Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Loving Grad School

Ninja over at PunchDebtInTheFace had a posted while back about grad school being over-rated. I rolled my eyes, laughed, and was inspired to write a post. After reading his post, I'm inclined to say he might have a narrow view of grad school. I guess I was happy to see that so many of his readers agreed with me. Anyway, the post made me really think about my education story, so I thought I'd share it with you.

I started school on my 6th birthday. That was probably not a good sign. Of course my mom had treats ready for the class. We made candy necklaces out of licorice laces and fruit loops! Who's the cool girl?!?!?! (Turns out, not me!)

First grade just plane sucked from day 1. I thought I could handle it, but as it turns out I only lasted about 45 minutes. We had chapel on the first day of school. I think my actual birth was announced during chapel on the first day of school when my sister was in 3rd grade. Anyway, after chapel I left crying. Mom took me for a milk shake at Stallard's Drug Store on Main Street (sadly, not there anymore). By the time I got back everyone was doing dumb worksheets and practicing writing their name or something dumb like that. My sister taught me to write my name forwards, backwards, and in cursive by then. I could tell school was not going to be good at all. Plus, Miss Garwood made me give up most of my crayons. She would only allow 24 crayons in your pencil box, so I had to pick my favorite 24 out of a likely color coded box of 64 new Crayola crayons. Dumb.

Second grade...well, that's the only year in my entire life that I got perfect attendance. I liked it that Mrs. Deitle let us color while she read to us after recess. We also learned hymns like Go Tell it On the Mountain and I still know all the words to this day. With Mrs. Deitel I mostly remember singing, learning about Jesus, being read to, and Brian Gravitt loved doing word searches. He also had the biggest feet I had ever seen in my entire life.

Third grade was the beginning of the end. I had a fantastic teacher, Mrs. Maurer. She taught me times tables. I've forgotten most of them, but at least I can still do the 9's on my hands. I'm pretty sure I was one of the last kids to finish memorizing the times tables. She taught us long division too. I think I'm better at long division than times tables. Where would I be without the calculator on my phone? We wrote haiku poems and learned the books of the Bible. I can still have to sing if I'm going to figure out the order of the New Testament. We got to play a spelling computer game called Word Chomper or something like that. We also got to play Oregon Trail. Mrs. Maurer read to us every day, but we were not allowed to color. We could read along, but it was much nicer to just listen. I think my favorite book was Mr. Popper's Penguins, but I also liked The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and of course Charlotte's Web. Socially, 3rd grade sucked. That's right about when the girls got mean. I cried a lot. Luckily, I started ballet around then and had friends at ballet. Ballet was my happy place.

Oh, fourth grade. I don't remember that much about 4th grade except that I went to overnight camp for the first time the summer before 4th grade and got a glow in the dark t-shirt. I probably cried for a week before school started because I didn't want to go. The alternative was homeschooling and that just wasn't going to happen. I think science started getting cool in 4th grade. We learned about the parts of a plant. I really don't remember much else about 4th grade. I thought Mrs. May was a good teacher. She was fair. I just don't remember what we learned.

Fifth through 8th grade were pretty much horrendous on a social level. If I hadn't been in ballet I would have switched schools. I had a science teacher who I did not get along with at all. Trust me, my love for science is not because of her. I have no idea why she didn't like me, but she didn't. I sure didn't like her and I was probably a bit of a smart mouth. She made me sit in the hall all the time. I probably learned just about as much in the hall as I would have in her class. I remember learning some Algebra in 8th grade. Mrs. Richeson taught us to write starting in 6th grade. Thank goodness! This blog is by no means a testimony to what she taught me about writing! I can actually write really well when I put my mind to it. She also taught handwriting which I loved. I think she may have the prettiest handwriting of anyone I know.

High school got much better. I finally had friends at school! Yay! Plus I had a great science teacher. He was a great teacher in a funny kind of way. Good ol' Mr. Taylor. Mostly, he just made us think. "Noose Your Yoodle," was writtin on the chalkboard quite a bit. I took earth space science my freshman year plus 2 years of chemistry with him. He may not have taught us all the book stuff we needed to know for college, but by the end of those years I wasn't intimidated by lab equipment, I could balance chemical equations, and I had curiosity! What more does a kid need?

College was rough a first. Not socially. Socially I was happy as a clam! I had fantastic friends and I was dancing my heart out. Literally. It was academics that weren't going so hot. I really just wasn't a fan of the pharmacy program. Some classes were cool, but I didn't have much desire to study the material so I didn't. And my scores reflected that lack of studying. By the end of my 2nd year I had to make some big decisions.

Decision 1: stop dancing. Sad. My body couldn't really take that level of dancing anymore. I was ruining myself day by day. No matter how much I loved it, the truth was I was so skinny my body couldn't function quite right. The real kicker was when my heart started going haywire. Heart meds got me through my last performance. I loved dancing so much that I had to quit cold turkey. I didn't have the discipline to only dance a few days a week. I only knew how to dance like crazy. A few days a week was just not going to be possible, so sad as it was I quit. It still breaks my heart, but I love getting to watch performances. A lot of little girls who I used to teach when they were 4 are now graduating from high school. Sandra Peticolas is an artistic genius. Without her, who knows what my life would have been like. Ballet was my escape for so long. I decided I needed to quit dancing in order to focus on my studies.

Decision 2: Transfer to the dietetics program. I didn't even really know what dietetics really was! Once I got into it, I was sold! I went from your average student to nearly strait A's. Not because the classes were any easier. I just LOVED what I was studying. Dietetics is a career I wish more high school students knew about. There are a million opportunities and it's a great career.

All of a sudden I was a dietitian working in a rural hospital. Talk about an adventure! I had so much fun there. I wanted more though. I knew that if I wanted a career in public health nutrition, I needed a Masters degree. Turns out one of my professors knew of the perfect program. I got accepted to a program in Ireland. Yup! That program included a stipend too, and of course I didn't have to pay tuition because of the scholarship. The program required for me to study outside of Ireland, so I spent 6 weeks in Portugal and 3 weeks in Germany. I also traveled all over Europe for fun since I was already over there. Initially I had no intention to get a PhD. Then one day I got a call from the program director suggesting I get a PhD. The rest is history. Now I'm back getting my PhD and loving it. It's like I'm making up for all the years that I didn't really like school in the past. I suppose I complain on occasion, but the reality is I like grad school way more than most. I like my project, my adviser, and my department. I've had opportunities to travel domestically and internationally. It may be super nerdy, but I'm excited about a career in academia. I hope I can give back by instilling confidence and passion in my students, while making a more global difference through research. Very exciting!

So there you have it. In my opinion grad school is far from over-rated. It may not be for everyone. Many folks can have seriously successful careers without going to grad school at all. So long as you do what you love and strive to be the best you can be, that's all that really matters.

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