The Pre-Prof Grad School Experience

For any familiar with my personal blog, you know that I often come up with seemingly random thoughts that somehow I think warrant blog attention.  For example, what is up with the yoga pants craze?  But it seems that today’s thought is more in line with the purpose of my GRAD blog than it is concerned with my personal observations of campus life as a non-traditional grad student.

This morning after my class (8 am classes should be undergrad level only, by the way), I spent some time catching up with a classmate.  We were neighbors for quite a while, but since I moved this summer, we haven’t seen much of each other.  The conversation turned toward discussing various professors including their knowledge base, attitudes, teaching styles, and compatibility with our individual personalities.  You see, he and I are on similar tracks.  We both have kids, both gave up a somewhat lucrative professional practice to come to grad school, and both intend to teach in the future.  And though discussing professors is quite common amongst my classmates, it occurred to me this morning that it is much different for those of us on the professor track.

When I first got here, I knew what I wanted to do afterwards and that has flavored everything I do.  I sit in classes and not only attempt to absorb the material but also think about whether I would want to teach the class and if so, how would I teach it?  Would I use the same examples?  Would I want to use PowerPoint or chalkboard or some of each?  How would I grade that bear of an assignment that takes students a month and a half to complete and a lifetime to truly understand?  I would hazard the guess that many in the PFP and Pedagogy classes have similar thoughts during their education.  In fact, Pedagogy made us consider a single class syllabus, forcing us to consider these types of thoughts, even if we hadn’t previously.

But today went beyond that.  Today prompted thoughts of what kind of professor I want to be outside the classroom.  Do I want to be the professor who plays favorites and isn’t afraid to show it?  Do I want to be on many different grad students’ committees or none? Do I want to invite students to meet at my house just because I dislike coming to campus on non-teaching days?  What kind of respect would I show to a 22-year old with a chip on their shoulder instilled at some elitist undergrad school?  Would I encourage the use of Mathematica or Mathcad or Matlab, Windows or Mac, Paper or Plastic?  A thousand questions whose answers are slowly evolving with each experience and each conversation with professors, classmates, or even near strangers who happen to enroll in the same PFP class as I have.

And in the asking and answering of these questions, I realize that the grad school experience is very different for those of us aspiring to be professors.  We may do the same research, may write the same papers, may attend the same football games (and tailgates), but we think differently.  We look to the future with a different gaze.  And at least for me, it is fulfilling to share these thoughts, in part or in total, with others in the same situation.  I look forward to my next hallway discussion and the round of questions it brings to mind.

About rainman

CEE SEM MS ’12 PhD ’15
ESM BS ’92
SUC ’89-’92
PE VA, TN, KY, WV, PA

Category(s): PFP13F, Teaching Philosophy

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