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Stress! Was: getting emotional.

Brain Foley brianf at med.uvm.edu
Mon Aug 2 13:14:47 EST 1993

	Graduate School is stressful for almost everyone.  In fact, I at
times felt that unnecessary stress was built-in to the experience.  I felt
that people were placing the stress on me.  I felt victimized.  

	The kind of stress that students feel can lead to many responses,
including suicide, murder, dropping out of school, crying, fighting...  Of
these, crying is really a minor response, often quite acceptable.

	The most helpful thing I have learned in graduate school is to
finally admit that I had stress, and then to realize that my own
imagination and attitude was responsible for 90% of that stress.  I was
not as much of a victim of other peoples' oppression as I thought I was. 
I chose to attend graduate school, and I finally realized that I could
choose to quit or get myself expelled at any time too.  If a professor
gave a biochemistry test that was totally out of line, I had several
choices including filing a lawsuit; picketing in the hallway outside the
registration booth next year to warn students not to take the class;  just
keeping quiet; bitching and moaning with all the other students but not
actually doing anything; crying; crying and then composing a letter to the
dean of the graduate school explaining how poorly the test was written,
enclosing a Xeroxed copy...

	I finally realized that I was not in school to get a grade or to
get a degree.  I was there to learn.  I came here to learn, not to be
spoon-fed some facts and figures.  I started choosing to study the
important concepts and skip the worry about grades.  After doing so, I
actually improved my grades in some subjects and the ones where it hurt my
grades now seem trivial to me.  Any future employer who is going to look
at my grades as a major consideration in whether to hire me, or how much
to pay me, is not an employer I would choose to work for.  I have seen
institutions where people were chosen by the numbers, rather than as
individual people with talents that go far beyond things that you can
place numbers on.   They are often not very pleasant places in which to
work, if you expect human to human interaction to be an important part of
your daily activities.

	After a while I began to think more about teaching, as well as
learning.  I wanted to learn how to teach.  I found it odd that grade
school teachers take all kinds of classes in which they learn teaching
methods, while people headed for professorships get little training in
this area.  This relieved a bit more of my stress, as I started to think
more about how I learned best.  I started to be more productive, to spend
less time and energy worrying about what kind of grade I would get on a
paper or exam and spend more time and energy focusing on learning the
things I wanted to learn.

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