Thursday, December 22, 2011

Semester Grades

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, the children are nestled all snug in their beds, and so on and so forth.  And semester grades have been posted.

In genetics I received a B.  In geoarchaeology, a B also.  And in primate paleobiology a B-.  I had two other classes which were only graded on a pass/fail basis, and in one of those I received a "satisfactory."  In the other one, the prof still hasn't submitted anything, even though grades were due on Monday.  But I'm assuming I passed that one, because he had told me I was doing okay. 

I'm not really used to getting Bs, but this semester I was far more concerned with just passing everything.  Remember that in grad school, one is expected to get all As, and a C is considered failing.  And for never having taken any genetics or archaeology or primatology classes before in my life, and then being thrown into graduate-level classes on these topics, I was thrilled with my Bs when I first saw them.  I passed!  Fuck yeah! 

But hold on for a sec.  Stop the celebrations.  Because there's that teensy-weensy little problem of my funding package.  Part of the deal of me coming here was that the school would offer me a full scholarship as long as I did certain things, like work as a teaching assistant my second year.  One of those other things was maintain a 3.5 GPA.  Which clearly I did not do.  B and B and B- equal 2.89. 

I briefly wondered how long it would take the school to notice this, but since many thousands of dollars are at stake here, I wanted to get this issue ironed out ASAP.  So I called the financial aid office, explained my concerns, and asked who would be the right person to talk to.  I was directed to a woman in the graduate college, so I emailed her explaining the situation and asking what consequences I should expect.

She replied the next day saying I need to contact the anthro department, although she herself had forwarded my email to the anthro department secretary-type person.  Who had in turn told me that it was "inappropriate" to jump the chain of command like that and discuss such things with people outside the department.  I also received an e-letter from the anthro graduate director saying I have to raise my GPA to a 3.2 by the end of spring semester or else I'll lose my funding.  And this email and letter were passed on to the department chair and the department executive director.  So, all the proper authorities have been notified that I have a problem.  That I am a problem.  Although the graduate director expressed hope that I am "able to get back on track." 

Because I am off track.  Stepping on toes.  Underperforming.  Not living up to expectations.  Not holding up my end of the deal.  Et cetera.

Furthermore, that graduate director's office is directly across from my office.  When I have my door open and she has her door open, which is often, we can look across and see each other working.  So semester's not going to be awkward or embarrassing at all. 

But I guess it's pretty generous of them to only expect a 3.2 by the end of next semester...and I assuming they mean cumulative?  The funny thing is that next semester I have two pass/fail classes and only one graded class.  So if I get an A in that one class, does that mean I get a 4.0 for that whole semester?  Isn't that a little silly?  Am I going to get in more trouble for not pointing that out?

This whole "being in trouble" thing is also new to me.  You know those "trouble-maker" kids in gradeschool?  The ones who clown around all the time, never do their homework, disrupt class, don't follow instructions, sass back to the teacher?  The ones who start smoking in 5th grade and who authorities label as having an "attitude problem"?  I've been thinking about those kids a lot these past few months.  How as a young girl, I never understood those "bad" kids.  Why did they behave that way?  Why wouldn't they just be quiet and do their work?  Why did they hate school?  The assembly line of public education worked for me and a lot of other people, so why didn't it work for them?

I feel like I understand those "trouble-makers" now.  I mean, aside from the fact that such kids are typically facing severe stress at home, I can understand how if, for whatever reason, you have to start school without the proper tools or prerequisites, or if the structure of school just doesn't fit how your brain learns at all, or if there's some other cognitive mismatch right from the start, you quickly get sucked into a vicious cycle of discouragement and frustration.  The more discouraged and frustrated you get, the less well you do on your assignments and exams, and the less you are respected by your classmates, and the less you want to cooperate or socialize with them or get involved in any kind of school activity.  You don't care about doing well; you just care about passing so you can get the fuck out of there.  And if you don't pass, you drop out. 

I feel that way every day.  Like I am on this unhappy merry-go-round and have no idea how to get off.  Of course, I'm old enough to understand negative feedback loops and know that they're harmful.  And I have to put in effort every day at correcting these negative thoughts.  But I am told that one day, like in six years, it'll all be worth it.  I am also constantly reassured that there are hardly any jobs for graduating anthropologists, and that the existing jobs hardly pay enough to live on anyway.

So what am I doing here, again?  This is another question I ask myself every day, and I come up blank every time.  I got nothin'.  No answers at all.  Nothin' going on upstairs whatsoever.

As you can tell by my GPA.