Once upon a practicum.

Right. Let’s just dig right in.

I started my clinical year last week and I’m going to be honest with you-I have scarcely felt so overwhelmed. I went to practicum (internship for social work), class and I came away with a to-do list so long that I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I was ready to throw in the towel. And so close to being finished. Why?

I like to feel like I’m set up for success. Newness isn’t so bad. Change isn’t so bad. But when there aren’t clear expectations, I feel that I am not going into a scenario where I am capable of winning, I feel overwhelmed and frustrated. That sets me up for failure, day one.

But that’s not the reason I’m writing. I have no intention of complaining for a whole blog about how life isn’t fair. What I want to do is address the steps I took to remedy the situation.

Anyone can feel overwhelmed. Anyone can feel like they can’t be successful. And that doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, or that they were wrong to hire you. It means you’re human.

I came to realize that much of my problems could be boiled down into very simple categories: schedule, organization and expectations. From there, the reasons why I was feeling un-successful came to life. I didn’t feel like I had enough time with my schedule to finish all my class work (schedule/expectations). I didn’t feel like I had a good grasp of the layout of the hospital (organization). I didn’t feel like I could pinpoint the needs of each place I was headed for my practicum (organization/expectation). And the list goes on like that.

The answer, oddly enough, was the same for all of them. Self-advocacy.

I took my supervision time and came prepared with a list of questions related to those things. What changes could be made to my schedule to better accommodate my work/school expectations? What resources were available to help me understand the workings of each department I would be going to? How can I better map out where the “important” places are? Who are my question people? Where can I put my things if I need to? Lunch spaces? Things like that.

And then the work began. It is one thing to bring the questions. It is another thing entirely to get the answers that you need. And trust me, I’m non-confrontational so I don’t love demanding answers. But I knew it would help me if I became a little more decisive. And thankfully my field instructor is great and I have access to a delightful amount of social workers who know far more than I do. And we haggled. What would allow me to be useful to my placement, while also being helpful to me?

A phrase I heard a lot over the past year is “closed mouths don’t get fed”. And I don’t know if I agree with it in a literal sense, but if I’d spent my time dealing with things that didn’t make me feel successful, I would not have a successful placement. I would set myself up to fail. Instead, I chose to open my mouth and say you know, this isn’t working for me-can we try a different way?

I feel like this is a great interview question experience. A couple years ago, I might have let the discomfort consume me. But now I am able to take charge of my own experience. I have the tools, I am prepared to lead myself to success.

Because that’s the thing. Your success is on you. You can’t be a passive actor in your own story. If you’re not taking charge, even when that makes you uncomfortable, other people are going to tell you how to live your life. And you’ll miss out, burn out and never find a way to make yourself happy.

So go out there. Advocate for yourself.
Take chances. Make mistakes. And get social worked.

This One Has an Update In It

I figured it had been a while, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t leaving anyone high and dry.

I’m now successfully beyond the caffeine-and-preservative withdrawals. I’ve been off soda (pop) for 2 months now and it’s going well. The longest I’ve been without it is 6 months, so still a while to go before I beat my record, but darn it, it’s a start. Next steps: remove the sugary drinks from my life: like pre-made tea. This one is going to take a WHILE. Especially because I actually enjoy them for taste not energy.

I had a super successful KissPitch-with 5 likes on a single pitch! I’m approaching 4 weeks on a few queries and I’m (im)patiently waiting. But I’m also writing a new book, just in case I get lucky!

What else? Apart from the snow days, my MSW placement is going super well! I’m learning a ton and I really feel like I’m reaching new levels of awareness. I told everyone in my private life and now I can talk about all the reasons I left law school with all the people who want to know.

And speaking of school, I’m closing in on the halfway point of my program! It feels like I’m ready to get out there and make changes. B got into his PhD program! So this summer we’ll be moving once again (for the last time for a while). We’re both super excited, and I look forward to getting back to culture!

I’ve been focusing on self-care lately, and it’s been paying off. I’m mostly just ready to be moving along in the process.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in and say I’m still floating!

I’ll have more fun articles soon!

Stop What You’re Doing!

And go drink some water-you look a little dehydrated.

And since you’re here, I hope you’re having a rewarding Monday. I wanted to focus today on a little pesky subject that gets the best of us: burnout.

The newest title that millennials get to add to our giant repertoire is the “burnout generation”. I have to say, as someone who has experienced both being a millennial and burnout, this rings especially true.

So what is burnout?

Well, it’s the way you can go to a job for months or years just fine and then wake up with extreme dread about going in. It’s the way little things didn’t bother you and now they’re all you can think about. It’s wanting to pack up and run away rather than face one more day of your life. It’s that cynical depression that makes you furious that it’s even happening in the first place.

Burnout.

According to psychology, burnout can be traced to helplessness and the feeling of being unable to control your environment. A person experiencing burnout may have problems figuring out what to do with their life, may switch jobs more frequently than is industry standard and may have some major health concerns related to burnout (not just psychological ones). Psychology Today mentions that therapy and meds may just erase the symptoms, instead of dealing with the burnout itself.

Ways to fight it are the same things that have been harped on since the beginning of time: sleep more, workout, eat right, self-care. But what if that only post-pones the feelings of existential dread?

Then you wouldn’t be alone.

There’s a Buzzfeed article that talks about what burnout looks like for millennials in more than just a job capacity. It talks about errand paralysis-putting the same to-do list on your calendar (or bullet journal) week after week because you can’t seem to complete it or the inability to return clothes, to mail packages, to complete basic adulting tasks. In fact, the following quote came from the same article (and consequently hit me like a ton of bricks:

” But these students were convinced that their first job out of college would not only determine their career trajectory, but also their intrinsic value for the rest of their lives. I told one student, whose dozens of internship and fellowship applications yielded no results, that she should move somewhere fun, get any job, and figure out what interests her and what kind of work she doesn’t want to do — a suggestion that prompted wailing. “But what’ll I tell my parents?” she said. “I want a cool job I’m passionate about!” ” –https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennials-burnout-generation-debt-work

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a long article. But it’s also 100% worth the read. Because sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone. I’m not saying it’ll get better. I’m saying you don’t have to face it alone.

Experiencing burnout? Drop a comment!

New Age, Who Dis?

Good morning, darlings! 

In the event that you’re stopping by for the very first time, welcome! I’m Michelle, the permanently caffeinated administrator here, and I bid you a fond hello. If you’ve been around, my greeting is no less delighted, and I hope you’ve had a wonderful day. 

So. Being at peace with self. 

Image result for peace with self
Image Description: Mountainous sunrise with the quote from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace. 

Let’s get real with something. We are not living up to our best potentials. We’re letting all of the “stuff” get in the way. Bills, financial emergencies, social expectations, family obligations, external pressure to have benchmarks of success. And they all have their moments of importance. But let me paint you a picture. 

You’re doing a budget and you realize you need to work some extra hours. You pick up some extra shifts but you lose even more sleep. You drink more caffeine to stay awake but you have to spend more on caffeine. And then, just when you think you’ve hit your stride, an emergency! And maybe it’s health related and you can’t work as much. Maybe it’s your car and now you have to get crafty with getting to work. Maybe it’s the sudden realization that you don’t…can’t…continue like this. 

And then you spiral into thinking about all the people you see on social media that look so put together, so focused and driven, so successful. About how you’re nothing like that and you’re barely holding on by the skin of your teeth. About how you don’t feel like anything you do is making a bit of difference. 

That’s what I’m talking about. And I would know, I’m right there with you. 

Yesterday was my birthday. I’m officially closer to 30 than any other ’10’ and it scared me. I don’t have my life together. I’m still in school. I’ve got student loans and bills and I work as much as I can and I’m exhausted. So why don’t I feel like I’m making progress? 

Well, that’s where the following list comes into play: 

  1. Face masks don’t heal broken hearts.
  2. Bath bombs don’t make your problems melt away. 
  3. Treating yourself to a coffee won’t make you invincible. 
Image result for self care is more than bubble baths
Image Description: Starfish underwater with the caption “Self-care: about more than bubble baths…”

And I’m sure that won’t surprise you. But you know that feeling when you’re having a bad day and you think “I’ll just go home and do a mask, watch some Hallmark Christmas movies and reset.” and then you think you’ll feel better BUT YOU DON’T? No? Just me? Okay then. 

Here’s what I’m saying: If you don’t make peace with yourself, with every flaw, with every part that you’re critical about-including how much you feel like a failure, even if you’re actually doing your best-then you’re not living up to your potential. 

And I’m talking to myself just as much as you. But we need to hold each other accountable. We’ve been giving in to band-aid solutions to major heart surgery. And that needs to stop. Give in. Cry. Rage. Scream. And then head up, buttercup. There’s work to do. 

But please, continue that scheduled maintenance! Do those face masks. Buy those bath bombs and that coffee. Because you need to take care of yourself along the way. Just treat the you on the inside just as kindly as you treat the you on the outside. 

What lesson are you bringing with you into the new year?

Live From Law School

Hi there everyone!

I wanted to give you all a little blurb about my first month of law school. I’m starting week four with a bang-or rather, with a really horrendous cold! Because of the attendance policies of law school, I was able to miss one class this morning, but showed up for my afternoon class. Honestly, I’m not sure it was helpful to me, but my name was on the attendance roster, and that’s a start. Now, I’ve been very good about medicating-I’ve got some serious DayQuil/Advil action going on, and I’ve been hydrating and other self-care recommendations. But I didn’t come here to talk about my cold!

What they tell you: Law school is hard-in a different way than undergrad. It’s supposed to stretch you as a human being and make you think like a lawyer. It will prove useful in all facets of your life, not just the ones that you would think. It will make you more annoying to be around, because you’ll analyze everything. It will force you to work on yourself in and out of the classroom.

What they don’t tell you: You will think about quitting every day for what feels like forever. You will feel completely worthless. You will hate the amount of homework you have. You will debate changing your life, settling for a career that is “kinda” what you want.

And then you’ll get out of the first two weeks and realize that this is something you can handle-it was all just an adjustment period, testing the unfathomably steep learning curve. And you’ll grow accustomed to the labor intensive study patterns, the crappy food plans and the weird cravings for comfort food in the middle of the night. You’ll discover a coping pattern for mornings-which usually require copious amounts of caffeine. You might even discover that you like mornings (I think that day is still a long way off for me, but we’ll get there).

Law school is this weird place where you bring a hundred people and on the first day you’re all strangers, but by the second week you have a core of friends who know everything about each other. You spend all day every day with those same people and suddenly you have friends that you respect, trust and celebrate with-even though you have no idea who they were before.

I came to law school thinking I was a good student. I have decent grades from both high school and undergrad. I thought I knew who I was, what I stood for and believed and that this would just be a quick two or three years of teaching me the requisite knowledge to become a legal professional. Read: this was a means to an end. And if I made friends, that would be great. If I managed to find people that I could enjoy coffee with-who also shared my passion, great. But if none of those things occurred, I would not be upset. 

My first month here has been, well, eye opening. I’m a good student-but I was not a good law student before. Now, I understand the change I needed to make. I’ve found that in the last few weeks, I’ve discovered more about myself than I have since my freshman year of high school. I have a new perspective and it shifts slightly every day, as I learn more. And friends? I have a group of them-5 people in fact, who I believe are the foundation for the best years of education of my life.

Life isn’t all about the expectation. You can plan and plan and in the end, it may not be the way you thought it would. And that was the biggest lesson of all. That no matter how much I thought I knew, how much I planned, some things are just gonna happen-without your permission. Your job isn’t to fight it, but to adapt.

Lawyered.

The Department of Anthropology

Today’s post is just an appreciation post. For people who don’t see me often, this will not mean anything to you. But it does to me. I’m sad because at the end of the week, I have to leave my job. It’s a work study position and because I’m graduating, I’m no longer eligible to be there. And so, today is my dedication to that.

When I applied to work for my department, I was terrified. I needed a job, I thought I was going to have to go back to fast food and be miserable for the rest of my time in Columbus. I was terrified because I didn’t know my way around campus, I didn’t know anyone in that office and I had no idea if they’d like me. I remember a young woman talking to me in a cheerful, sing-song voice, being introduced to the stern looking keeper of things and information and being introduced to the fiscal officer who appeared strict and dauntingly professional. And as I said “hello” in what I can only assume was the most pathetically timid voice I could, I was employed. I would meet my coworkers-a young man with an inviting smile and a knack for forgetting things and a young lady who had the most infectious laughter and a great eye for scarves. She intimidated me because she got on so well with my new boss. A few weeks later, we gained a sassy newcomer with the coolest hair I’d ever seen.

How silly that all seems now.

Although I thought that I had only applied for a job, what I applied for was a position as a member of a reliable, close-knit family. And that’s why it breaks my heart to let it go.

My boss has the most impeccable taste in clothes. And not only that, she believes the best in everyone. She’s willing to start each day on a completely new page-no matter what. She laughs everything off, offers advice as sincere as any person can and she goes out of her way to help people. She has this thing for fountain pens and it’s hilariously superb. No matter how many times we worked on her desk, it was always filled with work-not because she was lazy, but because people know how great she is, so they give her more. I’ll miss the way she always gets coffee and baked regular Lays-because they never carry barbeque, and the way that no matter how crappy her day may be, she always has time for you.

The keeper of things? She’s the biggest nerd I’ll ever meet-and I mean that with the utmost respect and awe. We chat about books, politics, television, you name it. She completely understands what I’m talking about when I discuss farm life, she’s wicked busy and even though at first I thought she hated me, it turns out that she’s been on my side since day one. Her phone ringer is usually something from Star Wars (or Doctor Who) and if you can do it yourself-she can do it better (that’s not her saying it, I’m telling you so that you know). She’s got that Italian sass (which is hilarious) and she inspires me so much. We laugh about preparing for the zombie apocalypse while we run, she has a Harry Potter Christmas tree, she shows her dogs and is hands down the most interesting person I will ever know. She calls me “mini-RBG” and not once has she made me feel like I’m just young and naive. I’ll miss the way she keeps me on my toes, shares her popcorn with me and reminds me that I can absolutely be myself and help other people-no changes necessary.

If I ever thought that my enjoyment of the undead and the fact that my husband and I spent our honeymoon watching Game of Thrones could lead me to being on someone’s good side, I doubt it would have been the good side of our fiscal officer. He works so hard-and his attention to detail is on another level entirely. His granddaughter is adorable, and you can absolutely tell that he has a heart of gold-dedicated to just her. He always listens intently to my stories of field dressing the deer we hit with our car, no matter how many times I laugh about it and he makes me feel like I’m at least moderately funny. He’s absolutely always reliable, he always finds a way to make things work and even though we don’t interact as much as the others, I know that if I were ever in trouble, he’d be the first person I asked for help. I’ll miss the way he hates spoilers, so I have to edit out my reviews of the shows and the way he’s loyal to a fault.

I didn’t know the guy work study long, but he was a gentle soul. And I hope he does well in his life.

The scarf-clad work study and I greet each other each time we work as each other’s “favorite person”. We snap each other (on Snapchat) and she still absolutely has a great taste in accessories. The thing is though, when I met her, I thought she was super affluent-because of the scarves. She’s one of the only people I’ve met since I moved to the capital that knows about Liberty’s Kids and Sagwa and PBS Kids television-hallmarks of the parental types who didn’t pay for cable because it was a waste of money. Her laughter, as I mentioned is super infectious, but it’s also sincere. And I love that-because so often there are reasons to forget how to be sincere. She’ll still be there in the fall, and I hope that I can stop by some time-because she makes my day so festive. Plus, she totally sang Happy Birthday to me in Swedish-and we all need to have a friend like that.

The newest coworker is (hooray!) going to have a baby in the fall, and I think that that makes me some bizarre form of fairy god-aunt, but titles schmitles. Her hair still rocks, even though she totally cut it all off. When she first came in, I was told that she was shy and that was about it. I’m here to tell you, that is a lie (thank goodness our snaps aren’t public-we’re a riot). We usually don’t end up working together, but when we do-not much work gets done because we are chatting and getting into trouble (probably), but everyone knows that we’ll get everything done along the way. She shares my delight of all things Tim Burton and she convinces me that it’s a great idea to order lunch so she doesn’t feel alone. We also absolutely will be running for president/vice president some day and it’ll be the most epic thing humanity has ever seen.

There are, as with any family, the extended members-the janitor lady who is always exceptionally nice-so we save her donuts and brownies and cake. She’s so nice and she even called to let us know that she’d be away for a few days because she sprained her hand. There’s the tech guy who has more fun hanging out with us than he does other tech guys, so we pull up a chair and listen to him talk about deli meat, life in Upper Arlington and crazy news about life in general. And of course, a host of faculty that will forever hold my favor.

I know that I was only there a short time, and that I have no reason to be so attached-but I am. They’ve been the support, the driving factor behind not flaming out of the big city. Any time I have a problem-with life, school or in general-I know that they can help. And I think that’s what family is. I can only hope that I may be so luck as to find a similar set up in law school, but I can’t hope for anything better, because my Anthropology family is the best there will ever be.

So I won’t say goodbye, because families don’t do that. I’ll just say that the next time I see them, I’ll be a lawyer/social worker and I’ll be ready to take on the world-just like each of them prepared me to do. I’ll miss them, I’ll think about them often, and I’ll carry this honor of having shared my time with them with me.

Single Digits

So if you follow me on instagram, I’ve been doing a daily photo with #HowIMetMyGraduation. I try to take pictures of things that sum up my day, mean something to me, or otherwise spark my interest. And Because I’m now officially just 9 days away from finishing my degree, I wanted to do something (probably hard) fun. I’m going to describe my undergrad degree using all 26 letters of the English alphabet. So uhm, here goes nothing.

A. Anthropology-my major. I focus on Cultural Anthropology, because I like to people watch.

B. Biology-This is what I spent two years of my degree majoring in. Because I was afraid of change.

C. Clergy-I am not only a wedding planner, I can officiate marriages too.

D. Diversity-I became Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Diversity for the micronation of Flandrensis

E. Education-which included the Calculus sequence, Chemistry, Psychology, Social Work and Political Science.

F. Fat-I gained some, but learned that my worth wasn’t a number.

G. GISHWHES-I learned how to cross the line between comfort and adventure.

H. Highway driving and conquering the fear.

I. Impair-we went through 4 (5?) cars in undergrad.

J. Journal-I started bullet journalling as a way to manage my symptoms.

K. Knick Knacks-I had to downsize 5 times since starting undergrad-for moving purposes.

L. Liberal-as in, I got liberally involved in politics.

M. Marriage-I got married in a classroom on campus just about 3 years ago.

N. Novels-I’ve started MANY, finished few.

O. Ohio State-this is where I’ve gotten my degree from.

P. Phlebotomy-I got my national certification by going to 2 colleges at once for a while.

Q. Queer-because I learned that it’s okay not to fit a gender binary-or even a standard array of sexuality.

R. Religion-I changed religions in college: from southern baptist/nondenominational Christian to earth worshipping pagan/hoodoo.

S. Subway-my first job. Followed by Rural King, Giant Eagle, and OSU.

T. Tattoo-I knew I wanted one, and for graduation, I finally got it.

U. Unhappy-I spent a long time being unhappy, because I lived in the shadow of the expectations of others before finding myself.

V. Victim-or rather, how to become a survivor of sexual assault.

W. Washburn-this is where I’ll be going to get my JDMSW (Law Degree and Masters in Social Work) in a little over 100 days.

X. Xenial-by definition, accepting-especially of strangers and foreigners.

Y. Youth-I’ve been in college the entirety of my early-mid twenties, and will be there until I’m nearly 30.

Z. Zombies? Zodiac? Zenith-meaning the most important moment, which for me is coming quickly.

 

Well, that wasn’t so bad:)

We’ll speak soon.

M.

Tick Tock

A lot of balls are up in the air right now. I’m waiting for colleges, I’m waiting for graduation (23 days!), I’m waiting. And that’s okay. Because while I wait, I’m putting my time to good use. Obviously I’m still doing classwork (and there’s a fair amount of it) but I’m also doing a little investigating, a little snooping. And it all stemmed from classwork, so in the end-is it really that bad?

I watched a documentary on college campus assaults and since I go to an INCREDIBLY large university (second largest in the US by enrollment numbers), I thought perhaps I should learn a little bit more about the rates on my campus. Turns out, that is an incredibly deep rabbit hole that I am only just beginning to flesh out. While I am doing so, I’m coming to a lot of really confrontational data, some of which I think can be remedied pretty easily. For instance, the search menthod of the daily crime log (as mandated by the Clery Act) could be easier to navigate-by searching for type of crime (such as body violation, or sex crimes) instead of searching for crimes by name (I searched “sexual” crimes and the list did NOT include rape, stalking, domestic violence or menacing). But there are still questions I have about the number of crimes. For example. I was made aware of a menacing account that took place on Wednesday (April 5) but there is no record of it on the daily crime log (which is against the law). There are reports of “administrative information”-what does that mean? There are records of “refusing to cooperate”-what does that mean, and in what context does a person “refuse”? There are a couple names that come up repeatedly (perps) over a span of a couple years, for sexual crimes-why? What qualifies as “unfounded”? What does “ill-aided” mean? Why are cases from 2001 still pending? What’s the difference between pending and active? Why does 9-1-1 redirect to campus police instead of CPD? What is being done about the locations which have been “hotspots” for sex crimes for over a decade?

I’m still in the really early stages, as I said. I’m having trouble locating the older annual safety reports, as they have been removed from online. Which means that once I compile my questions, I’ll be taking a trip down to campus security to have them explain to me what’s going on (or as much as I can convince them to anyway). I don’t know that I have anything to find, but if I find something, I need to make sure I understand what it is that I actually find. Bottom line: I don’t know if there’s anything to find, but if there is, it’s gonna be huge.

I’m not trying to make waves-I’m trying to make changes. Because here’s my thoughts.

I would rather have problems be presented up front, with solutions and options than have problems swept under the rug. I want to know the faults of a process, rather than be blissfully ignorant. I am entitled (gasp) under the law (Title IX) to equal access to safe education. If information is withheld that would otherwise hinder my safety, or access to education-that is against the law. Universities know that. Title IX issues are a BIG deal-especially right now. Do I expect to find a problem? I hope not. Will I actively pursue action if I do? Absolutely.

First thing’s first. I’m going to collect all the data I have access to and check the reports against the annual safety report. If the numbers match, then I will focus on the question si have above (and more). If the numbers don’t, the real investigation begins. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have a vendetta against the college school system (student loans are a different story) but I do have a vendetta against rape culture. Fair and safe is the only way to progress. And even as I wait to begin my life as a rape culture smashing DA, I can do my part.

Because as I learned recently, it isn’t entirely the fault of the patriarchal laws that govern our country. It isn’t entirely the fault of the judges who see “potential” in rapists and “blame” in victims. Rape cases don’t go to court because there aren’t enough DAs (District Attorney) who will take the cases. That news hit me like a rubber bullet. The very thing I want in life is the one thing we have a dire need for, and is something I must wait to see happen.

In the meantime, I’ve applied to the spring program, and I altered my application a little. I’ve decided that it will be in my best interest to get a dual degree. So I applied for a JD/MSW, allowing me to both practice law and be a licensed social worker. I need to be able to combat this on all levels-and if spending an extra year in education is what it takes, then I will absolutely do so. I want to use everything I’ve got to make the world a better place. Focus on religious minorities. Focus on LGBTQ+. Focus on nonbinary genders. Focus on men and women. Focus on justice. And I will.

Because I know I can make a difference. I just have to believe.

Educators for education-not regurgitation.

Although by now the political climate of America is very forcibly divided, there remains one spark of hope-one area which has been passed down as sacred from generation to generation: the future. The children, it is said, are that future, and it is with them that humanity rests. But are we giving the future the skills it needs to survive?

In a time of information overload, young people are hard pressed to find a single skill set which enables them to navigate not only the political arena, but those which hit closer-to-home, such as healthcare, finances and the ever important education. As many of you well know, student loans are something I rant about rather frequently, the dangers of which remain quite unknown for many people from my parent’s generation. But I digress. The skill set most vital to each upcoming individual, in every generation is one that is in a recession all its own: critical thinking.

As a human being, in a much broader, globalized culture, critical thinking means the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information (being able to determine fact from crap, essentially).

But Michelle-that sounds like you just criticized your own age group. What are you doing?

Pointing out a concern of mine in regards to the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. I’ve included a little context, but put the point of focus in bold. In a recent statement at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mrs. DeVos said:

“How many of you are college students? The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

Link to the video: C-Span of Mrs. DeVos’ Speech

job-education

What is concerning, therefore, is not the fact that Secretary DeVos is of the opinion that the “fight” extends to college students (because she’s right-we’re at the front lines of a fight which extends far beyond education) but that she believes educators are not educating, but force-feeding their opinions to their students. What’s further troubling is her fixation with othering. Her statement is incredibly biased, in the way it undermines anyone who does not support Donald Trump. That in-and-of-itself is refutes her claim of anti-First Amendment work. You do not have to support the person who fills the role of President of the United States in order to be an American, with all of the associated rights. To have someone in an educational leadership position not be entirely educated on the core values of the country is terrifying. And it is for these reasons that colleges (students and educators) MUST be at the front of the fight.

While I am quite capable of passing along my opinion, I thought that perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the thoughtful discourse of a professor. In an email (which I have attained permission to reproduce), Professor Michael Phelan, Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University gave the following statement:

I have been teaching in public schools of various levels [for 14 years]. In all of that time I have never heard comments such as these from someone in a position of educational leadership; I am aghast and astounded.

Education is about two things: Getting you to ask deep, meaningful, interesting questions about yourselves, your neighbors, and the world around you, and training you to answer those questions. Good educators do not let you rest with *any* set of answers. Good educators probe deeper, asking you to consider how you know what you think you know, if there are special cases or more general formulations of your answers, if it is reasonable that other people in other circumstances may find different sets of answers to be more useful. The hallmark of really answering any scientific question is that your answer leads to more good questions, not fewer. Good educators force you to strongly consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that your teachers might be wrong too. I firmly believe that if you somehow get through four years of university education without having had your deepest beliefs challenged you should ask for your money back.

Good education is not a systematic indoctrination to try to force you to think the way your teachers think. There are systems of thought and custom where that is the case, but education is not one of them. If you believe everything I believe, and your generation believes everything my generation believes, then we as a species have wasted all the years between because we haven’t learned anything new. But if either of us cannot back up our beliefs with rigorous argument and objective evidence, we are only fooling ourselves.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss issues related to language ideology, bilingualism, and the way that attitudes about people affect our attitudes about their language. We will discuss how the way we talk about political issues can strongly influence our beliefs about those issues, and we will use concrete examples including controversial topics like marriage equality, abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I have strong political beliefs, as doubtless many of you do too. We will keep the debate focused around the language used to talk about these issues because language processing is the point of the course, but it is important to know that we can have that debate respectfully, regardless of where we each come from politically.

Secretary DeVos said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” I think she got her question words wrong. The faculty and staff at OSU and at any university worth the name don’t teach you what to do, say, or think. We teach you how to do things, how to say things, and more importantly, how to think clearly, deeply, and critically.

It is with this email that I leave you with the following quote.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Albert Einstein

As always,

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are enough.

 

Helpless? Hopeless? Hapless?

It is time, good people, for a rant. The source of this rant is?

The oppression of the poor, through the lenses of college students.

It’s something I know quite a bit about, and I think more people are going to need to get an idea soon-especially with the political situation.

There’s a food bank set up for the students at my university.

Each semester, I spend about $300 on textbooks as a social science student. My husband spends $400-$600. And there’s some math coming up, but no worries, I’ll help. I have insurance through my dad, but let’s assume it’s negligent here-because I have to pay more out of pocket than they cover. I have student loans (gasp!). And we’re going to get personal about that too. I work at the university, with work study money. That means I can work UP TO 20 hours a week-so long as my total amount of work study money is more than I have worked. I get $3000 a year, which equals roughly 9 hours a week available. I typically work throughout the summer at whatever job will hire me, but obviously it’s part time.

A little word though, before we begin. I cannot speak for everybody. These experiences are my own. I know that some people will take a different path here-and that’s OKAY. I just want you to get a rough idea of how a midwestern student with decent grades faces the realities of the financial aid system. I’m doing this in response to Betsy DeVos, and her unawareness at how it works. I’m going to break different areas up by header and then wrap it all up in a summary-I find that to be a little more helpful than just assaulting you with information.

Books

I started college officially January 2012. That was back when OSU was on quarters (meaning 3 regular sessions per year) and now we’re on semesters (meaning 2 regular sessions a year). That means I’ve had 12 sessions (I believe). Each of those sessions, as I mentioned, I pay roughly $300 in books. 300*12=$3600 in books. For my husband, it’s 500*12=$6000 (I just took the average cost. So together, we have paid almost $10,000 in books (and yes, we shop around for deals). PLUS-you have to pay for online access codes to your homework. Per course, that’s $60-$130.

To give you an idea of what the problem with that is, I have a recent event for you. We (Ben and I) were looking to make a little money to cover some purchases for the apartment. The only thing we have in large quantities are books. So we packaged up everything we had. This includes text books, books I picked up at the bookstore for pleasure reading, books we had from forever. Everything we could (minus the ones we need for this semester) was loaded into boxes. I looked at what Amazon would give me and then we hauled everything down to Half Price Books. Let me emphasize this. We took something like $8500 of merchandise to a resale place. And what do you think we got in payment?

$230. (And yes, that’s about what Amazon wanted to pay us.)

For the readers who are blown away by this, 230 dollars is approximately 2.7% of 8500. And that’s the most we could get. So we took it and made do-because what else are we gonna do?

Student Loan Payments

Ah student loans. The bane of so many people’s existence. I have 2 kinds: Sallie Mae and Federal. My Sallie Mae payment will be $670 a month and my federal will be $455 a month (according to http://www.aie.org-I’ll let you know what they really are when I start making the payments after law school). And that brings up a good point-these numbers are ONLY for my undergraduate degree, under the assumption that it will take me 10 years to pay everything off. So I will need to put aside almost $1200 per month just for student loan payments. Yikes!

Acceptance fees/loans for law school

Wherever I end up going to law school, I will need to pay a seat deposit (acceptance fee) of at least $250. That’s something I have planned for, and am well aware of. But when I enter law school, I will also have to pay money to take out my loans, and campus fees on top of my tuition. I also am aware of that. But it does not chance the fact that I will have to pay my own way to move to law school and then pay them to allow me to pay them (yes, you read that right) so I can go there. One of my schools has a fee of $910.

And since we’re talking about law school-let me fill you in on the application process. In order to apply for law school, you have to take the LSAT. It costs $17 per time you take it. And then, you have to order your college transcripts ($20). You also have to purchase the system they use to compile your application ($180). Then you have to pay for them to assemble your application per school ($30) and you have to pay an application fee per school ($30-$110). And this is true if you apply to one school or a hundred. I applied for the fee waiver (thankfully) so my costs were slightly different. But none of this includes test prep, which can be very expensive very fast.

working

As I said, I work part time. I use the money to add to my very small reserve of uh-oh money. I can make up to $1500 a semester. And that’s grand-my job is awesome, I enjoy it a lot. It’s just not a bunch of money. So there’s that. And yes, I am fully capable of getting a job. But I don’t live on campus and my husband has class 5 days a week, and we have a dog at home. So I could, yes, work over the weekend-this is true. But none of this accounts for homework time. As I mentioned above, I totally work during summer. That’s a no brainer. This summer will be tricky becuase of moving to law school, but we’ll see.

Oh-and I’m not allowed to work the first year of law school. It’s a law school thing.

apartment

My apartment is what it is. I pay gobs of money to live in a place where crime is low. I pay for safety and I know that. What I also pay for is a private electric company that charges me way too much for electric ($200 a month) and a door that sticks, gaps in the door that let cold air in, leaky outlets and a fridge that doesn’t stay closed. Also, they sent out an email saying that they wouldn’t salt the parking areas until it got really bad becuase they “like to watch it accumulate”. 

health care/insurance

As I mentioned, I have health insurance through my dad. That is all thanks to the ACA. And I know that. If I am hardcore screwed, I have options. It may take everything I have to pay that money, but I have options-ish. For example, last fall I went to the urgent care because of an ear infection which burst my eardrum. I paid $200 after insurance for the visit and another $100 for the medication. If the ACA is taken away, so is my insurance. As of right now, I go to the doctor if I have nothing else I can do. Because my health is a luxury I cannot afford. I have not been to the gyno in 3 years. I have not gotten my booster shots. I have not been able to go to the dentist in a great many years. I had to pay out of pocket for my glasses ($300 for exam and frames).

conclusion: What poor actually looks like

So there’s been a lot of disjointed information that’s come at you today. Let me provide a little structure for you.

I’m a first gen college student. My parents are hardworking farmers/pressman. I didn’t have my education paid for by my family (apart from $1000 my dad saved up and I am so grateful for). I pay $25,539 per year for my education. I’ve been in school for 5 years. Do some multiplication-you’ll see why I’m concerned about student loans. My apartment situation is paid for (in part) by the loans my husband and I take out. What we can cover with summer work is obviously done that way to alleviate needing to take out more loans. I have a credit card that I use for emergencies only and pay it off as soon as I get it. This is where I put my health care expenses, if I have any. And trust me, I try not to. Bills are still going to be there when I graduate from law school. And the $1700 a month we pay for everything, in addition to the $2000 a month for both my and my husband’s student loans terrifies me. It really does.

Not being able to afford regular doctor’s visits because of money is something that weighs on your brain a little. It makes you feel a little less than human. Being forced to choose between access to your homework and fresh food does things to your brain, makes you feel unvalued.

So when I said there’s a food bank on campus that’s for students, are you really so surprised? Because it’s not just food that we need. It’s so much more than that.

And that is why I cannot stand by and accept that our country’s education might be left in the hands of someone who has never even interacted with the financial aid system. I’ve only hit the big points-and not even all of them. Because none of this included the daily struggles, the weighing of options, the constant demands of time management, social and academic obligations, extra curricular activities or other facets. But maybe you see the reason why so many people with college degrees feel a little jilted at the system that was supposed to help us.