By: Rhode-Elise St Jacques
This is my last semester as a graduate student. Soon, I will no longer worry about writing papers and reading articles and studying all night and living at the library. Soon, I can have a social life again and wake up late and read and re-read books that I have been looking forward to and no longer feel the pressure of due dates and the horror of earning less than an A.
But, as appealing as finishing school is, there is a part of me—a small part of me—that is dreading it. That’s right—dreading it! Because school has been my life for the last seven years and has introduced me to people, places, theories, and ideas that I could have never imagined. School has taken me around the world five times and has awarded me grants and scholarships and fellowships.
Who am I if not a student?
Who will I be if I don’t have courses and presentations and assignments?
This fear, I know, is illogical. After all, I am preparing to be a college instructor, and the best case scenario would be a job after graduation which means I will still be in school and the school environment. Therefore, due dates and coursework and applying for grants and even fellowships will not be over; they will only take a different form. So then, what am I really scared of?
As a teaching assistant, I love my job and constantly imagine what it will be like to work as a real teacher instead of just a TA. I have thought of lesson plans, and term projects and of books and stories I will introduce to my students. I have dreamed of seeing students grow, and making a difference, and of being the kind of teacher that students recommend their friends.
Perhaps the fear is having to live up to the teacher of my imagination, knowing that I will no longer be a TA and no one will forgive me if I am less than perfect, and my students will not understand if I don’t know the answer to a question and worst of all, though I am well liked by my students and my coworkers, they are not the ones doing the hiring. So the fear then is not only of being an incompetent teacher, but of not being a teacher at all, of not being given the chance to exhibit my competence…or lack thereof.
As someone once told me, fear is paralyzing. Furthermore, time is moving on; I cannot stay still. The due date of my last assignment is quickly approaching. So I am updating my CV and revising my cover letter. I am scouring the want ads for the right position. I am looking for work. And instead of fear, I am moving on with confidence. I am confident that all of my years of studies will reflect my theoretical knowledge, my CV will properly outline my accomplishments, my recommendation letters will boast of my qualifications, and on the day of the interview, I will get the job.
Who will I be then? I don’t know. Will I live up to my own expectations? I can only be confident that I will.
Rhode-Elise St Jacques is a graduate student from the City College of New York, CUNY and the University of Graz in Austria pursuing joint degrees in Language and Literacy, and English and American Studies. She has participated in five international programs including a 10 day tour of Japan. She just completed her coursework in the Otto Friedrich University in Bamberg, Germany. She is now finishing up her thesis and hopes to be an English teacher at the University level.