Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Being a Student

I've mentioned before that I am taking a class this semester online. I'm getting many reminders of why I stopped at my master's degree, instead of going on for a doctorate and a career as a professor, as I had thought about doing at one point. I love to learn, love to study, and have always been an excellent student. I never did all-nighters or threw papers together. Instead I would start assignments well in advance and research every little homework task as though it were my dissertation. But I found that I didn't much like the driven, competitive me that I was as a graduate student.

Now, more than twenty years since I finished my master's degree (how did that much time go by? I actually had to stop and count because that seemed too big a number), I have discovered that the calmer, more reasonable, less stressed-out person I've become, and whom I'd attributed to growing older and wiser - that person was an illusion. A compulsive gambler may feel cured as long as she stays away from an environment where gambling takes place. But once she's around slot machines, she feels that old temptation. In the same way, get me in the student mode, and I'm just as I always was. If anything, the online setting makes me worse, because working at my own pace to me means that I have to be way ahead, or I feel behind. I could always go post one more time on the discussion board, so therefore I never feel done.

Do you think this is why I sometimes have trouble understanding my students? Mind you, I know that my attitude is no more healthy than that of a student who does everything at the last minute. I was always obsessive about my grades, driving myself and everyone close to me crazy. Although I love to read and learn new things, I rarely would relax enough to just enjoy it. Instead I would fret about whether I was doing enough, and about grades, and about being the best. Even though I have enjoyed the exposure to lots of new books, and answering fascinating questions, and thinking through new ideas, I will be glad when the semester is over and I can stop being an official student for a while. I won't stop learning, but I'll learn in an environment that doesn't turn me into someone I don't particularly like to be.


Janet said...

I've never known how to relate to students who didn't really care either. I'm a good teacher to students who want to learn, work hard, and in short are like me. The others I never knew quite what to do with.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Interesting questions, Ruth. Do you think most teachers have been, or are, good students? It makes me wonder. My school is very process oriented, helping students look for the joy in learning instead of the high grade. We have deadlines, work at time management, but have no grades. Sometimes older students express frustration that they don't feel 'finished' in projects, that there's always something else that they can do, just as you said. It is a balance I guess. For those who just try to 'get by', we offer more choices, & still it's a challenge. No easy answers, I suppose. Thanks for making me examine this, & for you, glad you're going to have a break.