I'm Halfway Done With My Master's Degree
This last five months, I took nine credits for my Master’s and am now halfway done with my program. As much as I talk about how much my program sucks the soul out of me and how much I dread it, by the grace of God, I actually did quite well this semester and will finish with almost a perfect GPA, which is a phenomenal personal feat given I was working a full-time job, studying for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), and had a whole bunch of other personal obligations going on. I fell short of all A’s when I realized yesterday my grading policy put 93 as an A-, not an A.
This is nothing against my professors or the wonderful people I have worked with. They have helped me tremendously and extended a significant amount of grace whenever I felt like I wasn’t able to meet a deadline. The past couple of weeks, I actually did not procrastinate as much as I usually do. I got my work done early, for once, because I didn’t want to be absolutely miserable on Monday mornings after burning myself out on a Sunday night.
You might think I’m speaking of my graduate degree with incredible negativity. Well, I can’t deny how I feel about the program. I feel like I’m just faking or blowing smoke through a large number of assignments. I pride myself on my honesty in telling people how my classroom and teaching experiences really are. Perhaps my problem with a postgraduate degree like a Master’s is most of the concepts and theories I’m learning are great — but it’s difficult to see their application in the classroom all the time. This semester was better than last when I had to implement some of what I learned in the classroom.
Despite my negativity, I also clearly care about the work. I wouldn’t do these assignments if I didn’t care and I didn’t think it was important to reflect on my teaching practice. So much of teaching does result, however, in a certain cynicism arising from compassion fatigue that sometimes, you don’t want to do anything teaching related for a little bit. During the fall, I used to get automated alerts all the time that I was in danger of failing. Any time your grade drops below an 80 in my program, you get an alert that annoys you until you get your grade back above an 80. I was consistently missing deadlines, forgetting to communicate with my professors for extensions, and just having a hard time keeping up during the first semester.
However, this semester, I’m proud to say I’ve gotten none of those alerts. I doubled down on my efforts to do the bare minimum, but to get everything in on time. It’s crazy how much in the world of education, getting things done and getting things on time are often the most important parts of the job. The same applied to my Master’s. Perhaps I have perfectionist tendencies that didn’t get me to start or submit an assignment unless it was perfect. This semester, I made sure everything met a certain length requirement, used a variety of citations, following proper APA format and above all, was submitted before the deadline.
The most common time of submission for me was 11:59 p.m. on a Sunday night. As you can see, I was playing a very dangerous game often of racing against the clock. Fortunately, one of my professors was generous enough to not count the occasional 12:00 a.m. or 12:02 a.m. submission as a late submission, but there was nothing better than the pressure of a deadline in 45 minutes to get me off the couch and finish something I had no desire of finishing. Every weekend I would be shocked at my ability to go from 0 to 100 and conjure five pages of research-backed academic writing in 90 minutes — but all that adrenaline inspired by deadlines also zapped me of any mental energy to do much of anything the next day. I’m looking forward to not feeling like a zombie most Mondays anymore.
I’m not saying this program completely robs me of joy. I’ve met some really great professors and classmates. The first year, I suspect, is much more difficult than the second year. The first year comes with all the core courses that everyone is mandated to take. The second semester this year, I was able to pick out an elective I very much enjoyed. I am taking summer classes just so I don’t torture myself with nine credits with a full-time workload anymore, and I get to take two other electives I’m actually excited about: school law and the intersections of race, policy, and power.
I’m excited to see what the next year holds. One year out of school, it was a shock to get back in the grind and world of academia, and do so while working a full time, consuming job, and having everything else going on. I’m proud I’ve been able to make it this far and hope I can keep surviving until the end.
Originally published on May 16, 2021 on Medium.