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academic struggles and future teaching

I'm having difficulty focusing my mind on writing journal entries. I have a lot of things I'd like to write down; but life seems to be moving at break-neck speed, and I guess I am afraid to slow down long enough to think about writing coherently--unless it's for a paper. The papers seem to be taking a lot of my thinking energy. When I think about writing my own thoughts down, I just get tired. Perhaps I should try using a tape recorder and then transcribe them...

I've been very frustrated at my seeming inability to think at whatever level seems to be expected of graduate students. This is exactly what I was afraid of when I talked with my therapist about my cognitive weaknesses prior to the start of school. I take things at face value; and apparently at this level of education, one is supposed to move beyond face value and make inferences, draw conclusions, etc. I don't know whether the issue is that I can't or that I'm afraid of drawing the wrong conclusions. I know that there is at least a partial psychological element involved. For most of my life, I have been chided for reading too much into things people say (coming to the wrong conclusions). I have spent a long time developing the habit of taking things at face value. Now I have to develop the habit of drawing conclusions--and take things at face value or draw conclusions as the situation demands. I must risk drawing the wrong conclusions if I am ever to find the right ones.

On top of all of this emotional work (and this is not the only emotional work I am doing), I must deal with big words. I've never been good at vocabulary or memorizing facts. In graduate school, one doesn't memorize facts in order to spit them out on a test and then forget them. But facts must be memorized in order to then be used later. They really can never be forgotten: much of the coursework here is interrelated. In a way this is good. What I am learning in one class reinforces what I'm learning in another. However, in a way this makes the memory and vocabulary issues very stressful. I am always aware that those little facts and big words may be needed for a discussion or a paper--and that I may not know enough to speak or write "at the graduate level." It's hard enough to improve my skills using familiar facts and terms. It's absolutely terrifying trying to do this with new material that I can barely retain.

But I need to keep going, and somehow I need to master this. There is a reason: something that is part of my philosophy of education. Theology, church history, philosophy, etc, can't be "smart people subjects." There surely mustbe a way for a person like me--or even a person with less cognitive skill than I have--to learn these things. And if that person demonstrates giftedness and feels a calling to an area that requires graduate-level theological education, there must be a way that the person can succeed. What is the answer? Different textbooks? Different lecture/discussion formats? Different testing strategies? The way that the teacher/student relationship develops? It matters to me as a future teacher.

I find myself often thinking about what I would do similarly or differently as a teacher, wondering how I would handle various scenarios, what kinds of courses I would like to teach, etc. I should be writing many more entries... I need to keep track of my thoughts.

Studying is getting somewhat easier; but I've made a lot of silly mistakes on papers that have cost me points. Many of these were due to side effects of a new medication. All that I can do is learn from this. I need to be especially dilligent about editing because of my medications and side effects. But I am angry that I need that extra dilligence and angry that I did not use it.


Sarah Blake LaRose
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August 2016