December
1st 2008
Chutes and ladders: Historiann graduates! edition

Posted under: jobs, students

As many of you may know, New Kid on the Hallway has left academia to start law school.  She’s had several interesting posts this fall on the transition from being the professor to being a student again, but this one sums up what I’ve always thought must be the most difficult aspect of becoming a student again:  accepting the role of being a follower in the class rather than the leader.  (Interestingly, New Kid is not the only Ph.D. in her 1L class, and I can report that that was also the case with another friend of mine, a microbiology Ph.D. who recently went to law school to make another career for herself.)

I have a recurring nightmare–perhaps many of you have a version of it, too–which is that I’m back in my hometown for some reason (something that rarely happens, since my parents haven’t lived there for fifteen years) and–even stranger–visiting my old high school.  I’m informed there that I didn’t take all of the required classes, so I didn’t actually graduate from high school.  For some reason comprehensible only in dream-world logic, this imperils the legitimacy of my undergraduate and graduate degrees as well, so I have to go back to this high school and complete the missing credits.  I try to explain that I’m far too busy with my job and where life has taken me in the subsequent 22 years since my apparently fake high school graduation, but the authorities at S.S.H.S. still have the bureaucratic muscle to force me back to class.  (I have another version of this dream when I’m informed I have to return to college for another semester, but it’s a fun and happy dream because I loved college, and would kill to live in a dorm and have someone else cook and clean for me again.  On the contrary, I have no affection whatsoever for my high school days.)

Has this ever happened to you, either in a nightmare or in reality, when you went back to re-train in another field?  (Maybe I should just go get a DVD  of Old School, or the “Donna Martin graduates!” episode of Beverly Hills 90210 have a few laughs, and get over it.)

15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Chutes and ladders: Historiann graduates! edition”

  1. Dr. Crazy on 01 Dec 2008 at 10:07 am #

    In my dream it’s usually that I’ve been enrolled in a required math course but I never actually attended it or bought the books and now I have to go in and take the final totally unprepared or they’ll take away all of my degrees.

    That said, I’ve now begun having this dream less frequently and instead it is slowly being replaced with an anxiety dream in which I learn that I’ve been scheduled to teach an annoying required course and that I haven’t been doing so all semester long, but must figure out a way to hide this fact and make it work in the end, for if the uni. found out then I would lose my job. I’ve got to think this is a good sign, though who knows.

  2. Historiann on 01 Dec 2008 at 10:10 am #

    I have that dream, too! (Well, it’s more that I’ve been assigned a course I’m completely unqualified to teach, but I must soldier on and try to hide my incompetence from the uni and students alike. Yeah–that’ll fool them!)

  3. Indyanna on 01 Dec 2008 at 11:04 am #

    How about being back on the grad-grid, Historiann? Writing those pre-comps essays; driving to the U. in the town 50 miles over when your prof goes on leave; cooking your own food on those occasions when food becomes both available and affordable? That Survivor-kind-of-stuff? Even if your school wasn’t located on the proverbial Elm Street, that kind of a dream could have you waking up sweating glass bullets.

    Crazy’s scenario about the annoying course that forgets to get taught is something we do all the time over here in Bituminosia. Two decades ago–before anybody now in the department was here–”we” inaugurated a required-by- everybody course that was so eff’ing dumb “they” lost what we call the “Syllabus of Record.” So all we have to go on is the snippet-view of the catalogue description. The course has become a perpetual penance, however, bureaucratically, so its taught dozens of times a year. But nobody knows whether it’s actually the course that was approved by the curricular gods. As Nikita Kruschev once predicted, the living would envy the dead, and we do!

    p.s. Chutes and Ladders would be a great subject for a thread of its own!

  4. K on 01 Dec 2008 at 11:11 am #

    I have that same exact dream! Usually it’s a math or science course I have to take. Ugh–I hate it!

  5. New Kid on the Hallway on 01 Dec 2008 at 11:12 am #

    I had exactly the transition that Dr. Crazy describes! In grad school, I dreamed about finding out about a math class (or sometimes a Latin class) at the end of the quarter, and ran madly around trying to figure out how I could still get an A. (Nice, huh?) After I started teaching, it gradually morphed into dreaming that I’d look at the clock and realize I was supposed to be teaching a class that started 15 minutes ago. And I’m still at home in my pjs. Or I’d dream that I’d walk into the classroom and start teaching and no one would listen to me (in one memorable example, there were sportscasters in the back corner of the auditorium doing running commentary!).

    Alas, I have reverted – I recently dreamed that I was registered for a physics class I’d never attended. Since some of this law stuff makes as much sense to me as physics, I guess that’s fitting!

  6. Mary on 01 Dec 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    I’ve had New Kid’s Dream too!

    I recently dreamt that I was giving a lecture a feminist theory and no one was listening to me. And I don’t even teach.

  7. Erica on 01 Dec 2008 at 5:32 pm #

    I have that same dream, often serial form (starting one night and continuing throughout a week)… my college degree will be taken away unless I finish these high school classes, one of which is calculus (the others are something like art or study hall). And I don’t do any homework and don’t attend any classes and don’t learn the material and therefore am in danger of failing miserably, thus endangering my entire career.

    This is actually based on deep-seated guilt from doing badly in some engineering courses in college. For two semesters, I concentrated on extracurriculars and didn’t learn anything, and my deserved-but-pathetic grades reflected that. As a result, my overall GPA is C-something and I’ve always been pretty ashamed of that, since it reflects a half-assed attitude rather than my actual intellectual ability or my actual willingness to do work. It’s not current failure that my subconscious fears, it’s somebody digging into past failures.

    (While working in industry, I never dreamed I’d forgotten to file a critical paper or modify a critical manufacturing process. Guess that shows just how much I value THOSE experiences.)

    Now that I have to take the GRE again and apply to grad school, the general theme is taking the standardized exam — and of course I’ve forgotten a calculator, pencils, glasses, pants, and underwear, and I’ve shown up at the wrong test center, etc…

  8. Erica on 01 Dec 2008 at 5:34 pm #

    Oh yeah — and the really dumb part about the “argh I need to take calculus” dreams is that I liked calculus a lot both in high school and college :P

  9. Indyanna on 01 Dec 2008 at 6:26 pm #

    I actually flunked a course on my way out of college–a five prof., team-taught, interdisciplinary confection unaccountably called “Utopia.” It fortunately happened after everything was in place for graduate school. The usual-suspect reasons: politics, botanical products, bands, girls, senioritis, etc. But I briefly thought I’d gone and kilt my poor grandma, who was flying in for commencement. Fortunately, the whole academy was in meltdown that spring and the authorities were willing to allow one “F” to count for a credit (although without any credit points). It’s stayed out of my dreams, thankfully, and now I even show a .ppt of the wrecked transcript to students when teaching the senior seminar–as I will this spring–as a warning that no senioritis will be tolerated. Been there, been done by that…

    Ironically, “Utopia” turned out to be the only undergraduate course I ever took that had any direct subject-matter relevance to anything I ended up doing in historical practice, only not because of the Utopia part. Long story.

  10. Notorious Ph.D. on 02 Dec 2008 at 12:01 am #

    You know, I’ve heard that these “We made a mistake and now you have to go back and take class X” dreams are common among academics. I’ve never actually had one. I did post over at my place a recent dream that surely was about tenure review, and I once had a weird one about the job market that involved an ex-boyfriend, his wife, their child, and a river of exploding cheese, but that’s a story for another day.

    Seriously, though, no academic nightmare I’ve ever had can even come close on the anxiety meter to the many in-the-weeds nightmares I had during my many years working as a waitress.

  11. Ignatz on 02 Dec 2008 at 9:47 am #

    I did it the other way round- law school, 4 years as an attorney, then grad school. In first year law school my brain felt like a pretzel. The topics were interesting, but it took me a long time to get “it”–that indefinable thing that first-year teaches you (aka “thinking like a lawyer”–which does not mean mastering legalese or becoming an accomplished blowhard). Law school taught me to read carefully, write concisely (yep, they emphasize that nowadays),and argue assiduously.
    Grad school felt easy. In part, that’s because it suited my style of thinking and processing (ok, epistemology). Yet I think it would’ve been harder if I hadn’t been through law school.I’ll be interested to hear New Kid’s thoughts as ze proceeds.

  12. Kazimierz on 02 Dec 2008 at 11:27 am #

    Having lurked around here (via RSS) for months, it’s sad that this is the thing that first incites me to post — but I’m overwhelmed with relief that I’m not the only person having these dreams! Mine always send me back to secondary school (which for the most part was frustrating rather than nightmarish.) Teachers and other kids in the same dream seem vaguely to be aware that I’ve left the small town and gone off and done things, but they don’t care — they just demand that I get changed out of my gym kit and get myself to Physics class. In fact, it’s more about being imprisoned socially and having achievements taken away than about having to retake a particular class. Still, scary stuff. Is this part of Imposter Syndrome? (I’m a grad student, about two weeks from being ABD, so I’m suffering acutely from that at the moment!)

  13. Historiann on 02 Dec 2008 at 11:48 am #

    Kazimierz–thanks for stopping by and commenting. I think most type-A, eldest-child, responsible, good girls and good boys–you know, the kind of people who do well in grad school–have these dreams throughout their lives. I think it has more to do with performance anxiety than with imposter syndrome, although I don’t have this dream as often as I used to (I’m 12 years now post-Ph.D.) I think it’s more personality-driven than anything. If you care about doing your job well (whatever your job is at the time) and you care about racking up educational milestones, I think these dreams just happen. I also think they’re a good sign, in that it suggests that you care about your education and performance. After all, who wants to be someone who truly doesn’t care?

    Ignatz–welcome back. I wonder if any professional school seems easier when you’re closer to 30 than if you’re closer to 20? I think there is a LOT of signficant brain growth between 20 and 30 (or, it felt that way to me anyway. I’ve long thought that I might have been better off if I had started grad school at 26+ instead of at age 22. I got so much more out of what I was reading in my late 20s and early 30s that I wonder if my grad education was wasted on an immature brain. (Then again, it’s possible that that early training was the CAUSE of the awesome brain I developed by age 33 or so? Who knows?)

  14. notyettenured on 02 Dec 2008 at 7:16 pm #

    Actually, I’ve started having the opposite dream: something has prevented me/kept me from teaching a class I am obliged to teach. In this dream somehow I just can’t make it to the classroom on time, or I forget about a class I am supposed to be instructing for a long while, or I don’t have my notes with me, or have not prepped.

    In the worst of these dreams, the class I am neglecting to teach isn’t history (my discipline), but math!

    On the other hand, how’s this for a good historian’s dream: the other night I dreamed that Obama and I were both at a lunch counter ordering lunch. It wasn’t until I told someone about the dream and uttered the word “lunch counter” that I realized what the dream was about!

  15. Dreams: reflections in the looking glass : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 02 Oct 2009 at 6:02 am #

    [...] Most teachers and professors I know have had the same dream, or a close variation on it:  you are late to teach your first class of the new semester, and you’re very anxious because for some reason it’s a calculus class and you’re a historian and you’re not good at all with calculus, so you don’t know why someone thought that was an appropriate assignment for you and you don’t have a syllabus yet, or notes, or any idea what you’re going to teach in a calculus class, and you’re naked, besides, but you’re late and you know it’s very, very bad to be late even if it’s to a class you’re totally unprepared to teach!  And you’re naked!  And you can’t find the room, and you keep walking into the wrong classes!  Naked, and very, very late.  (We discussed dreams similar to this one last fall–remember?) [...]