‘Tis the season to be writing papers, cramming for finals, and generally stressing out — or so says about 80% of my Facebook newsfeed. I’m insanely jealous.
I think I have an addiction to academia. I surmise that it started when I was two or three and started harassing my parents relentlessly about how long it would be until I got to go to school. I didn’t even really know what it was; I just wanted to go there. I heard there were books. Faced with having to wait, which is something I don’t believe I have ever been good at in my entire life, I resorted to scribbling on a chalkboard in the basement of our old house while my stuffed animals listened quietly and attentively.
If only my students, during my actual teaching career, had been so quiet and attentive.
(As fate would have it, though, I wasn’t done teaching stuffed animals)
So, anyway, by the time I got to junior high, I was like, “I am so done with this school thing.” That lasted for about two weeks before I conceded that I did, in fact, want to go to college. The whole time I was in college, I kept saying, “Yeah, you guys and your silly GREs. I have no desire whatsoever to get a master’s degree. I’m content with my bachelor’s.”
By the end of my first year of teaching, I would spend hours at a time going through all of the grad school possibilities, which were plentiful in the Washington, D.C. region where I was living at the time. The desire to go back to school was like an itch that I kept trying to avoid until it became painful and made me twitch. I eventually told myself, after about six or seven months of pining, that I’d get the money somehow, even if it meant paying more student loans back (which, by the way, I’ll still be doing when I’m 93 years old, I’m pretty sure). To hold myself over, I took a graduate level class about teaching writing, you know, just as some light professional development (though it did count for credits toward my degree and it was free, so why not?).
Most teachers seek master’s degrees in something like, oh, I don’t know, teaching. You know, programs that generally tend to integrate your schoolwork and your job-work so that you don’t drive yourself crazy by trying to work a full time job teaching and go to school.
I don’t really roll like that.
I was accepted into an English M.A. program, and while teaching techniques were part of my concentration, it wasn’t a M.Ed. If I could bottle up the sheer excitement I felt about starting school again in the fall, well… I don’t know what I’d do with it, but it would be kind of neat, huh? I was so excited to be back in school that I didn’t even really care that I was working a full time job and a part time job at the same time. I didn’t care that I was tired and stressed out because I was happy to be tired and stressed out. I was really enjoying my studies.
Then I moved back to Pennsylvania, 3.5 hours away from the school where I was exactly halfway through my program. Transferring wasn’t an option because I loved the program I was in and it was so specialized that I would never find something similar to it, anyway (and I was correct: I didn’t find anything that even came close). I spent a lot of time annoying the crap out of the department chair with questions, and she graciously helped me figure out what courses I could take at local colleges (I use the term local very loosely). The problem was that fall semester was basically upon me.
So every Wednesday, I’d leave school right at 3 after a day of teaching, run home, change clothes, and hop back into the car with my mom. Then we’d drive to D.C. — it usually took almost four hours because we’d get there right in the middle of rush hour. She made me drive in so that I dealt with the traffic on the Beltway and 66, and then I’d leave her, go to class from 7-10 p.m., get back in the car, stay awake long enough for her to get out of the D.C. metro area, and then sleep on the way home. We’d get home at 2 a.m., I’d get to bed around 2:30, and then I’d get up at 6:15 for work. I never once missed a day of work after one of those trips.
Let it never be said that I’m not totally dedicated.
Or that I don’t love school.
The following spring semester — the semester I should have been graduating if I’d stayed in Virginia — I managed to get a lead from my professor in the fall. He told me about a professor who might be willing to pick me up for an independent study, so I did that. I designed my own course (about high school writing centers) and did the whole thing via email. I learned a lot, too. I also wormed my way into a Ph.D level class at Penn State, which is about a 45 minute drive away (and literally, I was the only non Ph.D student in there). I had to drive my professor home in a snow storm once, but that was the only class that would fulfill my school’s requirement, so I was glad to suck up. That class was so difficult, and I was so grateful to have gotten a B. At about the same time, knowing I’d be finishing school soon, I started considering going on for another master’s — in library science.
I shelved the idea of library school (ha!) and enrolled at IUP for my last grad school class, which is about an hour’s drive away. I loved that class and did well in it. It was an intense month of reading (we read two books every three days for four weeks) and writing papers, and when it was over, it was over. I was done with school. I finished at a weird time and my foreign language requirement threw a kink into things earlier (I eventually tested out of it, but not before the requirement deadline for graduation). So needless to say, I graduated, but I never graduated. It was just a silent ending and my degree came in the mail a month later. It’s collecting dust in my closet right now. I still haven’t been able to put it to use. Thank you, awesome economy. That was in mid-2008.
Here we are, with about a month left in 2010. My little brother has recently been accepted to college. A lot of my former students have college fever. I keep devouring books and learning about a variety of things on my own, but it’s just not the same. Knowing that I’ll soon have an anti-education governor who has already virtually guaranteed that I won’t be able to get a teaching job, I’ve been really scrambling to find something else I can do. All this writing I’ve been doing over the past year or so has made me really want to write professionally. Not novels, I mean, but virtually any other kind of writing. I made the mistake of looking online and finding a program that I’ve become so enamored with that I get the chills just thinking about how much I’d like to do it.
Except for that part where I really don’t have money at all, and I’m not sure I can justify applying to school when I don’t have a steady source of income.
But I’m not sure that’s going to stop me.
At the very end of my first semester of college, I had nothing to do. No exams or papers that I wasn’t prepared for or finished with. While everyone around me was stressing out, I remember feeling so jealous of them for having papers and exams. So jealous that I felt the need to learn something. I’d never read Elie Wiesel’s Night before that, so I went to the library and checked it out and read it in one night, desperate to learn a new perspective. I’ve got that same jealousy issue going on right now, as well as that same extreme urge to throw caution, reason, and financial stability to the wind. I think I’d be a professional student if I could. If only I got paid for that. If school didn’t cost so much, I’d study so many different subjects because there are so many things that interest me. Unfortunately, it does cost so much, so I need to keep my wits about me when considering it.
My name is Renee, and I’m addicted to school.