Sunday, July 26, 2009

The challenges I will face as a graduate student

At least, three challenges I would face as a woman while completing graduate studies, and strategies to cope with them.

Going back to school can be challenging for any body. A child, after spending the holidays, finds it challenging to return to school. Now think of going back to school to get a masters degree, when one has full time job, and a family, as well.
Personally, it is very challenging to accommodate this new academic schedule the next two years.
The first challenge I have is my family, which of course, is the most important to me. I have a husband and two little children that truly require attention. Adding an academic load to this is not going to be easy.

The second challenge I have is my job. “Unfortunately, most jobs are designed to suit male schedules, in that they require long and regular working hours…without regard for time schedules for young mothers.” Sexton, P. (1976). Women in Education. Page 93. Working two jobs is enough stress on its own, meeting all the professional standards and job duties required of me, and all the time that takes has not been easy, talk less of now adding another load of academics to it.
Being a student, despite my busy schedule is also a major challenge. Trying to know each lecturer's style and choice of assignments, and method of answering them can be stressful.
However, “it is not the external circumstances or conditions that limit you. It is you! it is your negative thoughts,…poor strategies…that determines whether you succeed or fail” TJ Hoissington, if you think you can! 2006 (page 26)

The following are the general strategies I would use to tackle these challenges

For my family
• Make out a timetable of specific times I must be with my family, and be as strict as possible with it. Have time to play with my children, and time for my husband.
• Make a weekly timetable of how to take care of household chores, which involves cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. ‘“The difference between wise men and fools, rich men and poor, saints and sinners, saved men and damned men, does not usually result so much from difference of Circumstances …as in the difference in their use of time. One had redeemed it for the purpose he had in view; the other has squandered it”‘ Pierson, R. (1966) So you want to be a leader! Page 87 quoting Brengle, S.L. The soul winners secret, page 29
For work
• Try to separate work from school; when I am at work, I am at work. Concentrate on my patients' care, and do the most proficient duty I can.
• Spread out my assignments so that I do not have to do them the last minute which may involve my calling off at my job or going late.
• Try not to discuss my schoolwork at the job

For schoolwork
• Separate schoolwork from work and accept that I am a full time student, as well as a full time worker and so do my work as a student with no excuses of my work.
• Spread out my assignments, so that I would have enough time to do them, so that I can do a good work, and make good grades.
• Try all I can, not to miss classes or go to class late as that would affect my grades, as well as make me miss out some information.
• Use all the resources available to do my schoolwork.
The above stated strategies are the ways I can try to combine my three different roles: a mother and a wife, a worker, and a student.

Now, let me look at the specific challenges I would face as a graduate student.

• not missing classes
• going to class early
• making good grades
• Turning in assignments on time
• Finding time to read and explore the resources available.
• Accepting new ideas, and internalizing them
• Having to deal with Different lecturers, including knowing their preferred styles of questions, answers, and approach to a topic.
• meeting up with the financial needs of the school

Richard Paul and Linda elder give 18 Ideas for Becoming a Master Student,
I am selecting some ideas that speak directly to me:
“Idea #1: Make sure you thoroughly understand the requirements of each class, how it will be taught, and what will be expected of you. Ask questions about the grading policies and for advice on how best to prepare for class.
Idea #3: Think of each subject you study as a form of thinking. (If you
are in a history class, your goal should be to think historically; in a chemistry class to think chemically; etc.
Idea #5: Look for interconnections. The content in every class is always a SYSTEM of interconnected ideas, never a random list of things to memorize. Don’t memorize like a parrot. Study like a detective, always relating new learning to previous learning.
Idea #6: Think of your instructor as your coach. Think of yourself as a team member trying to practice the thinking exemplified by your instructor. For example, in an algebra class, think of yourself as going out for the algebra team and your teacher as demonstrating how to prepare for the games (tests).
Idea #8:Consider class time as a time in which you PRACTICE thinking (within the subject) using the fundamental concepts and principles of the course. Don’t sit back passively, waiting or knowledge to fall into your head like rain into a rain barrel. It won't.
Idea #12: Seek to find the key concept of the course during the first couple of class meetings. For example, in a biology course, try explaining what biology is in your own words. Then relate that definition to each segment of what you learn afterward. Fundamental ideas are the basis for all others.
Idea #13: Routinely ask questions to fill in the missing pieces in your learning. Can you elaborate further on this? Can you give an example of that? If you don’t have examples, you are not connecting what you are learning to your life.
Idea #14: Test yourself before you come to class by trying to summarize, orally or in writing, the main points of the previous class meeting. If you cannot summarize main points, you haven’t learned them.
Idea #15:Learn to test your thinking using intellectual standards. “Am I being clear? Accurate? Precise? Relevant? Logical? Am I looking for what is most significant?”
Idea #18: Frequently evaluate your reading. Are you reading the text
book actively? Are you asking questions as you read? Can you distinguish what you understand from what you don’t?”
After going through the above strategies, I became empowered with the tips.
I know I can do it, By the Grace of God!

Paul, R. and Elder L.,(2003) The critical guide for students on how to study and learn a discipline using critical thinking concept and tools. www.criticalthinking .org
Hoisington, T.J, (2006) if you think you can! (paper cover edition) Thirteen Laws that Govern the performance of high achievers. New York .Aviva

Sexton P. (1976). Women in Education, Bloomington, Indiana. Phi Delta Kappa
Pierson, R. (1966) So you want to be a leader! Mountain view, California. Pacific Press