Graduate School

All posts tagged Graduate School

What side is this?

Published August 2, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

About a million years ago, back when I was in the middle of my other career, I attended Graduate school for a M.A. in Performing Arts. (I was still young and had hope.)

I wrote a paper in support of my proposal for my final project.  I could not get my graduate committee (The three faculty members who were like some kind of three headed hydra.) to tell me what format my paper needed to take, so I just free formed it.

The paper was subsequently rejected and I was directed to a variety of academic papers written to support modern dance projects. (I, too, was surprised that such a thing existed.) I read the papers and noticed that they were written in the traditional MLA format.

I rewrote  the paper using the format and was commended on the amount of scholarship I had demonstrated.  I wanted to snort with the laughter and direct the Hydra to my undergraduate transcript which stated I was a McFadden Scholar.  I have no idea why people are so shocked and amazed to find out that I do have a fine mind nestled snugly under the crazy.

Anyway, they accepted the paper and approved the project.  After I put  200 plus hours into the project, including written and photographic documentation, the Hydra said they were not going to approve my project because, “We don’t do that here.” They didn’t want to align their Drama department with a public service theatre project that brought together Developmentally Disabled adults and At-Risk youth. Both groups met weekly to design puppets and develop a script that was then performed for school age children throughout the city.

I can’t expect a State University to get behind that. I don’t know how I could be so foolish.

I told them I needed some time to regroup, so after a full blown tantrum conducted at a high speed ride home and face down on the floor at home. I debated and discussed with everyone and finally asked the universe for a sign. (At this point I only lacked a final project to win the race and get my MA) In the meantime, I still had grants to write for my ongoing programs.

One of my friends from the ARC, the organization that worked with my kids in the hood, was a McDonald’s employee. At the time there was a supply grant available through the company, but you needed an employee’s endorsement. I helped my friend, Michael, write the letter and I asked him what he wanted to use for his closing signature. I explained that when I finished an official letter, I signed it, OutReach Director.  I asked him what title he wanted.

He said, “Your Friend.”

It took me a moment to recover and process and when I did, it became clear that this was my sign.  I didn’t want to be on the side of a group of people who would deny credit for hard work because it didn’t jibe with their perception of art.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I recently had a similar crisis of conscience when dealing with the problems at my previous job.  I did what I knew was right.

Because when it’s all over, and our current world/political situation indicates it will be soon, I know where I will stand.

Because I’m Michael’s friend.


I have used it so much, I think I wore it out

Published November 5, 2013 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I have a lot to do this month.  It’s likely that I always have a lot to do, I’m just conscious of it right now because my personal life seems to have swooshed my problems to the other side, lava-lamp-like (Of course, I know this means that it will all come swooshing back to crush/drown me.)  but right now, I’m focused on the deadlines that are looming in front of me.

The first thing on my list is applying for the Teaching Fellows program.  This is a program that won’t start until the summer but will eventually lead to getting my teaching certification while thrusting me into the world of urban education and making me employable.  Well, more so than those diplomas and credentials do. (I made a Facebook comment that I should have gone to clown college instead of Grad School. The CHAIR of my GRADUATE COMMITTEE remarked, “It was clown college. We just told you it was Grad School. That’s comforting.)

The Teaching Fellows thing is the first deadline. It’s next week, but I sat down and started working on it today, and once I started, I had to keep going and now my brain is tired.

Here’s some of the questions with my responses:

Nearly all fellows are hired to teach in ‘high need’ schools that are located in low-income communities. Why do you want to teach specifically in a high need school? What challenges do you expect raising student achievement in your classroom and what experiences have prepared you for overcoming these challenges? Knowing these challenges, what steps will you take to prepare for your first year of teaching in a high need school, and why?

I want to teach in a high need school because I believe that every student is important and entitled to the best education possible. I anticipate the challenges in high need schools to be motivation and socio-economic difficulties. These can have a negative effect on the learning process. ( Um, yeah because if you have to fight your way past a crack den and try to keep your school supplies bullet free while you listen to your stomach growl  you might be less than motivated.  I know, I can only fix one problem at a time.)  I am fortunate that I come from a family that places high value on education and I know how a strong support system can help motivate and encourage a student.  To prepare for my first year of teaching in a high need school, I would do some work in understanding the learning environment both past and present. This will help me find the foundation on which to build as I begin. Understanding the environment will also help me to remain flexible as I face the ongoing challenges of working with students. (I wanted to make some Futurama Gumbercules references, but I suspect that no one would appreciate my whimsy.) 

I have faced a number of personal challenges in the past several years including a brain hemorrhage. (And of course, there’s the whole best friend dying thing and husband having a baby with his girlfriend thing. I consider those challenging, but technically, they didn’t interfere with my learning process. My will to live process, but not learning.) This gives me a unique understanding of   slow and reluctant learners.  I have vivid memories of struggling to be understood and frustration with my limited abilities.  This past experience will help me empathize with students.

You are a first year teacher in a high need school, with two months left until the end of the academic year. You implement fun and engaging activities in class and offer tutoring 34 times a week; however, one third of your students failed the last grading period. Several of these students consistently break established classroom rules by listening to their iPods, not turning in work, or engaging in offtopic conversation. Many of your students worry that because of all the distractions in class, they will not be prepared to pass the endofyear standardized exam, which is required to move to the next grade level. You reach out to your principal for help. The principal states that other teachers with the same level of experience are more effective and you assure her that you already reached out to them, as well as more experienced teachers, for advice.

The most likely causes of challenges in this situation are classroom management, lack of focus and motivation.  The students in a this situation may have misinterpreted the flexibility afforded in engaging activities as a relaxation of class rules.   To address the challenge of classroom management, I would ask a teacher to actively observe the class to critique my management skills and to offer me an honest critique. This will serve the dual purpose of giving me a clear understanding of how I am perceived and to also show students that everyone is accountable for the quality of their time in the classroom.  To address the lack of focus. I would rearrange the classroom on a regular basis and get the student’s input on where they work best, E.G. Alternating time near the window or closest to the door,etc. This serves to make the student aware of their input on their learning environment. If this works well, it might be possible for students to have headphones on if it fits in with school rules and helps them concentrate.  Each student will have a different motivation for their education.  If this has not yet been established, I would have the students take a few minutes to plot out where they would like to be in one day’s time. Then show them the steps they would have to take to reach this goal.  If they want to pass the English Quiz, what will they have to do? Will they have to study their notes or re-read the book, or work with someone on a review.   Breaking down the simple steps to reach any goal will show the student what investment they need to make to reach the desired outcome.  This type of activity would also show me, the teacher, how the student perceives the process.( I wanted to include an example of asking someone out for a date or trying to dodge bullets on the way home. I want Paul to hang out with me. Paul only likes hoochies. How can I get Paul to hang out with me without becoming a hoochie because my mother strenuously objects to hoochification?) 

The next deadline is the short short story contest hosted by Writer’s Digest. It’s only 1500 words. Then next thing  is, of course the three remaining romance stories on this contract.

Somewhere in all of this I might actually become gainfully employed. It’s wearying.


Am I out of my mind, or is it a figment of my imagination?

Published November 4, 2013 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Many moons ago, when I was mired in the swamp that is called Graduate School, one of the required classes was Theater History. The textbook for this class was Jack Watson’s A Cultural History of Theater. This is a great book, (although, I I have to say, Jack, I don’t think the $121.98 price tag is at all fair.)  because it aligns the theater world alongside the rest of the world, so if your village is starving and eating rat bones simmered with moss, you are not likely to churn out the prototype to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Suffice it to say, because a writer can only exist in the time and space they are currently occupying, everything happening around them is reflected in whatever it is that they are writing. [If you are at all interested in seeing how I have applied this very theory to my teaching (actual teaching, not just speechifying at the local coffee hut.) you can check it out here]

That incredibly long (and double parenthetical!) introduction is where I am today as I am about to start wadding together (I think the actual phrase is compiling and evaluating) past and present data in the field of education. I doing this mostly for fun, but also so I have something groovy in my portfolio to wow various and sundry folk who might call me for a job  interview.

I embrace my nerdity.

My research compilation will reflect everything that is happening around me. Today this includes a fascinating Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast (brought to you by the good people at How Stuff Works. com) This particular podcast is called “Is Free Will an Illusion?”

I have to say my mind was blown.

The idea is that because there are so many things that are controlled  by our subconscious, how do we know that are actually making the decisions for everything else? If we are aware of it does it exist?

Which means that it is impossible to go into anything with an open mind, which also means that all data is skewed.

I probably won’t mention that as  write everything up in my fabulous report for no reason. (Sung to the tune of a “A horse with no name”.)