Caution: Bitter ranting zone ahead.
On a certain June in a certain year, a certain while ago now, I embarked on what was probably the most grueling year of my entire life. It started off well, and then slowly went downhill. There was a small uplift during the last half of the first semester, and then a major out of control spiral beginning somewhere around January. If it weren't coastal California, the word snowball might come to mind.
But, it was only a one-year program. It would be over quickly, like when you rip off a band-aid. Or try to wax your legs. I clung desperately to the positive--like all of the wonderful people (just as nutty as I was) who were in the same boat that I was. And the fact that it wouldn't last forever. Little real help from the faculty I'm afraid, even when I asked for it. The only reason I didn't drop out altogether was my stubborn determination to finish what I started.
In that year I learned three very important lessons that have served me well, professionally. One: Office politics happen everywhere, including in classrooms. Beware the passive-aggressive superior who pretends to reach out to help you with one hand, and tries to pull the rug from under you with the other. This one only pulled it partway, which meant delaying my master's degree for what ended up being two more years. Two: sometimes the people who offer to help you before they know you are the worst ones to lean on. They resent it if they find out you actually need them. Three: I found the limits of my sanity. Still retracing my steps to get back to them.
So I finished my master's last June while working with some truly awesome people at a job that certain individuals probably never believed I could do competently. To those certain individuals: I wasn't just competent. I was good.
Even though the nightmare is technically over, I'm not out of it yet. I still can't go back to the hallways of a certain UCSB building without fighting to keep my breathing regular. Last week in my dreams I discovered that my research wasn't finished, while I was on my way to my public conversation dressed only in my underthings. My mom was, of course, standing by proudly snapping pictures, while I searched desperately for my portfolio in the shrubberies, where the neighbors could see.
Some people who also found themselves in an unexpectedly extended nightmare finished their M.Ed.'s the same year I did, for similar reasons. We are all glad to be done.
The moral of the story: If anyone out there is thinking about TEP, think carefully. It's like running marathons to prepare for a 10k. If you are already running the marathon, consider slowing to a walk for awhile so you don't kill yourself. Seriously, you'll get better data for your M.Ed. research in a real job, where classroom is actually yours. If you have survived, yay for you! We should form a club and get t-shirts made. Then write a letter to the Chancellor. Give a new meaning to the word reflection. You know what I mean.