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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Proud of Myself

I just have to take a minute to say that I am really proud of myself. And here is why. I like teaching in higher education. Really, it is a great gig - especially for a second income (which we hope it will be for my family some day). I don't work every day of the week, I choose my own hours, I choose and design the material I work with - and what sets it apart from other teaching - I am not responsible for my students. Meaning, if they don't do their work and come to class this is not my problem, a luxury high school and el. ed teachers do not have.

And I have been really lucky to score the position I hold now, especially with just having a master's degree in a market flooded with English instructors. However, I have always known that to stay in the upper-ed game and have a decent shot at a tenure track position, I must have a PHD or, at the least, an MFA.

I came to DSC instead of applying straight to a doctoral program for a few reasons. 1 - Trev was still sick and we needed to catch our breath. 2 - my family is amazing and offered to let us live in their vacation home here. 3 - I just wanted to take a year off to study for the GRE Lit. Subject test.

The Lit Subject test is an incredibly intense, hours long entrance exam to be accepted into most PHD programs. To give an idea of how difficult it is, moderate programs require you to score in at least the 50th percentile. Competitive programs have much higher demands. But that just gives you an idea of how many people can botch it. Of course you can take the test multiple times, at $200.00 a pop. The subject matter covers everything in the English Cannon, from Beowulf to contemporary authors with a light smattering of world literature as well. There are also extensive questions on Literary Criticism theory, and identifying grammar as it is used in middle and old English. Questions range from "Identify these lines, and select the work they come from" to "Which of the following authors worked as an insurance agent in London?" Think Trivial pursuit.

Because of its random nature the test is criticized as not really being a measure of knowledge concerning the literature field. In fact most professionals I know in English Departments roll their eyes when asked about the validity and pedagogy of the test. But, it is what it is...and I have to take it eventually.

The best way to study is to read everything you can get your hands on, memorize as much as you can and then pray really hard.

So this is the studying I was supposed to be doing last year...supposed to...being the operative phrase. The test is only offered twice a year, and when it rolled around last month I knew there was no way I would preform well at all. So I decided to give myself another year. My husband provided the perfect excuse, after all, he is still in school here so I still needed to hold off on applying to programs elsewhere.

But I needed to start studying. Because I hadn't been very disciplined or successful on my own, I found a study partner. Another instructor in the same boat as me, here at Dixie. We have been studying for the last two weeks and it is amazing! I have done more in two weeks than I did all year. In two weeks I have read:
  • All of Christopher Marlowe's notable poetry
  • Dr. Faustus (Marlowe)
  • Tambulaine (Marlowe)
  • Beowulf
  • Bleakhouse (Dickens)
  • Great Expectations (Dickens)
  • All of Robert Browning's important poetry
  • All of Alfred Lloyd Tennyson's recommended works
  • A hefty selection of Sir Walter Raleigh
  • Material on the mythical and archetype literary criticism schools of thought
If you don't appreciate the HUGE amount of material this is - Google some of the books and consider their page numbers. Then consider that Beowulf is in old English, and that literary criticism is dreadfully boring.

After reading our assigned texts for the week, my colleague and I meet and each present the study guides we have prepared for the readings we were selected to note and present to each other. Our meetings have actually been really fun, productive and remind me of graduate school.

Having to report to another individual, who is not a good friend that I can easily blow off has made me so much more disciplined. I also love the effect that all this extra reading has had on my life the last few weeks. Instead of opting for an hour to relax on the couch and watch TV, I pick up a book. I have always read a lot - but not to the degree the last two weeks have entailed. I love how much more active my mind feels. And I am surprised that the veg. time I used to take everyday to some silly sitcom doesn't even feel appealing anymore.

Anyway - thanks for listening - and thanks for sending any encouraging GRE thoughts my way.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Perfect Solution

With neighbor gifts starting to roll into our residence (Thanks to all our sweet friends!) I have been trying to think up our own bit of "Christmas Cheer" to hand around this year. I have been crazy busy, and still not feeling great. Little miss/mr. Linderman has gotten big enough to locate and sit on my sciatic nerve over the last two weeks. This is not a pleasant feeling, and according to the doctor it isn't one I can do much about either. Oh well. So for these reasons I keep trying to explain to my husband that I am not going to be a doing a mad baking session of goodies that he gets to sample and try before they are delivered. I settled on the idea of making these funny little candy mice and taking plates around that quote, "On the night before Christmas, all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." While explaining this idea to Trev last night the following conversation ensued:

Me: So that is what I'll be making.

Trev: What about making that fudge you make that has one layer of chocolate fudge, then one layer of peanut butter fudge and then is topped with crushed pecans and Carmel?

Me: That is way more work than the candy mice.

Trev: If I were getting a neighbor present I would rather have the fudge than the mice.

Me: You aren't getting a neighbor present. They are for the neighbors.

Trev: Oh. {moment of silence} I know then, how about you make the mice and the fudge and then I eat the fudge while you deliver the mice?

I laughed. But I have been thinking of the conversation since. And I just might duck out of the office a wee bit early today, to go home and make my sweetheart some fudge... :)