the wrong class or faking it, I don’t really care if he decides to give me a B, particularly if his grading system seems unclear or arbitrary anyway. (It happens.)

Grad school reinforced my respect for proper teachers. Full-time faculty are committed to communications as a field of study, but they’re also committed to education. They’re good at it, and they care about it — when you shine, they shine. Adjuncts typically haven’t been trained to teach; some of them are good at it, and some of them aren’t. (It’s also hard to teach something you just do.) When you shine, some of them shine…but some of them see you as competition.

I am grateful for professors who can define and design meaningful assignments and give useful feedback. I am also grateful for the talented adjuncts who are taking a stab at teaching digital communications in real time — they’re doing it without a map.

I have little patience for “participation points” at this level. I sincerely thought Ms. Quan’s sophomore honors English was the last time I’d watch a teacher award real points for reading from the CliffsNotes. The students in this program are smart, driven, and not afraid to speak up in class — don’t force them to talk if they don’t have something to say just to get a tick in the gradebook.

Ancillary: You want to award points for participation? Fine. Award extra credit every time a student makes a point to which you respond, “I think you’ve nailed the issue right there.”

It’s really, really difficult for even the most well-intentioned people to accurately judge the abilities and profile of digital communications professionals. “Interest” is not the same as “expertise and experience” — in the 5 classes I selected for my discipline, I’d say I had 3 “expert and experienced,” 1 “interested,” and 1 vaguely interested (that was the one who “taught” that blogging was five years old).

This latest round of formal education has obliterated one key assumption I’ve clung to since the age of 5 — that I love school. It turns out I loveloveLOVE learning, but have apparently outgrown or mistakenly attributed my affection for “school.”

Or maybe it’s that school hasn’t caught up to the time [TEDTalk VIDEO] in which I’m learning.

I’m totally not afraid of stats. There’s no way one or two classes trumps eight years of working with killer statisticians, though. I’m a strategist, not a researcher.

I have a much stronger interest in video than I had before I walked into 1717 Mass Ave. I still prefer to leave it to the experts, but I’m better able to work with those experts and give credit where it’s due. Because, holy crap, video editing takes an obscene amount of patience.

I’ll stop with 8, as I usually do. Overall, this has been a great experience, one that forced me to look up from my desk and jump-start my professional growth. I am still enrolled, still working through my thesis, and still very, very grateful I was able to take on this degree.

<span style=”color: #9932cc;”><strong>6</strong></span>

One thought on “On graduate school

  1. […] (Cross-posted from 8junebugs.com) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: