Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thriving in the Third Year

So I'm learning/remembering a lot about my preferred working style/kind of life (including the writing life) by my first month of this, the third year of my PhD. Mostly, I'm confirming that I was right about myself, in that I thrive better when I don't have to take 3 classes while also doing a million other things.

It's not that I'm not fantastically busy. In fact, if possible, I'm busier than I was last year. But I'm finding that I enjoy the academic life much much more when I have more of a say in what I do when.

It's not that I don't have deadlines now: quite firm ones at times. I must finish these preliminary exams by September 24, for instance, because I'm given a month to do that. And I have a month to defend the exams. But I negotiated the timing of that, and have been able to choose what kinds of questions I wanted to take/prepare for when.

I chose to do this now, at the beginning of the semester, before my students have their major assignments due. This small juggling act I'm allowed to do allows me to be a better teacher, because I won't have so much other craziness at the end of the semester.

It also allows me to really focus on writing these prelims well, because while I have lesson planning (and have been really enjoying planning lessons this semester without 3 classes at the same time--having a chance to use my creativity to make up good new interactive activities), I don't have a huge amount of grading to do until the prelims are done.

It helps all of this so much that I only have one (last required) class I'm taking. I really like taking classes, but am glad the crazy 3-per-semester requirement is done.

I can begin to see the end of the tunnel a bit, and that helps too. After all, if I pass these exams, I'll be officially qualified to teach at the university level. After that, (just?) the dissertation, which is a topic I'm incredibly motivated to dig further into and have already collected and written a lot of material towards. (And since writing is my thing, and I wended my way through writing a 100 page MA thesis only a couple of years ago, the length of it doesn't overwhelm me too much. At least not at the moment.)

So, while I'm fantastically busy, I'm not minding that. I'm really enjoying this academic life of mine.

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