My Road to the Ph.D.: Not Exactly The Start I Was Hoping For…


I was really thrilled when the opportunity to take a course on the evolution of the graphic novel came up in the Summer 2011 course catalog.  Could there have been a more perfect fit for me?  Probably not.  So of course, the past three weeks or so has been filled with a continual back and forth as to whether or not the class would actually run due to enrollment issues.  Not exactly something I wanted to be dealing with as I was going into my doctoral candidacy exams.

After much hunting, I initially decided to take a course out of the department that would focus on developing literacy and writing programs–something that seemed relevant to my field of work.  And a little shot of relevancy can be a good thing.   Of course, I needed a waiver of the course pre-requisites.  Failing to hear back from the instructor, however, I opted to make a request to be written into a traditional course–after all, classes begin in less than 10 hours from now.  I’m still waiting on formal approval of the overload from the Academic Dean (the instructor and department chair are fine with it), but I’m glad I mentally committed to this as I was recently denied the literacy program course.

Not exactly the start I was hoping for going into the first summer session of the semester.

I won’t lie either:  My motivation this time around is pretty low.  Leaving my increasingly pregnant wife home with my increasingly cool 2-year old isn’t something I particularly cherish.  Coupled with the fact that I’ve still not entirely come to grips with this literature degree and the field that I love working in, well, it’s a bit of dead weight on the motivation.

SO I sat down last night and did do some work on drafting a sort of “Ph.D. Student Manifesto” of sorts.  I figure that this endeavor is one that is a major investment on the part of my family and myself, so I need to make sure I continue to have a darn good reason for what I’m putting all of us through here.  I think I hold on to the first draft for now; though as promised, I will put a copy up here eventually.  I’m perfectly fine with airing one’s frustrations out, so long as it is done with the intent to move on and move forward from that point on.

So, for tonight I will focus on the following points as I start this session:

  • Classes run from 8:00-12:00, which means that I am done with all formal obligations after lunch and am on a total flex schedule the rest of the day and night;
  • I’m able to have the time and resources to invest in a major project like this where many other might wish to but be unable to do so;
  • I have a wife who is willing to carry the workload for two so I can do this;
  • There is a support network of a few close friends here in the program who I can rely on for both professional advice (i.e. editing & revising my papers) as well much-needed sanity checks (may or may not include a beer or two);
  • I know the pushing myself as a student will continue to help me better understand the challenges my students face in both direct and indirect ways… and this may just end up helping me be a better teacher–the real long-term goal.

So there you have it for tonight.  Probably still a bit on the “rant-ish” side of things, but I suppose the frustration is still a little fresh; however, I am going to try to keep a bit more positive here.   

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About fhelvie

I live in CT with my wife and two sons. I am also writing my doctoral dissertation, which is focused on the relationship between American literature and comic book superheroes. I have served as a panelist at a number of conferences discussing my research in comics, medieval literature, and pedagogy. Most recently, I had the good fortune to present at the New York Comic Con. In addition to my work in comics scholarship, I'm also a full-time professor of developmental English.
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