This week has been a bit of a transitional time for me. I went from fully focused on just getting through the day to day of student teaching for the next two weeks, then being informed that I only had a couple more days (long story), then realizing that as this experience ends the next one is right around the corner: The Thesis Process of Doom.
I say of Doom, because going to the meeting last night where we confirmed our topics and were given a "quick" overview of what was in store for us wasn't particularly encouraging.
For one thing, we discovered that the timeline of this whole process that we had been sold a couple of years ago when signing up for the program was a little bit... obscured. They recruit you by saying you'll be done with your credential and degree in 18 months! Just like that! Sure we only schedule a semester for the actual writing of the thesis, but you know, it's okay. You'll finish!
To be fair, I know people who have gotten advanced degrees. I know how long it took some of them to get their thesis done. Still, somehow my brain failed to address the disconnect between that knowledge and critically considering their claim that a thesis could happen in a semester, start to finish.
Last night, the head of the thesis program at the school sat us all down, and the first question asked was, "what will it take to get it done by April 21st, so we can walk next Spring like they told us we could?"
The answer was, "you should have been spending the last year writing your Lit Review."
You can imagine the shock on our collective faces. See, at the end of our first semester, when we had our research class with this professor, she told us that we should probably like, try to read an article a week, or something like that. It would help us out a lot. At least, that's what most of us heard. We heard, "you'll still be fine if you don't, if you focus on all the other wild amounts of work, and not to mention the student teaching experience which is a little bit all consuming."
We did not hear, "if you want to finish by the date we told you is a possibility, you must do this or else your chances are zilch."
We did not hear, "only ONE person in the history of the program [albeit still young] has ever started from just an idea for a topic and managed to get the whole thing done in a semester, and she basically didn't sleep."
We did not hear, "by the way, if you don't finish on time, you have to re-enroll for another 5 unit class to be able to defend it when you do finish [which is currently about $3K]."
All of this would have been super useful to know a year ago. Not because I would have approached the year entirely differently, though I may have at least tried. Honestly, the way the year went, I don't know if I could have changed anything, even if I wanted to. Even then, it would have been nice to know that I was likely looking at a longer process if I didn't put in the extra effort during this year.
It's terrible to learn you could have done something if you had understood the full situation, well after the fact.
So now I have to decide. I will sign up for the classes this semester no matter what. It's the way to get access to a thesis mentor which seems to be the best way for me to have 1) accountability, and 2) a sounding board when I'm stuck. Those are both extremely valuable to me. I know myself too well to forego that support system.
But I have to decide.
Do I try and beast through it this semester, at the cost of what sanity I have left, and a lot of other things like money, social life (what's left after this year, which isn't much anyway), and any plans for volunteering or writing, or anything that really helps keep me sane?
Do I slow the process down, work more this semester, and have to pay extra when I get the whole mess done and I'm finally ready to defend?
Do I forfeit the goal to be over and done with at the end of next Spring, to be free and clear to pursue a teaching job without that pesky elephant in the back of my mind of, "but you haven't finished the thesis yet!"?
The thing is, I am truly terrible at doing two things at once. At least, two huge things. A lot of my stress of the year was from the drastic mindset shift from working on school to my part time on the same day, even at a job I was established in and comfortable in. Also, still only part time.
Based on my student teaching experience, I think it's fairly safe to say that I will not be successful at working as a full-time teacher AND writing a thesis at the same time. So then, my option is to not work any more than strictly necessary as a sub for as long as it takes? Also not great.
This post is basically me trying to work out these choices in writing. Yay for insights into how my brain works!? I don't know, honestly. This all came down at the worst time possible. I am already physically, emotionally, and mentally shot from this semester, this year, this whole school process up to this point.
I think my first decision is going to be this: I'm going to take a week. Take a week to see my friends. To sleep. To mentally recharge. To zone out reading a book that has nothing to do with education. To play a game or two. Clean my room. Impose some organization on my life. To process the magnitude of the whole situation.
And then I'll make the big money and time decisions. When I'm not in shock. Which will hopefully be soon.