Attending graduate school at Bank Street is no easy undertaking. The coursework challenges you to think deeply and carefully about teaching. The courses themselves are at night, often during dinner time. Toward the end of the 7:00-9:00 pm courses, it can be hard to think coherently without a cup of coffee. Supervised fieldwork will have you deeply entrenched in a school, and along with that comes responsibilities akin to a full time co-teacher, after school events, and other involvements in the community.
All of these things are wonderful aspects of graduate work at Bank Street, providing you with experiences and connections in the field, but they can be overwhelming at times. Below are some common challenges and how Bank Street graduate students can cope!
Too many assignments due at once!
Check out your syllabus ahead of time and have a personal calendar with all of your class assignments laid out for the semester. A calendar like Google Calendar is good for this since it can sync over many devices on the cloud. It really helps to look through what is expected of you so you can begin to form some ideas in advance, if not a rudimentary outline.
Even if you don’t write the whole thing, it might also help to copy and paste the assignment guidelines into a document and make an outline. Knowing where information will go on paper is incredibly helpful and can put you at some peace of mind about the assignment. You can and should modify this the closer you get to the due date. Whatever strategy you use, it is important to at least have a strategy – a system of working that will help you complete your assignments.
If you are feeling extremely overwhelmed, don’t keep it a secret. One of the biggest mistakes I made as an undergrad was not forming a relationship with any of my professors. I had always assumed they were too busy for me. Here at Bank Street our community is small and very caring. Let your professor know if something is difficult, you can work out a plan, extension, or get more guidance.
This semester has been more merciful than last, with the second class time slot only going to 9:00pm and not 9:20pm. Still, the 7:00-9:00pm slot, after a day at work/fieldwork can be pretty tiring. I usually grab a hot drink and a little snack from West Side Market to keep me going. I have a hard time with caffeine and sleep if I have a cup of coffee after lunch time, so proceed at your own risk! Being prepared for class with questions about the readings also keeps me more alert as well. All of my professors for classes in this time slot have been good about giving us a 5 minute stretch break. I’m sure your professor would be open to it if you asked.
Different from assignments are the various forms associated with being a graduate student. Signing up for courses, applying for financial aid, or credit transfer forms are just a few examples. All of the people who work in these various offices at Bank Street are extremely helpful and patient. I have had to send many clarifying questions to financial aid almost every semester and they always respond quickly and without judgement! Another way to alleviate stress for paperwork like this is to get started on it as soon as possible. Leave adequate time to collect signatures or information needed.
I hear this one a lot – particularly from those in the supervised fieldwork portion of their degree. You can and should request living allowances from your student loan, and the amount depends on the type of loan you have. Another way to pull in some funds without overtaxing yourself is to tutor after school on days you don’t have classes. Not only can you make some grocery money, but it is also a very valuable experience for young teachers to work one on one with a student who is struggling in some academic area. Coursework in EDUC860 helped me to know how to assess and structure my time with a student in a tutoring context.
Across all of these challenges, the things that come up most are preparedness and organization. Get on top of things sooner rather than later, and have a system. Some other general ideas would be to use checklists for assignments or readings, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and make sure you get some time to yourself once in awhile! Downtime is important, and only feels wasteful if you haven’t planned out a few weeks in advance. There is so much happening in our lives besides coursework here at Bank Street, things that shape us as people and educators – it is important to plan enough time for them to happen.