I went to BYU for my undergrad, got a masters at Fordham, and next week, I start working on an MFA from the New School University. I like to think that I have been educated by the Mormons, the Jesuits, and now, those progressive liberals. It all sounds like the beginning of a fantastic joke. “A Mormon, a Jesuit, and a Leftist walk into a bar…”

I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for the start of a school year. Last night was orientation and I admit to adolescent levels of anxiety, including but not limited to planning my outfit weeks in advance. The thing that excites me so much about going to back to school is this: I’m going to do it right this time.

My undergrad was a flurry of activities: heavy course loads, a social life, clubs, part and full-time work. I became a master at juggling the system and admit with reticence that I was an English major who never read a full novel for class.  I read as much as I needed to read to write an intelligible paper and listened enough in class to make unmemorable, but passable, comments.

I remember being shocked at how well all of this worked at times. My senior year I took a couple of graduate courses because I had a crush on the professor. (I’m not being facetious, I don’t think that’s why I thought I was taking those classes, but in hindsight it’s painfully obvious.) I remember sitting around discussing a set of readings I hadn’t read. The entire discussion would be over my head and still, I managed to say something that somehow worked. I look back at papers I wrote with a sincere question: where did that come from?

Not that college was one shot at working the system after another; there were times when I was genuinely immersed in material that edified and moved me. But I don’t remember being externally rewarded for those efforts. More than once I led a study group and answered everyone’s questions, only to get the lowest score on the test. Those instances confirmed my suspicion: a lot of people had no idea what they were doing. And we were all getting along swimmingly.

I went to graduate school by mandate. I had joined Teach for America and bypassed the state’s laws for teacher certification with the promise that I would work on getting licensed while I taught. I was killing myself as a teacher, working sixty and seventy hours a week—and my formal teacher training fell about nine-eight thousand feet to the bottom of my priority list. I dashed off papers an hour before class started, and then used class-time to catch up on my grading, my lesson-planning, my journaling, and my sleep.

A survey produced by BYU later asked me if I felt BYU had prepared me for graduate work.


But this time around I’m committed. I’m going to go to all of my classes.  I’m doing all of the reading. I’m going to write my papers in advance and rewrite them; work them over so they’re really mine. I’m going to try harder at school than I ever have.

I am so resolute in my determinations that I’m not at all daunted by my dismal performance last night, wherein I ate a pack of Adelaide’s fruit snacks for dinner, showed up twenty minutes late, tuned out the welcome addresses, and then left early.

Back to school indeed.