Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Unlike Riding a Bicycle

I used to be really good at writing papers. By the end of undergrad I was consistently averaging about a half hour per page, including time spent outlining, finding quotes, etc. Even more impressive, this included all the time I spent being distracted and doing things like checking to see if every single friends had changed their AIM away message in the last 15 minutes.

So when I had to write my first grad school paper this past weekend, I knew I wouldn't be quite on top of my game, but assumed that once I got back into the groove, I'd be able to make good time. Such good time, in fact, that I took a trip up to Santa Rosa in the wine country on Saturday evening/night/Sunday morning (/afternoon because of the nap I took to recover). I started the paper, which was to be 3000 words (about 6 pages, depending on your margins), on Saturday around noon. I had a terrible time even getting my thoughts down and into enough organisation that I could even attempt an outline. By the time I left for Santa Rosa, I'd written about two pages. On Sunday I picked it up again around 3pm and finally finished my editing at 12:30pm.

That's pretty munch unacceptable, as far as I'm concerned. The worst part was not so much the amount of time, but my lack of efficiency. I don't know when I lost my ability to concentrate, but it definitely happened sometime in the past three years. I know that when I was working in offices, I spent a good deal of time taking short breaks to find out if I had any new emails or what the New York Times (or thesuperficial.com) had to say for the day. You organize your time much differently when you have eight hours a day set aside specifically for work (and you're getting paid for it).

So it's time to get back into school mode, not just for the sake of the next 11 months, but for my future career. Much of what goes into being a good teacher happens outside the class periods, and if I can't sit down to write a lesson plan without checking Facebook every five minutes, I'm in trouble. Good thing I have another paper due tomorrow, so I already have a chance to improve. I'll let you know how I go.

9 comments:

Peter said...

Oh, how I wish I could solve exactly that problem. I can't concentrate at all anymore. I used to think that I was just 'dumbening,' but then I've realized that I just can't focus on anything for longer than two minutes. :-(

On a similar note, I've started learning to unicycle. I'd forgotten what it feels like to have to learn something that takes massive coordination. Perhaps that will be what I need to build back some of that focus.

SWE said...

I think it's age. I started losing the ability to concentrate during my junior year of college, and it's never really come back in ways that I've found meaningful. No matter what I do. Lots of reading seems to help a bit. If you find the ticket to mental acuity beyond one's mid 20s, lemmie know and I'll help you make a fortune off of it...

Char said...

Not to be discouraged, Geetha! You will hit your stride again. You haven't lost your abilities, you're just out of practice. Before you know it, with the "help" of many writing assignments, you will regain your previous abilities to process, organize thoughts, and put them down in writing.

The first semester of grad school may seem intimidating, but it really isn't. I think you will find it as different as going from high school to university, but in many ways a vey satisfying way of learning. This comes from one who waited 10 years for her first grad. program, and then an additional 15 for the next. Many others I know who have done the same have similarly found the first semester back daunting, but after that, a joy in realizing the brain is as sharp, if not sharper, than ever.

I am confident that you will shine! As for the lesson plan thing, just spread all you need in front of you and only allow bathroom breaks, and just get it done. Find a good plan book you are comfortable with--and do what your professors say you have to do with writing the plans. When you are "on your own", you will modify what they have taught and use what is useful for you. (Or expected by your administrator.) You are going to be an awesome teacher!

Jen said...

It comes back...

Linda said...

It is interesting that the young'uns are bemoaning the loss of concentration powers while the old fogies are reassuring that it comes back. It does come back. I started my library degree at 50 and graduated with a 4.0 (not that it was that hard, but I did succeed in writing papers and paying attention to on-line lectures and chats) so you can do it. Your brain will adapt--if only to let you go out and enjoy the beach when you are done. Lesson plans will get easier when you have all of the steps figured out and, as Char says, have everything at your fingertips. There is that wonderful poem from Frances (the badger of "Bread and Jam for Frances" and other such books) that says "homework is very fat" because she keeps needing to distract herself, mostly with food. Hang in there. It will return or you will adjust or probably both will happen.

Geetha said...

Great, so now homework is going to make me fat too. As if I didn't have enough to worry about already...

Linda said...

Homework will only make you fat if you let. Badgers are notoriously lacking in self-control.

Jen said...

Yeah, Geetha, what you expect from a badger that lives on jam?

Roni said...

They say necessity is the mother of invention. I invented a two week holiday for myself wherein I was not allowed to do any work...wanted to try doing the holidays the Kiwi way. Now, my first week back, I've been freakishly productive because I have to; I have lots of tight deadlines and I just have to get things written off, printed off, and done in order to get to the next thing. It nice in the sense that I have lots of goals to keep me motivated.

You'll get lots of papers and will soon remember what it's like to have a boss/professor/60 insistent teenagers breathing down your neck. That's a pretty good motivator for me. :)