Monday, September 12, 2005

First day as a Ph.D. student

So, I have survived my first day as a brand new baby Ph.D. student...

I clambered on the bus this morning, with a backpack that weighed a ton. It contained my gym clothes, lunch, laptop and the other usual student odds and ends.

Now I'm wondering why I didn't spend the extra cash and get a compact lap top. Je-zuuussss! I swear to God the pack weighed half a ton.

But whatever... I wanted to take notes on my laptop and so...

Got to school/work and the morning flew by. Flew!

At noon I went to teach my Spanish 201 class. I'm in a pokey little room and there weren't enough chairs for the students.

No doubt some of them won't return tomorrow, as I was honest with them and told them that although officially we do not mark on a Bell curve, it is unwritten policy that not more than 10% of them will get A's. It's not my policy and it's not how I like to teach, but it is the reality of my department. Every instructor abides by the same unofficial policy, so even if students transfer sections, they'll face the same thing.

The class itself seems reasonable enough. Although I was looking forward to having a semester off teaching, as always, I'm energized by my own students and look forward to being with them. No doubt, this semester will be no exception.

After class, I was bouncing off the walls with energy, as is typical after teaching for me. I had a bite to eat, waited for it to settle and then decided to go work out.

Oh my God! What a shock!

I'm glad I started going to the gym in the summer to get used to it. But even so, the place so packed today I almost walked right out, I was so intimidated.

The place was a zoo, for starters -- students everywhere and general chaos prevailed.

The fitness centre has recently been renovated and while it is beautiful, there were more changes to get used to today. The first thing was that now I have to keep my student I.D. with me at all times and "scan in".

Tell me... Where the hell do you keep a student I.D. card while you're working out?????

My workout wear has no pockets. So, short of keeping it between my teeth like a stereotypical tango dancer would with a red rose, I had no where else to put it... well... except the obvious place of course... (down my bra). That's where it went.

The place was packed with students... wall to wall exercisers to the extent that there were no bikes available.

There are always bikes available!


I realized that I've become a creature of habit in the gym.

I hadn't even started my workout and I was forced into "adaptive mode". I headed towards an eliptical machine. My 30 minutes of cardio was not one of my best... I'm sure my heart rate was less affected by my efforts on the machine than by the general panic that settled over me.

Thank God for my little iPod. I just tried to keep focused on the music and not think about anything else.

Oh yeah.... and to make matters worse... ALL the mirrors are up in the new facility. I had previously tried to choose machines that were set in front of concrete walls instead of mirrors. Now, there's no concrete left. There are mirrors everywhere, dammit! Everywhere!

Made it through the 30 minutes of cardio, did my little weight-training program, but had to stop and get help with one machine, that had been re-set in some weird way and I couldn't figure out how to move it back to a suitable position. The trainers were all busy and so, the girl who worked at the reception desk helped me. I felt like an idiot... but kept chugging along...

Finally, I finished... only to try to leave the gym and not be able to get out of the new turn-style entrance/exit system. (Insert image of me fishing in bra for ID card to swipe...) Some kind soul took pity on me and pointed out the new (and yes, obvious) exit gate, which didn't require any card swiping at all. (Too late! I was thoroughly embarrassed by then…)

I finally escaped into the locker room. Thank Gawd!

Needless to say, a call to follow up on that 10-pack of personal training sessions that I bought quickly ensued after getting back to the office. I thought, “If I don’t book a session today, I’m just going to throw in the towel and forget it! That was awful today!”

Next training session is booked, so I will suck it up until then.

(This, by the way, is where you send me encouraging comments to keep me going to the gym, so I can avoid ballooning during this degree, and not end up being a size 22, like I was by the time I graduated from my M.A.)

And tomorrow I will wrap a large rubber band around my water bottle so I can use it to hold my I.D. card. No more fishing trips down my bra to find it, thank you very much!

After booking the next training session, I gathered up my knap sack (otherwise known as weight lifting session #2 of the day) and headed over to my first class as a student – ED 700 with Dr. Winchester, a required course on philosophy for doctoral students.

It was a fantastic class and there are about 12 of us all together, including Lyle (a.k.a. “Steamer”) who was the only other student accepted into the same specialization as me this year – Leadership. Steamer and I have gotten to know each other over the past month and I must say, it’s nice starting class knowing someone. He has a great sense of humour and it’s fun to have him as a colleague.

The laptop worked out well, by the way, though I was the only student in the class to bring one. I will probably continue, providing my pack doesn't get any heavier...

The course material seems interesting and I read my first case on the bus on the way home. Had a quick bite of dinner and then skimmed the first chapter of the text book. I’ll have to go over it again tomorrow… I’m too pooped to process philosophy at the moment!

With that, thus ends my first day as a Ph.D. student. I’ve run the gamut from exhilaration of teaching, to being completely overwhelmed at the gym, to finding myself insatiably curious and intellectually engaged in my class.

Now I’m just beat, so I’m going to bed…

Good night…


Arrogant Polyglot said...

I'm totally against the 'more than 10% A' rule. But then again, I'm very much against getting an 'A' in an intermediate L2 class. Unless the student speaks another Romance language, has a partner who speaks the L2 or is only taking one class, I just don't see how it's possible for them to merit the A. Maybe I'm just a bit harsh?

I'd love to see you plowing the hallways and the sluts in hello kitty blocking the doors. Grrr... I despise undergraduates. Now, as a 30 year old MA student, I feel I have earned the right to push them aside or they risk being trampled on. Sorry, but I ain't got time for that nonsense. I hope you, too, feel you own a larger portion of the hallway.

Good luck this semester, guapa!

zouzou said...

Yukk! Most of my classes post-grad anyway were a pass=A, fail = well, you shouldn't be in the program. I abhor the bell curve just because an entire class can get penalized - what if you have a bunch of really BRAINY students one time, and duds the next? does the best Dud get an A and the worst brainiac get a c+ or whatever? very unfair.

Anyway, to add my encouragement: you are DOING GREAT!!! YOU LOOK GREAT!! keep up the good work. and just shove all those annoying little rug rat students out of the way if they're on YOUR bike. :)

Bast said...

I was only on campus briefly on Monday, but it was certainly a shock to the system. So was going up to the University Club, only to discover that half of it (yes, a full half (?) of it!) has been taken over by students and is now a cybercafe complete with Starbucks. Ugh. But at least the UClub was quiet and serene - a haven from the great unwashed (as my MA supervisor used to refer to undergraduates).

Keep up the good work! I am in awe of you that you are in the gym! I can't abide the place ... And keep enjoying the PhD!

CM said...

I punched a hole in my gym card and threaded it onto my hair elastic so it was never in my way when working out. Another option besides the water bottle, because heaven forbid the water bottle got stolen with your card attached...