Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Grad School

A short post, to give a reprieve after yesterday's post, about how grad school makes me question my own identity. I think the biggest problem with being a grad student is that one doesn't fit in a broad category. On one hand we are students, and I still, for the most part, consider college students to be my peer group. However, I also am an instructor to said students so, at least with regards to the specific students in my classes, I do not consider myself their peer. When you consider them, I am much more like a professor, and indeed they sometimes call me a professor. However, I too have professors teaching my classes, so they are not my peers.

Another thing is that I am, sort of, not very competently, running my own life. I have a job, which gives me a paycheck, with which I rent an apartment, buy food, make my computer work, and all the other serious adult-y things that one might imagine adult-like people doing. But, as mentioned above, I still think of myself as a student, someone preparing for life, rather than living it (this might be worth an elaborating post in itself some time, but not now).

Sometimes I worry that one of the functions of grad school, similar to boot camp, is to break down the participants sense of self in order that I can be re-molded in the form desired by her or his superiors. Whether or not this is the case, I certainly have, in previous semesters, lost myself over the course of the semester. Granted, over the past few years, even before I came to grad school, I haven't had the strongest grasp on who I thought I was. However, I feel like it has been worse since coming to Michigan. Upon returning to Oregon over winter break this year I remarked to a friend that as I was leaving to walk over to his house I had the strangest feeling, as though when I had done the same thing last summer was much more immediate than anything that had happened to me in the intervening semester.

This is one of the reasons I try to keep up with the blog, it keeps me thinking important thoughts, and not sleepwalking through life. And I appreciate all those who are willing to share that journey with me. One last piece of advice, always go for the red pill!


Frank said...

I think you are most definitely the prof and not the student. Here's why. Right now, you could apply for an instructor's position at any university in the land and be fully qualified for that job, and in fact, are doing that right now at MSU. That you are also a student, well, there is a big difference between what you are doing and the schlub who is out there battling for his BS. That guy is a student, you are simply working on your Ph.D. so you don't have to be an instructor all your life and can actually get onto a tenure track, eventually.

When I was at WI, many year ago, I had a few, younger profs who were doing exactly what you are doing. They were hired as instructors with MS degrees and then told to go get a doctorate within a certain amount of time. Most simply pursued that right at UW (not the one in Seattle, you silly), but two of my favorites got their Ph.D's from OSU (yes, the one in Corvallis). I see no difference between what they did and what you are now doing. They were my profs, but they were also looked at as profs by other profs in the math department, and I bet you are too.

Kenny said...

Well, the instructors might view me as somewhat of a peer. However, I am fairly sure that the professors don't even view the instructors as (academic) peers. Although, perhaps this is my particular insight into how little I actually know speaking. On the other hand, I really do feel like students (outside of my students) are my peers, because I still live a student's life (in as much as I ever have).

Anyway, glad to see you back!