Beating My Head Against the Wallx1000

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Beating My Head Against the Wallx1000

Postby waytofailself » Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:54 pm

Like many, I am posting to fill in the void of waiting for law school acceptances and rejections. Considering that I sent my last application on Friday the 11th, it would appear that I have a good amount of sitting ahead of me.

Feel free to read about my fortune or misfortune. If you recognize me from one of my idiotic or laughably misconstrued posts, then feel free to point & laugh.


Good. Sometimes all it takes is a look in the mirror to remind me of where I am. While my words do not always translate as such over the internet, at least one gift that teaching high schoolers for three years has given me is a sense of perspective.

But I won't miss it. My applications are to the following schools:

Reach: George Washington
Target: Emory, UNC, Wake Forest, Maryland, George Mason
Safeties: American, Temple

Moving on...

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Cynicism Abounds! Why I'm Slamming My Door on the Way Out

Postby waytofailself » Fri Jan 18, 2008 3:17 pm

As my last students of the semester work furiously to bail themselves out of their poor grades by passing my exam, I have little to do but think and think and think. However, since this is not a state mandated End of Course test, I can finally two-finger from my computer and work on the internet while I glare at the failures of tomorrow.

No, they aren't all bad. But they're bad enough when thrown together in the same room for 90-150 minute intervals.

Law School Update:
Complete at Emory, GM, Temple, and WFU
UNCCH needs a letter from my 3rd recommender that was never processed by LSAC. Direct mailing it is fun fun fun.
Not complete: GW, UNCCH, UMD, American

Life Update:
A few of my friends have tried to escape teaching but have failed. They find themselves stuck in a rut but unable to move into another position because in a world of increasing specialization an education degree is really only good for one thing: education. I also keep running into articles that give horror stories of people who went into law because they had no idea what they wanted to do or just wanted the big $$$ paycheck only to find the big $$$ debt instead.

I feel the need to at least get my reasoning out on paper. I don't have the numbers to get into a t14 school, and I don't expect to get a $100k job straight out of law school. To some, I would already be considered a failure. For me...

Why I Am Leaving the Field of Secondary Education
1) The Environment that Fosters a Sense of Entitlement:
As a 3rd year teacher I am by no means the best in the world, but if there is one thing I try and focus on in my classroom it is instilling a good work ethic in my students. I give my students assignments with the expectation that they do them. Even though I do not teach any advanced courses, I still give them difficult literature to take home with them and expect them to process what they've read through what we discuss in class. Unfortunately, many of my students come into class expecting to pass already. They've been given handouts and free passes ever since elementary school (where No Child Left Behind has put pressure on schools to pass students due to schools needing to meet Adequate Yearly Performance goals). Students expect extra credit. Students expect for me to look the other way when they plagiarize. This isn't necessarily because they're greedy, but instead because they've been fed through an educational environment that does not tell them no.

When I tell them no, this causes friction not only with students, but with parents, faculty, and administration. I failed 43% of my students my first year and 51% of my students my second year in English classes (numbers that, according to parents and some teachers, would be expected at a "black school" and not a good, upstanding, Christian “white school” like the one I teach at). That I give people grades other than As in Theatre is considered preposterous as well, as many people take it for the GPA boost but don't expect to have to put in the appropriate work. I can live with students and parents making these complaints -- that is the norm. There are problems when faculty and administrators make the same complaints and what they do with them. I had 16 of my failures from last year passed on to the next grade/class for "administrative purposes" (in other words, to meet AYP). Regardless of what I do, in the end I have little power. All people have to do is complain to the higher authorities and they get what they want with no consultation of my opinion.

2) Me and the Hush-Hush World

The following contains many personal accounts and is certainly biased towards my own experiences. However, after discussions with others in the profession, this is a problem at many schools and not just my own.

I am fortunate to work in one of the two functional departments at my school (in other words, departments that make their students do work). Unfortunately, there have been many cases where my class is the only class where students are expected to do work during that semester. It is a difficult adjustment for the student to make, but I can only control what happens in my classroom. However, that doesn’t stop other from trying to gain some leverage…

I have had coaches complain that I give students too much work or that I should reduce the requirements of assignments for them (one even asked if I would waive the 5-7 page research paper for his athletes that they did mostly in class by citing evidence that two other teacher/coaches had already done similar). I have had teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators question why I make the extra effort with some of my at risk, minority, and GLBT students since they'll just end up at a McJob/selling drugs/in Hell anyway. Many of them just want them to drop out. I have had influential teachers complain to the administration that my class is too hard because I do things like make my students read The Declaration of Independence and analyze its rhetoric in my English class (but they should be allowed to just read the summary in the history book!) or have to memorize a 1-2 minute monologue and perform it for the class (but they're just freshmen!). Unfortunately, when it is between me and them, the administration often requests that I bend over.

For example, midway through one semester the administration almost swapped one of my classes with another teacher because the EC (exceptional children) Co-Teacher, who only showed up around 1/5 of the time, didn't understand what we were reading (To Kill a Mockingbird). Thus (obviously!) my students didn't understand it either. The teacher that they would be switching my class with was well known for passing students and not teaching very much (ex. covering The Canterbury Tales by having students do a two week project of "Create a Knight" or "Create a Nun's Priest" and not ever picking up the text)

What stopped the class swap? When they gave me my new class roster I asked them what the hell was going on. Apparently, everyone thought I was on board when no one had even said a word to me. All the strings had been pulled behind my back because no one wanted to "hurt my feelings". No one seemed to consider the detrimental effects that switching midway through the year would have for the 65 students involved (especially the EC students)…it was all about one (cheerleading coach who graduated from the high school) faculty member’s complaint.

As a side note, that EC person is now the head of the EC department for my school system. As for me, I was explicitly told at the beginning of this year by an administrator that there were rumors that my class was too difficult, and that I should do everything in my power to make it easier or face the consequences. Consequences? Rumors? Expectations? Some teachers get all kinds of accolades and praise for practicing their putting during class while over half of their students go on to fail the state end of year test, but of course it's me who's under fire.

3) The Lack of Intellectual Stimulation
The fortunate thing about teaching English is that I do not have my curriculum forced on me. Unlike math, science, and history, I can teach what literature I want in the order that I want as long as I also teach certain skills. Unfortunately, especially due to the two reasons listed above, there is very little intellectual curiosity or interest amongst my students. Sure, sometimes they'll be attracted to the vulgarity of stories like Of Mice and Men or the violence of Edgar A. Poe, but oftentimes the majority of the class does not want to put forth the effort to read or think about the text. Sometimes this is because things are just too difficult (teaching The Awakening to a non-honors/AP group for I said, I'm not perfect), but other times there is no apparent excuse or explanation at all: they just don't do it and don't seem to be bothered when their grades plummet as a result.

What my students expect is what they get from lots of their other classes: worksheets for 15-30 minutes, maybe 15 minute of lecture on a topic, and then free time for the remaining 30 minutes to an hour. I despise worksheets because they often focus on surface details that should be readily apparent by reading (such as "who is this character" or "where does this story take place"). I want to dig deeper into works with them, and try and give them a sense of social significance and consciousness (especially since the school is in a close-knit rural community that has little exposure to outside perspectives). Since my first year of teaching, I have improved tremendously in teaching my students how to critically read texts. Unfortunately, when they try and write about them they don't use this critical knowledge unless specifically asked for it (and when it's asked for many of them leave it blank) -- oftentimes they get stuck on mundane, surface details and beg for the bell to ring to dismiss them.

Unfortunately, this is probably where my expectations DO get too high for my students. I want them to reach higher, but I oftentimes forget that they're still in high school and have little background -- they need to take baby steps. However, I get bored just talking about basic stuff. I want to dig deeper into what endings to stories like "The Lady, or the Tiger?" or "The Most Dangerous Game" say about our culture and expectations for having everything explained to us. Many of my students, for whatever reason, are either unwilling or unable to make that leap, instead regurgitating that both stories cut out a good portion of the falling action. There are always exceptions to this, and those are a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, I get the impression that it could be me or an educational worksheet robot running the class and there would be the same results.

I feel like I'm not using enough of my brain, and in a sense teaching is only challenging from the standpoint of babysitting 25-35 teenagers for 90 minutes. I know that’s part of my professional responsibility, but I have come to realize that there isn’t much more than that. I want to use my brain in meaningful ways. I feel like I have regressed as an intellectual over the past few years…I want to grow and challenge myself.

Hopefully that's what I'll attain in the legal profession, but since I've gone on for too long here I'll save that for another post. Time to grade my junior English finals...why is it that when I say, "Essay" many of them translate that to mean, "paragraph"? ON THEIR FREAKING FINAL EXAM. They've had me for long enough to know what I require in my class. Oh wait...see the points above.
Last edited by waytofailself on Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Bonus Reason!

Postby waytofailself » Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:31 am

My goal is to try and keep this pointed towards law, and hopefully that will be easy in the near future when I start to hear back from schools and start to visit places. That being said, it's also important to present a clear picture of why I'm leaving my old profession -- and a I forgot about a big kick in the nuts from the beginning of this school year that opened up a very exciting mess...

It's official, my teaching license has been totally screwed with and there is nothing I can do about it! Living in a right-to-work state (no unions) is the best!

The History:
It all starts with a certain person that I'll call B. My first year at the school I teach at, she was an assistant principal. At the end of the year she had a nervous breakdown and dropped down to be an administrator at the local elementary school to have more time with her children. At the end of that year, she she abruptly walked out of the administration position at the elementary school and demanded a job as a teacher back at the high school. She got it, and that brings us to 2007-08 (where to this day she ignores me in the hall and does not make eye contact with me at all).

During my first year teaching, the newly hired theatre teacher was fired after not showing up to work for three weeks (along with all kinds of drug/alcohol rumors). B had to fill in until they hired another theatre teacher (one of my law school recommenders), and she saw the numbers for 06-07 showed that they may have over enrolled for introductory theatre the next year. I stepped to the plate and said that since I have a minor in theatre, I have some qualification to teach. She said she would get the ball rolling on getting me into the RALC (Regional Alternative Licensing Center) program so that I could have theatre added to my teaching license. At the time, I was only licensed as an ILT 1 (Initially Licensed Teacher, 1st year -- education is full of acronyms) for English grades 9-12. This was in April, and I would be informed by the end of the school year what classes I would need to enroll in, and as long as I took one class per academic year I would be good.

August rolls around. I decide to show up early to work because I'm bored sitting at home playing World of Warcraft all the time, and I learn the following things:

1) I'm teaching a section of Theatre. They knew about this for months, but no one told me.
2) B had quit as an administrator.

I was told to go ahead an enroll in classes, but the only problem was that no one could tell me what classes I needed to enroll in to fulfill my RALC plan. What I didn't realize was that B never submitted any papers to anyone. I taught theatre illegally that year. No one informed me of this until I finally got through to the school district/county office in April of 07 with a simple request of, "What should I try and sign up for this summer?" Oops.

The Plan
The meeting with the county rep in April was all about picking up the pieces, kind of laughing off the broken communication, and assuring me that things would be okay. We filled out the paperwork and got everything mailed in. I got a shiny new license that said that I was going to be an ILT 3 the next year, and it had both English 9-12 and Theatre K-12 (Provisional) on it.

Unfortunately, I received my package of what classes I would need to take in mid June. For those of you who have taken summer courses before, you know just how past registration deadlines this is. I called places but to no avail, but when I looked closer at my RALC plan and compared it to various school course offerings, I realized that I was totally fucked:

1) I needed to take a few specific theatre courses. Those courses largely revolved around production and box office management.
2) From my experience at undergrad, these classes were known as "grunt labor" classes because the people in them were required to work a certain number of shop/box office/production hours in order to get credit.
3) After calling around, learned that this was a common practice amongst undergrad institutions for these classes (if they offered them).
4) These hours totally conflicted with my teaching schedule. I work from around 7 AM to 4 PM (or later). Most of these places closed shop at 5 or so or had a prohibitive commute.
5) I was unable to work out any sort of independent study for these courses that would get rid of extracurricular requirements.

There are three RALC offices in my state. The one my county uses is the only one where I am not allowed to directly contact them to try and change things. Human Resources at the county office says I've already received my RALC, and that there was no reason to negotiate it; it's a take-it-or-leave-it deal. If only it was...

The Fall Out

I sat there thinking to myself that I could be okay as long as I tried to figure out something for the spring/summer semester. I only had to take 6 semester hours. I could work it out. Even though I had considered leaving teaching after my 2nd year, I quickly found out that I would have to go back to school and get a new degree to pursue a new field. Thus, I decided to stick with it for the 3rd to see if it got any better and wanted to make the best of what I could. I got a quick does of reality at the opening meeting for ILT 3s in August of 07.

The director of HR runs this meeting, and for awhile I get terribly bored with people who ask all kinds of mundane questions about what it means to move from ILT 3 to SPL 1 (Standard Professional License other words, your 4th year of teaching and your first year you can qualify for tenure if you've been at the same school the whole time). However, my ears perk when she mentions something about provisional licenses and how they need to be taken care of, and then she said something along the lines of "But we don't really need to go into that, since that doesn't apply to any of you."

I pull her aside after the meeting and tell her that I'm provisionally licensed for theatre and that she needed to explain herself. Her words were simple, "You cannot become a SPL 1 with a provisional license." I respond by pointing out that theatre was just recently added, but that I've had my license in English for the full time. looking back, her response does make sense, "But Theatre is on your current license, and until that is no longer provisional you will remain an ILT 3. We really try and discourage ILTs from getting provisional licenses. I hate that kind of thing." Hate it? Her signature is right there on my RALC plan!

That seemed utterly preposterous, but I was in no place to attempt to argue with the director of HR for my school system without looking things up (though how she got that position is another tale in of itself -- I'll leave it at corruption). After consulting a few of my colleagues, I sent an email to the state DPI (department of public instruction) licensing office, since technically it's the state's call on who gets what licensing for when in the end.

In the meantime, I considered the exact position I was in. I'm stuck with a RALC that I probably could've made work out if I had gotten it as was originally advertised back in 06. Now I'm in a position where I need to take 6 hours of credit in the spring semester (licensing overturns are in June, and I wouldn't have credit by then) or not receive any sort of yearly pay raise and being stuck as an ILT 3 for the next year and going through the same dog-and-pony show for another year without a chance at tenure. Six hours of class I would need to commute for, even if I could get the practicums set aside or modified? Hmm...

The state gave a quick reply. To quote from the email, "While we do control licensing procedures throughout the state, the procedures for moving from BT (note: Beginning Teacher, the new designation for ILT) to SPL are set by each school system and are sent to the state for approval. Please consult XXXXX's Department of Human Resources for further information." I called HR, and they were very offended that I had tried to go over their head to the state level. I emailed the person I met with in April of the previous year (who has been in my corner since she interviewed me in 05), and she would try and ask if it would be possible to adjust my RALC and that I should ask DPI if there was any form of appeal. DPI sent another email with the exact same message and a note, "We have forwarded this to your district's Director of Human Resources." I did not hear from HR again on the matter.

I bought my first LSAT prep materials the following weekend.

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Re: Beating My Head Against the Wallx1000

Postby waytofailself » Tue Jan 22, 2008 9:43 am

I'm stuck in the lull of the waiting game. This is what I get for applying a bit late in the cycle, but this is the same cold wait that everyone else here had to go through. I'll make it. In the meantime, I keep getting all kinds of advice for where I should go and what I should be doing with myself, but it's kind of nice that in the end it's my decision only.

Where I applied in order of where I'd like to go...

1st Choices:
George Washington (FT or PT): Due to location and the strong impression that I got from visiting the campus previously. IP law is interesting, but I have no science background.
Emory: Location once again and relative prestige of the degree. I do have some concerns though
UNC: Similar concerns to Emory, but a strong school and in state tuition.

2nd Choices:
George Mason: DC area location (I'm fairly familiar with Northern VA)
UMD: I know a lot of people in Baltimore and could work some connections for jobs pretty easily -- maybe even at a few companies that would pay for my law school.
Wake Forest: Local school with a good reputation. Very nice campus. They give lots of financial aid.

3rd Choices:
American: In case the other DC area schools don't work out.
Temple: I've always wanted to go to Philly, and they offered a fee waiver. If they offer me $$$ I'll have to think about it.

See what's fun about the waiting game? I don't know terribly much about the schools, but I can't afford to be choosy right now. It's a matter of seeing where I get in first. For now, I'm mainly looking at issues of regional bias.

Oh, and just for fun while I'm thinking about it: each year my principal likes to give the school a slogan that they're supposed to go by and keep in mind as they work. It sounds okay in theory, especially when you consider how cheesy the field of education can be. That being said, a brief chronological summary...

1) 2005-2006 Keep on Truckin: We were a school of distinction due to our high EoC pretty much this was the country way of saying "keep up the good work." Our EoC scores dropped 14% (the highest drop of any school of distinction...though there were drops across the board due to changes in how they scored tests)
2) 2006-2007 You Don't Have to Be Here: The previous year ended (and this year started) with massive rumblings among the faculty. How does the principal deal with the morale problem? By that shining statement. That was the first time that I realized that not all was right in Denmark, and was one of the first true gems from a principal who would later admit in a faculty meeting that he "doesn't like to deal with personnel issues."
3) 2007-2008 You Can't Fix Stupid: To this day I still have no idea what he means by this and what this is meant to accomplish, but they made buttons for members of the faculty to wear. What is that supposed to be like? A dunce cap?

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Starting my cycle with a bang

Postby waytofailself » Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:20 pm

Accepted at Wake Forest!

Damn! That was fast. I went complete on the 14th and their acceptance letter is dated the 17th. Something tells me meeting an admissions counselor in November left them with a strong impression of me.

All the people on here are right: the first acceptance DOES feel really good. And you know what's even better? I'm not so much excited about having a way out of teaching as I am about the prospects of going to law school next year.

That's a really nice feeling.

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Reactions and Impressions

Postby waytofailself » Fri Jan 25, 2008 10:13 am

It's the second day of my last semester teaching, and I can only really consider two things with it at this point:

1) June feels very far away, and I'm worried that I'm going to get incredibly bored. Hopefully visiting lots of schools will help break the monotony. I'll lose the 17 days off I've accumulated if I don't use them.
2) I teach one class that isn't quite a special needs class, but is meant to focus on students that do have certain learning disabilities and has a co-teacher who specializes in special ed. Once again, I am incredibly frustrated with the fact that this one class has more minority students than all 5 of the other classes I've taught this school year combined (hint: this school is about 95% white). Most of these minority students DON'T have any learning modifications or anything like that. It was like this LAST YEAR and THE YEAR BEFORE THAT TOO. But all the classes are assigned randomly, right?

Meanwhile, it's interesting to see how others have reacted to my first acceptance.

The Parents: It's pretty funny to see how in control of my life they think they still are, but being the youngest child tends to have that effect. However, they REALLY want me to stay in NC or close to home, so me getting into Wake Forest is kind of like their academic/live vicariously through me wet dream for them. It's game over, and they're not sure why I'm waiting to hear back from other schools. They'll placate me and smile and nod when I mention other schools, but they're not being entirely sincere.

The Siblings: Sister is excited and brother is happy for me. Hooray. Brother isn't that excited though; I think he resents that I'm getting out of teaching (he's a teacher as well and hates it about as much as I do). His wife also did pretty poorly on the LSAT a few years ago, and while it's kind of shitty I could see that as being a factor.

The SO: Excited about my first acceptance (albeit apprehensive about staying in the area where we live when we'd both really like to move somewhere else). Also told me to go ahead and quit my teaching job because I could always find work elsewhere for the given period of time.

The Coworkers: My school isn't a rumor mill, it's a rumor cesspool. Most of the English and the Fine Arts department knows about my plans for next year, but things only seem to be trickling across the school. Of course, having people shout at me across the hall with a bunch of students around, "I heerd ah rumour thayt yer were goin ta lawl scul nex-t yeer!" is irritating. I've had a few come up to me (people that never really talk to me) and make snarky/inane/stupid comments as if we've been best buddies that are generally along the lines of, "Wut? Arr ya tou goood fer teachin'?" For the people that matter, many of them are happy for me getting into somewhere but sad to see me go (especially the person who was going to hand off Senior AP English to me next year...but there's a reason she was giving it up -- poop in a bag on her desk only nets a student a five day suspension that was appealed down to three and other stories).

At least I'm feeling pretty relaxed right now. I've never been one to obsessively check my law school status, but now I feel even less inclined to do so. It'll get to me when it gets to me.

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Infuriating Day with a Happy End

Postby waytofailself » Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:01 pm

Remember what I said about entitlement in my second post? My school has gone to a new low by requesting that I pass a student who left my class with the lowest average of anyone. He didn't turn in any long term assignments. He didn't turn in any homework. He did poorly on a lot of the tests. The only reason he knew some of the material was because this was his 3rd time through the class.

On the one hand, I know that he comes from a difficult family situation (I had his older brother twice too). On the other hand, how can I justify passing someone who did NOTHING for me and fail others who did some of the work but didn't do enough. How? Of course, they're trying to phrase this as my decision...but I know in the end they'll just pass him no matter what I do. I guess they're just trying to hold me responsible -- I'm just not sure what for.

However, at least my students seem to be doing good so far. Of course, their true personality won't show until about 2.5 weeks in. Valentine's day will be a big test.

Meanwhile, I feel like I'm having the fastest cycle ever (especially compared to seeing people who applied back in October or November with me applying in January). Got a small envelope that said "Congratulations!" on it. Inside?

My acceptance to the University of Maryland!

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To use the socket wrench, turn to page 15.

Postby waytofailself » Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:45 pm

I submitted my letter of resignation today. I was intending on waiting a bit longer, but I felt that it would be better for them to know up front in case any situations arose that required me to leave. I was very proud of my letter too. It says all the right things but clearly reveals its true meaning to me.

My principal was the same happy-go-lucky guy he always is. I'm not sure if he was literate enough to read my letter, but he did understand the words "law school" and the date I gave. He was accepting...that's nice.

No law school related news today. I'm going to be starting my round of visits in February. Northward, ho!

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I wish this was a case of the Mondays...

Postby waytofailself » Mon Feb 04, 2008 6:08 pm

It's downpouring rain outside, and supposedly parents are going to be coming here for a poorly advertised open house. How poorly? Unless you're in the principal's inner circle, you didn't know about it until it got posted on the school's website today.

I am not a member of the inner circle. Hopefully this will make for a quiet open house. I usually don't get much of a trickle of parents because I don't have advanced courses (if I did, I'd be going for around 2 hours straight). I wonder if I should inform the parents about my future plans...

...I've been exploring my options, and am making a visit to the DC area schools this weekend. Hopefully it will be fun and informative, and I will have much more to say after I visit. I don't want to disclose too much right now, because some things have been set in motion but have not been confirmed. It's just one phone call away...just one.

It's a shame I can't put in my days until that phone call. It's fun telling your employer that you will be gone from Thursday until Monday the day before you leave.

In law school news, I got some more acceptances. One's big because it's the only scholarship I've received. One's big because it's one of my top choices...

Accepted to Temple w/ $15,000/year!
Accepted to George Washington Part Time!

I could muse on this further, but I also forgot that since it's an open house there will be many students milling about the school. Yes, I teach in a town where there is actually nothing better to do than harass teachers on open house night.

I just can't help but feel good. I was looser teaching. Far more relaxed. I wasn't going to apply to GW because LSN showed me I didn't have a shot. Now my foot's in the door. The real question is: will I go?

Have yet to hear from:
George Mason

4/4 on acceptances thus far!

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Re: Beating My Head Against the Wallx1000

Postby waytofailself » Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:02 pm

Today was a day that served as an excellent reminder: I cannot afford to be so focused on myself. Law school applications are in. I'm headed up to DC this weekend for interviews/etc. The last thing I can afford to do is shove aside those who are close to me. I will be the first child in my family to attend graduate school, but I will be moving a few states away to do so. This is going to be hard on my parents, brother, sister, nephew, and niece. My SO is moving with me. She's very willing to relocate with me, and we want it to work, but I keep finding myself just thinking that everything is going to be fine and we're going to get up there and it's okay. I forget just how tough it is to find a job in her field with her degree, and I know she stressed out about it more than she lets on.

I need to be better to her. I need to be better to everyone. Hopefully the next 3.5 days off of work will help me recharge my batteries, and hopefully my time in the DC area will go well too.

One day I hope to be a better person. I feel like I'm losing it.

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Re: Beating My Head Against the Wallx1000

Postby waytofailself » Wed Feb 13, 2008 10:26 am

Well, I'm back from my visit to he DC/Baltimore area, and while I didn't necessarily get to do everything I wanted to do or set out to do, I would say overall it was a really good visit. A snapshot for now, with possibly some more in depth talking points later:

1) Upon my return, I received a copy of Winston Salem Living from Wake Forest. Seriously...what the hell? I've lived in Winston Salem for the past two and a half years. I know exactly what is(n't) going on around here.

2) I was really impressed with the Baltimore area. It's a nice city, and it's very different from what I'm used to. However, probably the most valuable portion of the trip was that I spent a lot of my time in the residential districts (as opposed to doing touristy things). People are far more straight to the point up here, but I don't mind that (as people in the south are generally too nice in your face and thus too hateful behind your back). I was also impressed with the drivers. People actually MOVE. In NC, drivers are notorious for slowing down 10-15 mph going up a hill, and take about 3 minutes to change lanes without a signal. Also, when it snowed, people drove like normal.

3) I visited UMD for their Saturday open house. I liked the facilities, but I really liked how they didn't try and oversell anything. They were who they were, and they didn't shy away from it.

4) I didn't have a chance to visit GW, but that's probably okay since it would've been an informal walk around on my way back to Winston Salem anyhow. I'll be going back to that area in a few weeks, and I'll do a more formal visit then.

5) No new acceptance news, but I am starting to get really frustrated with the fact that my parents keep telling me to "explore my options." By explore my options, what they really mean is "go to school in North Carolina and don't you even think about moving north." Gah...if they feel that way, I just wish they'd go on and say it.

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The Parent Thing / The Boss Thing

Postby waytofailself » Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:38 pm

I've hit a long drought of news from law schools. I guess that's okay though, as the other schools I have yet to hear from (UNC, Emory, American, and GM) are not ones that I am as serious about attending as the ones I've been accepted to (UMD, GW, WFU, and Temple). However, I am complete at all my remaining schools, so it is only a matter of time before I hear back from them.

Spring is in the air, and that means my students are already getting lackadaisical. Unfortunately, that also means my boss and administrators are too. I hate playing the victim so much on this blog, but things have just gotten to the point of beyond ridiculousness. I posted before about how I have gotten hosed about my teaching license, but now there are even more reasons!

The head of human resources came in last Friday to discuss my resignation and what it meant for my license to be moved from Standard Professional 1 to SP2, and she magically (and I guess unsurprisingly considering our previous tiff) didn't discuss anything about my RALC plan. Instead, she mentioned how their office is getting audited by the state, and how she JUST NOW NOTICED that my file is incomplete. As in really incomplete. As in they would've gotten fined if they had pulled my file. Why? Forms! One form that I sent to them at the end of the first and second year that apparently they still don't have. I sent it to them again. Unfortunately, the other ones are not rectifiable: I am missing observations from administrators. One that doesn't work at this school anymore. Another from an administrator who didn't get around to observing me, and another from my principal, who instead of filling out an observation decided to just treat it as the yearly summative evaluation as well. These are documents that are not my responsibility to get to HR, but I do get hit with the penalty if they don't have them. Those are three pieces of paper that do not exist, and there is no way of making them up.

Will my principal get in trouble? Nope...word on the street is that after he retires next year he's going to become superintendent for the school district. Talk about fucked up. If you want more details, see previous posts.

With my hopes of having a full teaching license dashed (I now would be stuck on the same pay scale for the next three years!) I got a call from my parents that really boosted my confidence...

Parents are funny. I used to take everything that they said personally, but now I know better. After a few discussions with them, I determined that it would be best to give them law school information on a need to know basis (I'm sure others here are in the same boat). I know they will be proud of me eventually, but I wish they would just go out and say that they don't want me moving so they can get it out in the open.

Since I have come back from Maryland, they have really begun to get on me about visiting WFU and UNC. They keep giving me members of the legal profession to call, and it's really irritating because I can tell they've already been prepped to tell me just how good the NC schools are or how I should stay away from the other schools. My dad, possibly not quite realizing exactly what he was saying, even went so far as to tell me to "go ahead and give up" on hearing from the other schools and just go to Wake.

It will all be okay in the end though. They will be happy that I'm in law school no matter where it is. And the teaching situation is a moot point. It sucks that my license is going to be stuck in limbo, but in the end I will still be licensed to teach if I ever (ha!) choose to go back into that profession after law school.

Can I just fast forward to the summer before fall semester so I can be moved into wherever I'm going and getting settled before the start of classes?

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The Lawyer McLawyerstein Perspective

Postby waytofailself » Thu Feb 21, 2008 4:36 pm

One of the great things about my mother is that she has all kinds of legal connections. If I choose to stay in NC, I'd pretty much be set. Funny how I'm making it more difficult for myself, right?

However, as I've been making calls to people in the profession, I'm starting to feel a lot better about my transition from teaching to law. Many of the people I've been in contact with are alumni of the schools I'm applying to, and many of them are partners who have been very candid about what they look for when they hire people. Yes, I know there's a whole chapter about it in Law School Confidential (a book I kind of regret reading), but these conversations have been much more candid. They're much more real to me -- especially since I'm not necessarily looking to work in a v50/100 firm, a prestigious clerkship, or in a small community.

One of the more recent ones had a few awesome points:

1) Where you go to law school matters, but only to a point. There are many great lawyers who went to supposedly "lower ranked" schools, and there are many horrible lawyers who went to "the best" schools. There are many other factors outside of law school that determine how successful you will be in the field. Name recognition can be important for landing an initial job or two, but after that it's all about where you worked.

2) Leaving school with no debt is HUGE. There are legal markets everywhere. So many people get disillusioned because they think they have to grab one of the huge firm jobs that pays 150k a year because they felt they had to go to a higher ranked school that puts them in 150k of debt+interest, but usually one of two things happen: 1) You can't land one of those jobs and are stuck with debt 2) The job chews you up and spits you out...and because of burn out you decide to move into a different field.

3) Pretty much all law schools give quality education. The major difference is what you do with it and how much state law/federal law they focus on. One of my favorite quotes from him was that "law school really is just a three year ticket to take the bar exam." Seize the opportunities you can to learn the theories, but also try your best to get practical law experience. You can get this at any law school if your GPA is high enough as long as the legal market you are in is not over flooded.

4) When he hires someone, he does not really care what school they went to. Sure, the name of the degree is nice, but the question he asks himself is more akin to "Is this person going to be a good lawyer" as opposed to "was this person a good law student." He wants to see people who can handle pressure and competition. You get those in law school, but what other things have you done in the past that separate you from the pack.

This website and certain people I know have, from time to time, made me second guess myself because I didn't get into (and didn't even apply to) any of the t14. It's nice to hear from people who are in the profession that there are plenty of "mere mortals" in the field and they are doing just fine.

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Postby waytofailself » Mon Feb 25, 2008 6:45 pm

What? Actual law school news?

Accepted at American University

A) This isn't a surprise at all
B) I would much rather go to GW part time than American full time for the following reasons:

1) Cost
2) Job prospects
3) Campus atmosphere

This may very well be my first acceptance that I withdraw from, as this was my back up DC option in case GW and UMD didn't work out. Obviously, both of them did.

Hopefully I'll be hearing from Emory, GM, and UNC soon. I probably won't (since one of my LoRs finally showed upon their system in the first week of February when my writer said it was submitted in December), but I'd like to.

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It feels good to be human again!

Postby waytofailself » Thu Feb 28, 2008 5:05 pm

I don't imagine many people are happy to be rejected, but it would appear that I am not many people.

Rejected: George Mason

Some would be surprised considering my numbers and LSN data showing everyone with similar numbers to me being accepted...but then again those acceptances came in December from early applicants.

I'm relieved for two reasons:

1) I would've been worried had I gotten accepted to every law school I applied to. It would've felt like I hadn't been shooting high enough.
2) As I've been looking around the area, I was starting to prefer Maryland/Northern DC to Northern VA, Southern DC.

In a sense, GM was already slipping out of my radar as is. Now I don't really have to worry about considering it :)

Edit: Though now that I think about it, I'm a bit surprised that I got a flat-out rejection. It may not be entirely justified, but I keep having these thoughts back to conversations with a few people at the beginning of the application process that warned me about two schools that were a bit overrated because they were notorious for gaming the USNWR system to increase their of them was GM (the other was UWSL). It could just as easily be something with my app, it's just a bit weird to get flat rejected with my other acceptances.

No second guessing myself though, it's just a strange point to ponder.

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Postby waytofailself » Wed Mar 12, 2008 3:37 pm

I am seriously SERIOUSLY considering quitting my job as a teacher today and doing temp work until I start law school. The pay would be better, and it wouldn't constantly kick me in the nuts. Consider:

A) School changes substitute teacher protocol at the beginning of the 0708 year so that every teacher is instructed to look for sub plans on the teacher's door.
B) I was sick last week, but relapse and puke twice during school on Monday. I stay until 4:30, holding in what vomit I have remaining, to get all of my shit together CORRECTLY.
C) Substitute teacher sees a DVD on my desk that I showed a small clip of to my theatre class awhile ago (a chinese movie about soccer) to my English literature classes instead of following protocol and seeing the sub plans sitting neatly on my door.
D) I discover this the next day, and my complaint is rejected by the administration because my plans were not in a clear place like my mailbox in the front office (rewind to last year, when I did the exact same thing and the sub couldn't find my work and instead contacted the head of my department and pulled out my emergency lesson plans -- also part of protocol). So, why did they spend all that time and make all that noise drilling holes in everyone's doors to put a box in the back side of their door...wait a second...

My fault? MOTHER FUCKER. And they totally disregarded all of the written statements I got from my students about it as well that mentioned other school rules that were broken.

So...what happened? Consider:

A) I was born in Danville, VA. The substitute was born 10 miles from the school I teach at.
B) I went to high school in Charlotte, NC. The substitute when to school at the school I teach at.
C) The word on the street is that MANY people are very glad to see me leave for law school because they don't like "my kind"...whatever that means.

Of course, that's all conspiracy theory talk. The truth is that I shouldn't be so surprise that not only did I get fucked over for following established school procedures, but now I'm taking the heat for it too.

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The Vultures are Circling

Postby waytofailself » Wed Mar 26, 2008 5:17 pm

I haven't posted in awhile because there has been no news at all. No scholarship offers. No contacts (other than UNC saying that they may be able to tell me by May 1st if I'm accepted.

I got a small envelope from Emory today and it said "Waitlist". Considering how long it took for them to get back to me, I am not surprised at all. I attribute this more to my 164 than anything. Then again, I'm not terribly disappointed. Considering job prospects for who I'd be moving with, Atlanta isn't as good of a fit as DC/Baltimore.

Speaking of which, I'm going to Wake's accepted student event on the 5th. The next week, I'm making one more sojourn up 95 to make another visit to UMD and finally visit GW. I've gotta figure this out soon though.

I have been enjoying ignoring the forums lately, though I'm morbidly curious about how much people will freak out over USNWR that comes out this friday. Who seriously uses that as a major factor in weighing their final decision between schools of similar prestige. The Tier thing is obviously there (though it's self fulfilling and self perpetuating), but between a school ranked 20 and 22 or something? Go visit the places and figure it out.

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Everybody's coming to get me

Postby waytofailself » Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:57 am

It is so awesome to walk around this building and see the resentment or avoidance in my coworkers' eyes. Maybe it's just the vibe that I give off in the morning when I'm still sleepy (like this morning). However, it is southern tradition to say "hello" to people as they walk by...but it isn't southern tradition to hide how you're feeling as you say hello.

I've been an outsider for pretty much the three years I've been working here, but at least it has only taken until now to have school policies turned against me. Suddenly I have to start paying for substitute teachers when I take leave to do things like be out sick or visit law schools (granted, the latter is actually county policy, but taking a sick day for personal reasons has never been enforced at my school that I know of).

Oh well, I don't do anything with a ball -- so whatever. I can't really help but laugh. And it's nice to look at the calendar and see that after my visits to UMD and GW on the 10th and the 11th, I'll come back having less than two months of this shit left to put up with (before I move to a newer pile of shit -- but I'll take that any day).

I can put up with pretty much anything for 2 months.

Damn I'm sleepy.

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I didn't expect this part to be so stressful...

Postby waytofailself » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:18 am

With my cycle just about over, it has come down to three schools that I am considering. It would be an easier choice if it were just me going (and I probably would've applied to more schools), but I have to keep in mind that I'll be moving with my SO...and that's a lot to consider, as she'll possibly have to find a new job. However, as each day passes I seem to lean towards one school or another school and I'm going back and forth a lot. I know it's stressful for her, but I really don't feel that I'll be able to make a good decision until after I visit schools this next week -- that means I'll be right up against the deadline for all three.

Allow me to think out loud for some of the spare moments I have before I trudge on to the rest of my teaching day.

It's a three horse derby between the following schools:

Wake Forest:
Three year program means less debt
Would not need to relocate other than moving in with SO
There is better potential to receive a scholarship after being admitted compared to the other schools
Strong litigation rep if I choose to go there
I'd be working in NC, and I have a ton of connections through my mom in NC -- I doubt I'd have trouble finding work
Lowest cost of living of the three schools
I am already familiar with the area

Tired of living in Winston Salem
Full time means I would have to take out extra loans for cost of living expenses
Limited clinical opportunities
Poor run ins with Wake law students around town (though that could just be a law student thing)
Would pretty much be pigeonholed to NC. I've lived there almost all my life and have yearnings to move

George Washington:
Part time program means I can work and pay bills while going to school
Excellent legal market
Strong reputation
Possibility of moving into the full time program if I chose to
Ranking system that inhibits competition instead of encouraging it

Part time program means 4 years of school and 4 years of debt
Potentially horrid commute
Highest cost of living of the three schools
DC at night? (sorry, I haven't lived there...I don't know what it's like)
Supposedly large drinking culture -- I'm not much of a drinker, so I don't know how this will impact things

University of Maryland:
If I go part time (I have that option), I can work and make $$$ while going
Potential to get in state residency after one year of living there and lowered tuition
Very impressed by deans during open house visit -- they were who they were and weren't shying away from them
Public interest work required: that says a lot about the character of the university
Downtown Baltimore location means it is convenient to get to
John Hopkins is there if SO wants to add onto her masters in Biology
Built on a graveyard

If I go part time...well, you know...
Downtown Baltimore location puts it one block away from a bunch of strip clubs
Not located in the strongest legal market in the world
Growing biotech industry, but most of the well paying jobs are government jobs that are very difficult to get into

That didn't settle too much, but at least I have some things on paper at the moment. For now, it's a matter of trying to crunch it financially and hoping that I hear back from schools about financial aid packages soon.

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A Fourth Player Has Entered the Field

Postby waytofailself » Wed Apr 02, 2008 11:44 pm

I was one of the many that got one of those Accepted emails from UNC. They say they're going to let me know by the end of the week about financial aid (which probably means the beginning of next week, but you never know). That being said, if they do offer money, then I feel that I do need to consider it (no matter how much I'd rather go to Wake). Why? It'd be a minor relocation, and with in state tuition the debt in the end would be MUCH less than Wake...and who knows if I'll even get $$$ from Wake.

But hey! My cycle is over! Sweet! The rundown one more time:

Wake Forest
Temple (15k/year)
GW (part time)


George Mason

And now...the financial aid waiting game begins.

Edited because I can't even keep track of who has accepted me. At least I've already withdrawn?

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Round 1: Fight!

Postby waytofailself » Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:29 am

The Good News: I had visits to Wake and UNC this weekend
The Bad News: I left my camera at home for the UNC visit
The No News: Financial aid info? Where are you?
The News To Be: Scholly info from Wake today & UNC soon. Visiting UMD and GW on Thursday and Friday

There's the rundown thus far -- I officially have one week to make up my damn mind. Here's what I learned during my visits:

Wake Forest ASD:
As one of only two students there that I saw who did not wear some kind of collared shirt of business casual clothing, I felt momentarily out of place...but I've never worried too much about dress to things like this, but that didn't matter too much once things progressed and I saw 2Ls and 3Ls wearing clothes much more similar to mine and one professor in a Greatful Dead tie. Of course, he's teaching at Pepperdine next semester, but he shall return.

I got a very similar impression at Wake to what I had at UMD for their open house: they're not afraid of who they are, and they are not going to try and oversell themselves. However, the Dean did assuage some of my hesitation about going to the law school. I've been wondering about clinical opportunities and public outreach initiatives, and they're opening up a clinic to help people without a lot of income start their own businesses and a clinic in connection with the University's hospital for legal issues of people who have terminal/life threatening illnesses. That was good to hear. He was a pretty sharp guy who seemed very laid back and excited to be there.

I didn't get to ask as many questions as I wanted because I was so busy answering questions -- once people around me heard that I've been living in Winston Salem for the past three years, I got the same litany of weather/where to live/nightlife questions that anyone else who's in a similar position would get. I tried to be frank, but I also told them that I live in an area that is very different from where the campus is located (hint: walmart ghetto). Just the same, I enjoyed myself and didn't really run into anyone who I would define as snobby. Hopefully I didn't come off as that either.

In the end, I left with a very similar impression to the one I had when I met with an admissions counselor last November: I could really see myself going there. I hope the FA situation works out (according to them, they're emailing out scholarship info starting today). I think Wake is currently my #1 choice, but I don't know if I can swing it if I have to pay full sticker.

UNC Self Guided Sunday Visit
Let me preface this by saying that I'm not exactly sure if I could've picked a better and a worse time to visit UNC. It was Sunday, which meant no one was around at first (though the library got a few people in it by the time I left since it is so close to exam time). Also, the weather seemed about as gloomy and depressing as UNC's loss the previous night. That being said, I've already taken some summer courses at UNC, so I know exactly how nice it can look.

What also made this visit more interesting was that I brought my dog with my...and I actually walked him through the law school building. If that's not allowed...oops! (but at least I can say that my dog peed on UNC school of law and took a massive dump on UNC School of law -- it was all outside and I cleaned it up of course)

If you have seen the pictures Lishi took of UNC's law school, they give about the same first impression as what I got: the rotunda is very nice looking and polished, and the reading room of the library is very nice as well. The law school's layout definitely took some getting used to though, as I wasn't expecting it to just be floors 3-5. I kept finding myself back in the courtyard (which the dog liked because he could bring in some big nasty sticks a few times). The one thing I almost immediately noticed was the smell though. The hallways smelled polished, but the classrooms smelled very dingy to the point of mildew (may have just been the rain, but if it smells like that every time it rains then there's going to be trouble). In fact, I was very unimpressed with the classroom facilities. Yes, they have wireless internet, but the whole area looks so old and used. In fact, one of my major concerns is that there seemed to be very little classroom space at all. There were lots of offices and lounge space, but I can see where whispers of overcrowding are warranted. They're building a new facility in north campus, but they're only breaking ground this year and are set to be done with it by 2011. A little late for me sadly.

I don't know if I'd let a building (nor the stench coming from the stacks) dissuade me from going to a school, but for all the hype UNC gets within this state I was absolutely underwhelmed. Of course, walking around the rest of the campus brought back many familiar memories...and Franklin street it almost always franklin street (even if things are closing). Being tucked at the east end of UNC's campus means that law school parking will definitely be at a premium (and according to their website 1Ls don't qualify for it). However, it was nice to see the rest of the campus on a nice spring rain (and my dog enjoyed it too...especially jumping up on brick walls and chasing squirrels or tour groups).

The school seemed decent and most people had a good attitude about having the dog indoors. That is a plus. It's just a shame that there wasn't really anyone there to talk to since people were so busy either going to study, studying, or leaving from studying. I just hope the rumors I've heard about students being displaced and taking law classes all over campus in the next year or two aren't true.

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I Know I'm Quitting Teaching...but...

Postby waytofailself » Mon Apr 07, 2008 3:21 pm

My freshmen...ah my freshmen my freshmen my freshmen.

They have a test on Romeo and Juliet this wednesday. We've been covering it for nearly a month now. As a review, I started showing them the modern film rendition of it (Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) because it makes for a very interesting comparison to Shakespeare's original work.

Ten of my students were absolutely shocked to learn that Romeo is a Montague. Ten.

I've been making the effort to go out on a positive note and thus have not mailed my my last semester of teaching by any stretch of the imagination, but it's moments like that which make me consider whether it would or wouldn't have made a difference if I had.

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Postby waytofailself » Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:35 pm

Half tuition scholarship to Wake Forest. Awesome :) Gotta stay within the top 2/3 of my class, and that'll be stressful, but if I don't then I'll have a 1/4 tuition scholarship.

Things are finally starting to come into focus.

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Round 2: Fight

Postby waytofailself » Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:24 am

So I've finished my whirlwind tour of law schools. Visite my top four this week, and ended it with visits to GW and UMD the past two days. My goal is to come to a decision by tonight or tomorrow, but lemme just take a moment to think (I'll post pictures of all of these later).

GW: After being a moron and dropping a $20 into a farecard marchine, I was already perterbed by having wasted some money. Parked at Greenbelt and took the train in. Metro system was as efficient as I remember it, though it was pretty exhausting to drive to and from northern Baltimore to DC (not that I would be if I attended).

When I got there though, two words went through my mind: holy shit! The lobby on the first floor of the school was really nice, and it was crowded with students who were not freaking out about impending exams. I took a self guided tour, and overal was very impressed with the classrooms and the layout. People were generally friendly, albeit I didn't really have a chance to talk to anyone. I was a bit intimidated because it seemed like one of those places that was waaay too good for me to actually get into and actually attend; but when I realized that I was accepted I calmed down a bit.

I left very impressed.

UMD: I had already been here for an open house, and it was both a bit comforting/unfortunate that the student was leading the tour was someone who I had already met at that open house. I was really hoping to get a fresh perspective -- at least this person was horribly socially awkward like the last time. I got to see some places that I hadn't seen before.

The career services office was nice, as was the clinic office. In fact, the great perk about the school is that they offer an insane amount of clinical programs. They really value getting work experience (including with their public service requirement). It was nice to finally get a straight answer about would I be fulfillling that public service requirement as a class or as extra work (the former, thankfully).

Afterwards, I had an appointment with an admissions counselor, and she was really nice. In fact, I didn't spend as much time disucussing the law school as places to live and comparing MD to NC (which is more of my concern at the moment than some other consideratins). She was nice, and also informed me about financial aid plans being sent out very soon (hooray) and that they don't have any scholarship money to divvy out (oh no). Just the same, I left with the same really nice impresson that I had last time. Walking from the inner harbor was also nice, and I enjoyed running around there in the morning before headed to my appointment at UMD.

I gathered a lot of materials from all the schools, and now I just need to read through it and come to a decision. You won't see me making any sort of XXX vs YYY school post...not at this point. I'll post on here later about what I choose to do. I have a pretty good idea of where I'm thinking abou going, but I need to consider a few things before I put my foot down.

At least I can't make a wrong choice.

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And THEN (fragmented post!)

Postby waytofailself » Wed Apr 16, 2008 3:27 pm

First off: how the hell do my freshmen know that I'm going to law school? Are other teachers talking about me instead of teaching? Then again, I shouldn't be so naive; this is a back country southern town where gossip is the only currency.

I didn't realize the final days of my decision would be so cripplingly stressful. I broke in really was a nervous wreck broke down.

The amazing thing? I broke down the night AFTER I sent in my seat deposit. I am officially a psycho.

It is really tough trying to manage two lives and making a decision that affects both, especially when one is so much better for me and one is so much better for her. I hope we can make it through this, because I really like the Maryland DC area and there are many more opportunities there for her and with a law degree I can work my butt off to get a job up there. Granted, it's an uphill battle compared to going to UMD (which was in my final 2), but that is now my goal I am shooting for?

Am I an idiot? $46k less debt is a lot to pass up...and I've always felt good about Wake the school. We both just want to get out of Winston Salem. Hopefully we will after three more years.

I've been stressing so much that yesterday I realized that I was stressed out not because anything was wrong, but because I had been stressing out since Thursday. My SO hit the nail on the head: "you can't kill yourself like this and keep everything in, or law school is going to kill you."

I have a few months to practice being more open after spending my whole convincing myself that my problems and stresses weren't worth sharing because they were insignificant compared to other people's stresses (and would add to those stresses). Go figure that in the end my holding things in only made people more stressed out.

And I'm still angry with my parents for applauding me with saying, "You made the right choice." They were all right choices. Freaking people and their freaking agendas.

It's a beautiful day. I don't need to stay confined in these walls.

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