taking a turn for the better

Sorry for the delay in posts; graduate school consumes about 70% of my life now (and that’s probably an understatement).  The first weekend of the month I actually flew home to see my cousin get married to her high school sweetheart.  It was beautiful, and it was wonderful to see my family.

casie

Last week I struggled with anxiety, and I was very sick on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thankfully I’m feeling better.  I definitely bounced back more quickly than I would have this time last year.  I’m thankful to have Cason here by my side.  The move to Texas has been a transition for the both of us, but we are making it through together.  Cason has a new job.  I have new friends, I think (which is a big deal for me).  I’ve even managed to stay in touch with some GA friends, and that’s honestly something I was most worried about; I’m terrible about keeping in touch, even with my best friends.  I’m blessed to have friends who reach out to me especially given that we are all so busy.

Cason and I also believe we have found a new church home.  The worship music is an excellent combination of contemporary worship music and new renditions of old hymns; it reminds me of RUF worship at Mercer. (Shout out to the RUF band! Miss you!)   The sermons provide informative historical backgrounds for the verses each week, and I really like his preaching style.  It’s all very Bible-oriented, which should be a no-brainer for the church, but these days it’s harder to find someone who actually preaches the Bible.

hymnpainting

Anyway, now to school-related things.  The past couple of weeks I have advised my undergraduate students to evaluate their midterm goals, so I decided to make a few of my own.  I’ve encouraged my students to be open and honest, and I tried to do the same on my evaluation.  Writing these goals down helped me get the ball rolling in some areas.  I’ve already met a couple of goals on there, like talking to my professors, scheduling more time for coursework, and studying with my peers.  Perhaps I should add some more goals to this list!  Graduate school is bringing out a whole new side of me, and I like it!

midtermgoals
My brutally honest midterm goals evaluation.

I have my first exam in Ethics of School Psychology (<–short version of the course title) on Monday, and I’ve made a study plan to help me tackle all the information from 7 class days, an entire textbook,  our program handbook, 10+ articles, and multiple PowerPoint presentations.  Needless to say, I have a lot of studying to do, and it has already begun.  Hopefully my brain won’t be fried after class and I can keep studying this evening.  Even though I’ve only been there a couple of times, Common Grounds is one of my favorite places to study.  Expect to find me there all weekend.

studying

Lastly, today is my 1 year anniversary of this blog, and it’s Baylor homecoming week.  Sic’em.

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how to survive your first week in graduate school

  1. BREATHE.
    Remember that even though you’ve experienced 4 years of college, graduate school is a new experience.  Amidst learning a new schedule, meeting new people, figuring out professors’ expectations, and completing loads of assignments, I have to take a moment to myself each day to pause and just breathe.  Some days just stopping to catch my breath, counting the number of slow inhales and exhales, relaxes me.  Graduate school is stressful, but there’s something about consciously breathing in and out that reminds me that I’m alive!  I’m going to make it!  It’s a great way to pause and refocus before moving on to the next task in a list of many.
  2. SLEEP.
    Gone are the days of staying up until 1 or 2am and sleeping until 10 or 11am.  Gone.  Now, 12am is a late bedtime for me, and sleeping until 8:30 or 9 is a luxury.  Honestly, I’m more okay with that than I thought I would be.  Completing tasks in the morning and early afternoon gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Waiting the night before an assignment was due never gave me that.
    Sleeping on a regular schedule actually reduces stress.  Yes, I know that people have told me this for years, but I’m finally realizing it.  Perhaps I’m a slow learner at times, but now that I’ve got this routine down, I feel indescribably better.  Sleep is now something that I look forward to, as opposed to a burden.  Getting a good night’s rest is crucial in graduate school.  The days will be long and miserable after a poor night’s sleep.coffee
  3. EAT.
    …don’t just eat–eat well.  Okay, okay, so I’m still trying to cut out those sodas at dinner and the fast food junk when I’m in a jam.  BUT eating well boosts energy and overall attitude.  Snacks that are high in protein have become a staple for me.  I keep almonds in my desk drawer at work; I’ll throw some low-sodium jerky in my purse for a snack; greek yogurt with fruit and granola is quickly becoming a favorite; and peanut butter will always be my protein comfort food.  I can definitely tell a difference in my attitude and energy level on days when I forget my snacks.  Nobody wants a tired, grumpy graduate student, so handy snacks are a must.
    Oh, and breakfast is ALWAYS a good idea.  My Keurig is great, but the caffeine from the coffee is not going to last.  Muffins, breakfast bars, fruit–a must.  I never thought I’d become a believer in breakfast, but I’ve been converted.
  4. READ.
    Do the assignments.  Do them ahead of time.  Plan every hour of every day and squeeze in reading time whenever possible.  I print out articles and carry them around in my purse.  I carry my books to the office and read between appointments.  I read over breakfast, lunch, and usually dinner.  I read constantly, it feels like.  Sometimes the professors cover the material and sometimes they talk about something entirely different.  Either way, completing the reading gives me a better idea of what to expect in class and enables me to answer questions and discuss things with the class.

cantsintocans

That’s the best advice I have, and just to be honest, I typed it out mostly for my own benefit.  My lifestyle changed drastically in the past three weeks, and it’s a good change.  This post will serve as a reminder to keep it up when I feel like giving in.

My first couple of weeks of class have been stressful, it’s true, but they have been overwhelmingly good.  Even though the work is never-ending, I am thankful to finally be able to focus on school psychology.  I’d rather read 5 articles and upwards of 10 chapters a week about school psychology than have a smaller load of gen. ed. classes.

and the countdown continues

THREE WEEKS…and the excitement is currently overwhelming.  I get excited/overwhelmed and cry at everything.  I don’t sleep.  It’s going to feel like the night before Christmas for the next few weeks, and honestly it may get a little ridiculous.  I feel like a hormonal teenager, but I’m honestly just super excited.

This week everyone in my cohort found out their graduate assistantship positions.  By the grace of God and extreme devotion and hard work from our program director (and potentially others, behind the scenes), everyone in our cohort has 100% tuition remission for the fall and spring!  That means we pay nothing but fees for our first year in grad school!  If you don’t believe me, here’s the email:
TR

In other exciting news, I got my first book for grad school today!  Along with my professor, this book will teach me all about the DAS-II…don’t ask me what that is.  Just kidding…it’s a “psychological assessment instrument” (aka, a test) that measures certain cognitive abilities for children from the ages of about 2-17 years; at least, that’s what I gather from the first page. 😉 Here’s a photo of me with my happy face and my new book:
DASbook

I think I’ve really found where I’m supposed to be.  I’m ready to get to Texas.  I’m ready to start learning.  I’m ready for the next chapter.  I don’t doubt that it will be difficult.  I don’t doubt that it will take work.  I do hope, though, that for the most part it ends up being fun work, and I do believe that it will all be worth it.  I forgot how much I love to learn, and I’m just ready to get back in the groove.  I’m ready to have more of a schedule.  I’m ready for everything…except the rest of the packing that I still have to do.  Oh, and the drive.  I’m not ready for the 13-hour drive.  Other than that, let’s get this show on the road!

 

welcome to pre-k

Last Friday I completed my third full week as a Pre-K paraprofessional, and I’m amazed at how quickly I have become attached to these 4-year-olds.  There are still three weeks of school left, but I moved to another room this week.  I have mixed emotions about that because I feel like I have just started bonding with the 20 kids in my first class.

Over the past three weeks, one child, who rarely talked at school started talking to me regularly.  He has started asking for the things he needs and telling me the things he wants.  He still speaks softly, and sometimes I have a hard time understanding him.  However, it is no small accomplishment that he has gone from not talking at all, not even with his peers, to talking intermittently throughout the day.  It absolutely melts my heart when he asks me to come sit by him or asks me if he can pass out the spoons at lunch.

Honestly, that’s what I want to see happen in students.  If God uses me to touch one life out of 20 young ones, then I will feel blessed and greatful beyond measure.  I can’t even begin to express how excited I am to be going back to school in the fall to learn how to help at-risk students.  There have certainly been ups and downs with this new job.  I’m not a super fan of the level of ‘babysitting’ I have to do with Pre-K students, but it has taught me invaluable lessons about these children.  I think people would really be amazed at how much 4-year-olds analyze and feel and manipulate.  Human beings are capable of tremendous achievements, and children at this age are very impressionable.  They are sponges that soak up everything you give them.  I think the greatest fault we could have as educators is to expect too little out of these young minds.  They want structure.  They want to learn and be pushed.  They are capable of more than even they realize.  I’ve been amazed, truly.

This wasn’t quite the lengthy post I had anticipated, but I just wanted to write a little about my new job.  I’m sure the subject will continue to come up as there are two and a half weeks left.  Hopefully I will be back to write more sooner rather than later.

life is a roller coaster

Last Wednesday night I was watching TV with my mom upstairs and surfing the web when I decided to check my email.  Suddenly I jumped up from my favorite recliner, grabbed my mother by the hand, and led her downstairs to where my dad was reading and proceeded to read:

baylorbears

“Dear Jessica,
The School Psychology Faculty Committee completed its review of candidates for the 2013-2014 academic year and we were very impressed with your application…We would like to complete a 30-40 minute interview via Skype in the next few weeks…”

Then my dad, not missing a beat, replied, “Well, I guess you’ll be moving to Texas then.”  Perhaps he got a little ahead of the situation, but I am very excited about interviewing with BAYLOR, and I’m certainly hoping and praying for the opportunity to attend graduate school there.

This whole graduate school application process has truly been grueling, but there are two moments thus far that have been more rewarding than I anticipated.  Obviously getting an email for an interview is a pretty rewarding moment.  However, I also keep thinking back to the difficult time I was having with writing my personal statement.  I tend to write in a stream of consciousness, often providing more details than necessary or desired, so coming up with a format that would fit my life history and future desires into a brief personal statement was a challenge in itself.  Content was also difficult; I wanted to include everything because everything feels relevant to who I am as a person.  However, I knew everything would not seem relevant to the professors who would review my application.  I had a lot of decisions to make when writing my personal statement, but quite frankly I was over thinking the whole thing.  One evening I sat down with a detailed outline and several very rough drafts, and instead of following those, I decided to write what was on my heart.  I thought to myself, “What do I want to do, and why do I want to do it?”  Then, I started crying.

That was the first rewarding experience that I had with this application process because for the first time in the past four years I felt like I was on the right track.  I know I want to help provide children with the same educational opportunities that I have had, and I know that I want to do that through school psychology.  My experience with tutoring children in Macon and visiting after-school facilities overseas only confirmed that desire in my heart over the years.  Now I’m at the point where I have to take the next step to reach my goals, and that involves graduate school.  So even though this application process has been more difficult than I could possibly imagine, I know that it will all be worth it if I get into a program that allows me to build on my education and enables me to provide children with educational opportunities in the future.  I pray that God will continue to open doors for my education.  He has been faithful, and I believe He has a plan.  Whether it involves teaching in China or going to grad school for school psychology at Baylor or both, I know He is in control.  For that, I am thankful.

A friend reminded me today to think about the desires of my heart in terms of Philippians 4:4-8, which says,

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.  The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

phil48 copy