The Second Semester

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The Second Semester

Post by KevinAndrewRRichards on Tue Apr 07, 2015 1:28 pm

Congratulations! You have made the transition into graduate school and have a full semester of coursework and teaching under your belt. Reflect on the first semester and your ongoing experiences this semester and comment on the following:

1. Describe an event or experience that you have found to be very positive and enjoyable related to your graduate education

2. Describe an event or experience during your graduate education that you have found to be frustrating or especially challenging

3. Reflect on your decision to enter graduate school immediately after completing your undergraduate degree. Are you still satisfied with your decision? Why or why not?

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Re: The Second Semester

Post by Kelly_Simonton on Mon Jun 08, 2015 1:19 pm

1. There have been a few instances that have occurred throughout this first year that have been positive and enjoyable. I really enjoy teaching my classes and connecting with the students. I also got my first experience assistant teaching in a lecture course and that was very motivational because I enjoyed doing it and I know some day I will be teaching those classes on my own and that is definitely what I want to do in my career. I also got my first experiences with research the second semester. This was very challenging with my limited background knowledge in this area but it seems to be something I will really enjoy moving forward. There have been a few times where I have been able to work with fellow professors and I enjoy that time to learn one on one and ask questions to better understand, whatever it is we are working on. To me it is too difficult to list one event or experience, my enjoyment is more a compilation of helping students (particularly in the PETE program), completing my first mini research project, and building some expertise in a few particular subjects.

2. There are a variety of things within my experience in graduate school that have been challenging and a few that were frustrating. As I said above, many thing that I actually enjoyed as I completed them were very challenging tasks for me. In particular learning to write professionally for papers has been of my biggest challenges. Research is a very complex process and takes a lot of time, that in itself is challenging and when you add that to a bust teaching schedule frustration can build. I felt at times my work could have been better if I had more time to work on projects and spend less time teaching my classes. However, I enjoy the teaching and in the grand scheme of things I have realized that classes are practice toward and ultimate goal and to understand the process is just as crucial as being able to complete the tasks. The times that I have felt frustration have been times of uncertainty of lack of clarity. Sometimes this happens during assignment tasks and when my professors assign me projects. I really try and spend time to gain complete understanding and I will get frustrated if I am asked to perform assignments when I don't feel I am completely prepared. As a teacher I know this can be part of the learning process and I value that but when I get a grade that affects me without a lot of practice, I almost feel doomed to not be successful. There is a lot of pressure to get things done right the first time. It's not that I can't do it but I can see those moments as being most frustrating. As far as my responsibilities there are a variety of frustrations associated with administrative pieces associated with teaching. There is a lack of leadership, I feel, from the supervising professor for activity classes. While I understand, they probably to place a lot of value on the activity courses, it is still important to show they are paying attention to our efforts and to the success of our classes. For one, I feel the delivery of information would be better, the students would get more out of the classes and if more guidance was provided at the beginning I feel the graduate assistants would take pride in the work. Too many assumptions are made in classes and teaching responsibilities and for someone like me, looking back, would have benefitted from some extra guidance at the beginning and now wouldn't need any help and wouldn't have to bring up questions every couple of months.

3. I still believe that going straight to graduate school was the best decision for me. If I would have gone to teach in a school I know I would have worked really hard and I would have made it my mission to have the kids love PE and share an appreciation for its importance. I know I would have had goals my class and for me professionally, but I also feel that I would have ended up being miserable. Obviously, that is all speculation at this point but at this point with the understanding I have of myself I would have always wanted more. With the decision to get my master’s degree, I am basically in the same boat and may have provided a few more opportunities then I had before coming to graduate school. But, with my ultimate goal to go for my PhD, I think I can meet the level of satisfaction and expertise I want to achieve. There are times it is hard to weigh the long term outcomes with the short. I will meet with friends who have jobs, money, and a better sense of professional security. Those are all things I could have had going right for a job but I feel that would have been wasted time if my plan is to get a PhD. Being able to reflect is also something I value and I have been caught in few different frames of thought. The first is that I completed my undergrad and really excelled in school for one of the first times ever. So, I built up this knowledge and ability and it was time to start an occupation. But I chose to go to graduate school, which I don’t regret, but there are times I feel like I am starting over with my knowledge and I don’t have an expertise or ability that I though I did have. To me, that identity is important and shows some justification to becoming educated and spending all that time and effort toward a goal. By starting over there is a fear that I may not become the expert or have the ability I thought I could. And maybe it’s just like everything else, where these is some uncertainty at the beginning and as you go through the process it will make sense at the end. I believe that will be the case, but if you are asking me how I feel right now that’s definitely something I am trying understand at this moment. The second reflection I have also relates to my identity. Sometimes I feel that the person I was or the person I identified with during my undergraduate isn’t the same to who I am now. I am sorry if this answer doesn’t relate to the educational experience exactly but to me there is a change from a particular professional to another type of professional. I was always fairly outgoing and didn’t always teach or learn “according to the book” I always felt I was more direct and didn’t do things like everyone else. I always felt I had an edge over others in my group because I was able to do things they couldn’t. But recently things like the levels of professionalism that is expected of me kind of forces me into this mold and square boring professional that I always said I didn’t want to be. From things I have to say to even the clothes I wear I don’t feel like I am the person who got me to this point. Maybe it’s good, maybe changing is an important part of growing into an adult and professional. But right now, the things about me and some of my values have changed and been tested and I have never, not, been a confident person but there are times I don’t feel prepared or have the ability to achieve my goals. So as far as graduate school my experience has put me at a point that it could potentially be the most challenging thing I have ever tried to complete and the first time I wasn’t sure I could complete it. I know that this is part of the deal and it wouldn’t be easy or else everyone could do it. But besides the fight of trying to be the best in classes and building relationships with professors there is the added pressure of finding my “new” identity that doesn’t match who I knew I was as I graduated from undergraduate school.

Kelly_Simonton

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Post by Angela_Chambers on Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:39 am

I too have had many enjoyable and positive events/experiences related to my graduate education. The greatest experience has been being able to teach my own classes, Tennis in particular. The Kinesiology program does provide a few guidelines for this type of course, but as graduate students we are provided with autonomy in relation to the class organization and content. Coming from a PETE program, this brings me a ton of joy because I get to practice everything I was taught! As stated before, I was always a bit conflicted about going straight through school without teaching experience, but by mostly creating my own course, I have been able to gain teaching experience. My advisor told me one time, "It's still teaching at the college level, just a different set of problems." For my classes, I have applied the Sport Education Model. This has been working out fantastic! Each class has about six groups, four in each group. By grouping the students, I have watched so many new friendships grow. Also, I have witnessed skill increase dramatically. It is a 42 day unit, and the students get tons of practice. Now, this spring the weather was not on my side. It rained almost every day for the first two to three weeks! The students were going crazy having to be inside for class, and one student in particular was really upset because when we did go outside (maybe one day per week during those first three weeks) she wasn’t very successful (very low skilled individual). As the weather cleared, we were outside for the rest of the semester with the exception of only a few days. This student was still unhappy with her skill level in the middle of the semester. I think this may have partially been due to her attitude. She would always tell me, “I can’t do it,” when I tried to encourage her! Every day I would try to catch her striking the ball well and tell her how well she was doing. Toward the end of the semester she was contacting the ball so well, and she was able to rallying with her teammates up to 10 hits in a row! I had other students in the class like this, and I tried to encourage them as well, but I didn’t even realize how much of an impact I made on this student until the last day of class. She had emailed Kelly to ask him what my favorite flavor of cookies were. At the end of class on the last day, she gave me a plate of my favorite cookies and told me how much of an impact I made on her skill performance as well as her attitude toward activities she has never played before! She felt as though she could try new things and be successful. I was the only teacher she had ever done this for is what she told me. It’s moments like that that help me realize how much I love teaching, especially at higher level such as college because the students can comprehend and recognize what I am trying to help them accomplish.

At the University of Wyoming, there is a fantastic student organization. In the student organization, members actively work together to generate revenue to send some if not all of the members to conferences. They have multiple fundraisers, tons of sponsors, etc. The student organization in Wyoming is filled with mostly undergraduates since there is not a doctoral program at the school, but the few master’s candidates (3 or 4?) that do attend school there I believe are somewhat involved in the program. Don’t quote me on that. Here at LSU, there is a doctoral program, and there are a ton of graduate students in the Kinesiology program (at least 15, if not more). It is my belief that these individuals (graduate students) should be going to great conferences to network and learn because they are about to go looking for jobs in academia, but sadly there is no funding. The Kinesiology student organization at LSU is extremely unorganized. This may be due to a lack of leadership from the organization Faculty member and undergraduate president of the group, but also pure laziness. They don’t have any dues, fundraisers, or sponsors. Kelly and I have tried to contact the president to help, but haven’t gotten any replies. For graduate students that submit proposals, the School of Kinesiology in combination with the LSU Board only provide approximately $150, enough to cover half of a plane ticket. So to answer the question, I would say that funding for professional development and networking is the most frustrating and challenging experience that I have encountered.

I am completely satisfied with my decision! As I described in my response to question one, my biggest concern was teaching experience. As a GA, I am gaining the teaching experience that I need. In the future semesters, I may even have opportunities to enter and teach in the high school classroom, increasing my teaching experience. There are times I think what it would have been like to simply get a job, especially when I have a professor from UW emailing me and other graduates of the undergrad PETE program about all the PE job openings in Wyoming. I even think about it when grad school gets really tough and stressful, but I just know that this is the right thing for me. I belong in academia. I have developed great working relationships with several of the professors here at LSU. A professor has even asked me to step into their classroom to help their students with their teaching and classroom management. When you go through undergrad and are expecting to get a job right after, you here of all the job socialization problems or challenges that might be encountered when getting a job. For example, you may have to work with other physical educators who employ traditional PE (roll out the ball). In this example, you may find it difficult to employ the strategies you were taught in undergrad, or you may even just give in to their strategy. In academia, from what I have experienced thus far, you are respected for your knowledge and expertise, and you are encouraged to share it with your students and even other professors at times. Undergrad in a somewhat small town, in a small state, also only provided me with a relatively funneled education. Don’t get me wrong. UW’s PETE program is INCREDIBLE! I learned so much about teaching physical education, and I had so many amazing opportunities to apply my knowledge, but since coming to Louisiana, witnessing a different program, and broadening the scope, I have learned so much. In undergrad I learned mostly about physical education. As a graduate student, the scope has broadened to Kinesiology, and there are so many things that I didn’t know! And there are so many things that I still want to know. Ultimately, I am happy with my decision due to the autonomy that I have been provided and enjoy, as well as graduate schools ability to please my eager pursuit for more knowledge.

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Re: The Second Semester

Post by KevinAndrewRRichards on Thu Jun 18, 2015 10:14 am

Kelly and Angela

Thank you both for your in-depth and insightful responses! I enjoyed reading about your successes and can empathize with many of your challenges and frustrations. Reading about the comfort you have in your decision to go directly to graduate school makes me feel more confident in my decision as well. Below I have outlined some responses to both of your comments. Please follow up with any additional questions that you have:

Kelly - early in your discussion of challenges you begin to hint at some of the pressures associated with trying to managed coursework with research and teaching responsibilities. This is a struggle that I know all too well and continue to experience. Some days I spend so much time preparing for my teaching responsibilities that I feel as if I am neglecting my research, but when I try to focus on research I feel unprepared to teach. It has taken me a lot of time and effort to find a system that both works and with which I am comfortable, but I think I am getting better. Even if this does mean writing from home and on the weekends so I can focus my office time on teaching. I have also managed this tension by finding ways to combine research and teaching. I may get an idea for a research project while teaching, or try to bring some lessons I have learned through research into the classroom. As you continue to grow as a graduate student and research becomes a more prominent fixture in your life, you may feel more of this stress developing. Know that you are not alone and that you will find a way to balance it.

The problem you comment on with the professor overseeing your teaching assignment may be a symptom of the teaching/research conflict as well. Unfortunately, faculty members are often not rewarded adequately for their teaching, and he likely does not want or care about this supervision to the extent that he could/should. That is not an excuse. I agree that additional guidance for graduate teaching assistants would be a good thing. You and Angela have a leg up because you were trained to be teachers, but think about how students with an exercise science undergraduate degree must feel! Teaching is not easy and many programs do not do an adequate job of preparing their graduate students for the responsibility. I love being an academic, but one things that does really frustrate me about large, research universities is that the cultural norm is to not care enough about teaching. The message to faculty to sometimes to do your research and be an adequate teacher and that will be enough. It is like we forget that without students and those classes to teach the university would not exist!

It seems that you and I think about our lack of teaching experience in a very similar way. I think I could have been a pretty good PE teacher, but that is not where my heart was, and I know that I would have gotten very frustrated with the roll-out-the-ball PE colleagues that I may have worked with. I knew that being an academic was what I wanted to do, so spending time in schools just to say that I had a few years of teaching experience felt like it would have been a waste of time. Not to say that it would not have been valuable, but I do not think my heart would have been in it. With that said, I know exactly what you mean when you talk about uncertainty and feeling a lack of expertise. I felt the same way. Most undergraduate PETE programs do not do any research development whatsoever. I believe this is a serious problem. Not only does it make it difficult for students like us who want to go to graduate school, but it also means that students who go directly into K-12 teaching are not taught to read or value research. Most universities have an assessment course, but assessment and research are two very different things and require different skills and motivation. I wonder if there would be value in adding an action research requirement to undergraduate programs where students have to design and conduct an independent research project. Something like that would have put us in a better position, and may teach others to value research more.

Angela - Having your undergraduate degree in physical education definitely seems to have given you a leg up in your GTA assignment! I agree that teaching at the college level is still an important and relevant type of teaching, and that it is a great opportunity for you to practice and use the skills you learned during your PETE program experience! It sounds like things are really coming together for you on the teaching side of things! The story to told about the student in your class really touched me! Isn't it amazing that, regardless of the level at which you are teaching, its the relationships with your students that make it a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Having one student go out of his/her way to tell you that you made an impact can overcome all of the frustrations that can accompany teaching, at times.

Your note about the perceived laziness of other students in your program really hit me because that is something that I have struggled with in the past and am still battling now. The two of you seem a lot like me in the sense that we like to move on projects and tasks, cross them off our lists, and move on to the next thing. Unfortunately, not everyone works that way. You will learn that there are some people that you can trust and rely on and you will align yourselves with those people. For me, it has been people like Kim Graber, Tom Templin, Michael Hemphill, and Karen. We have similar research interests, have each other's backs, and work together in meaningful ways. As I have found, you will probably also find people who you do one project with and then never want to work with again. This has been a round-about way for me to say that, even in academia, there are people who are lazy and want to do the minimum. Unfortunately, the culture of academia - which has little regular accountability and awards tenure - can breed complacency. My advice would be that you remain resolute in your desire to not become that person and align yourself with other who are also motivated.

Thank you again for your insightful and thoughtful posts. I am looking forward to our next conversation on the telephone

Sincerely

KARR

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