Monday, December 27, 2010

The Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

An important lesson I learned this semester from my statistics professor.

I will refer you to this previous post in my apology for not blogging in such a long time. Though, in all honesty, I cannot blame it all on being busy. I have been busy before and still managed to blog, as just about any blog from the last few weeks in Samoa can attest to. I think one just has to accept that grad school isn't nearly as interesting (or picturesque) as being in the Peace Corps or traveling through Southeast Asia. There are just fewer things to blog about.

Cale and I have completed our first semesters back in school and had widely different experiences. Cale has been sitting in 200+ freshmen lecture halls with kids who were in kindergarten the last time Cale was a freshman. He could go an entire day without speaking to anyone and found refuge at my school where he could have adult conversation with my classmates. There are some youngin's in my classes as well, like the girl who was in middle school when 9/11 happened. We seem to divide into two groups, those who came to grad school straight out of undergraduate and those of us dancing around on either side of 30. There are some older outliers, but not many. Not surprisingly we seemed to have formed friendships within our age groups.

Those of you on the facebook know that Cale and I kicked some ass and took some names in the grades department this semester. Cale beat me by 0.015 for best GPA with a 3.94 (I am sure you can do the math to figure out mine). My 4.0 goals were defeated by an A- in Public Management. Cale also had an A- (in finite math), but with five classes his was not worth as much overall in his GPA.

Public Management was probably my least favorite class of the semester. It was entirely theoretical and taught entirely in academic-ease. The few occasions I endeavored to untangle paragraph-long sentences and complex three-dimensional diagrams, I came away with things like: "There needs to be accountability" and "Try having a budget." I think my favorite was the day I was able to sum up public management as the following: "Getting smart people to do smart things."

Needless to say, I stopped paying attention in this class more than a month before the end of the semester. However, I would like to point out there was a more pressing reason for why I was no longer attentive. Someone stole my seat. I like to sit near the front of the class. Not the front row (that's too goody-two-shoes), the second row. In the middle. It helps me see the board and stay engaged in what is going on. Though there obviously isn't assigned seating, people tend to gravitate to certain seating areas and sit there every day. I sat in the second row, in the middle. Everyday. Until one day there were no seats available in the second row and I had to move back a row. By the last few weeks of the semester I was sitting in the very back of the room, on my laptop, oblivious to what was happening down front.

The seating situation wasn't just a problem in Public Management. I also seethed quietly (well, not so quietly, ask my friends) over seat movers in my Public Management Econ class as well. Don't you understand? When you sit in a different seat, you have displaced someone else, who will find a new seat, displacing yet another until the entire room is in complete chaos. Chaos I tell you. Stop fucking with my seating arrangement!

Did I mention I am anal retentive?

Public Management Econ is also the class I cried in public over (and it wasn't because someone took my seat). The professor of this class was fond of assigning case studies that had only the most tenuous connection to in-class materials and were in fact ridiculously more difficult and required concepts never discussed in class. This teaching method made me angry. I arrived at his office hours already angry after spending the entire night before hating at the assignment only to discover more than 20 other students also had no idea what was going on. As the group office hour session progressed, I kept getting angrier and angrier at his lack of help. I pointed out that the number of students in his office hours should probably indicate to him this is something that needs to be discussed in class. He didn't seem to agree. I got angrier. However, when he followed it up with a little speech about how this is what it is like in the real world, you are presented with things you don't know how to do and you just have to figure it out, my anger boiled over. For one, this professor is the same age as I am (in fact, he might be a year younger than me according to his undergraduate graduation date). What exactly does he know about the real world that I don't? Furthermore, I am paying for the privilege to be taught these things so I don't have to just muddle through in the real world. If that is how it works, why am I even bothering with grad school? I can just go figure out things on my own for free.

For those of you that don't know me well, I have an inappropriate physical response to anger, particularly anger paired with frustration. I cry. The angrier or more frustrated I get, the more I cry. It is pretty hard to be taken seriously in an argument when you are bawling. The only time I ever came close to having a fight in high school I started crying and the other girl just laughed at me and walked away.

And so I cried in anger at my professor in front of 20 other students. In my attempts to explain, I kept repeating how angry I was at him. If anything, I think I scared him. I wonder if all my good grades after that could be attributed to him protecting himself from the crying, crazy lady.

I wasn't the only person to cry in front of an audience this semester. Our first Law and Public Affairs professor cried in front of the class. He was talking about how his son wasn't injured in the 9/11 attacks and got all choked up. Later in the same class he cried a little over due process. The first half of the semester was a complete disaster in that class. The professor was terrible, he taught us nothing and then gave us a multiple-choice scantron mid-term. This is grad school here, you really shouldn't be able to assess us with a multiple-choice scantron. Several of us complained about the class and how it was wasting our time and money. The administration at SPEA responded rather quickly and found us a new professor and the class improved greatly for the second half of the semester.

That leaves Statistical Analysis for Effective Decision-Making. The only class in which nothing too crazy happened. There was the lab when our professor referred to us as fetuses and after much prompting we established that she was only six months older than I am, which is probably why we watched this video in class:


Also, for you statistics nerds out there, there is this etsy store.

So there you go, my semester in a nutshell. I will try to blog more regularly, I promise.

— Sara


Nico said...

I'm one of those people that moves seats.

Teresa said...

You should try switching seats in a room full of accounting majors... doesn't go over well!

Barb Carusillo said...

You think you have nothing much interesting to say (since you started graduate school and have met all kinds of new folks, learning new things)...try working in the exact same place for the 16 years, same two other people for the last 6. But there is less drama in routine, so I guess that can be a plus.