Finishing my first year of MFA

Friday, May 7th, 2010 by Rachel

For all intents and purposes, I’ve finished my first year of my MFA work here at Georgia College. I still need to officially post student grades, but grading is done! This has been one of my easiest semesters to wrap up, primarily because students turned in their big research papers on April 19th instead of during the last week of school or today during their final the way I’ve required in the past. I think I might try to reconfigure the fall semester so it works the same way. Anything that I can do to make my life a little bit easier is a syllabus adjustment worth making.


Can you believe it? I’m HALF WAY THROUGH MY MFA!!! It’s pretty crazy saying that outloud.



My adjustment to MFA work was MUCH MUCH easier already having my MA. I definitely saw myself struggling less with stuff that I would consider to be the basics, like essay writing and time management, than other students especially last semester. I never really struggled with the workload of my MA, but I definitely think the transition from MA to MFA is smoother than BA to MFA.


I still think I made the right decision trying to get my MFA first before moving straight from my MA into PhD work. As proud of I am of my final thesis at NAU, I think that my poetry here has been able to reach a new level in terms of its preciseness and impact. I think my poems have a stake now, and I can already see vast improvement of my work within one year. I’ve also fallen in love with poetic forms again. I hadn’t written in forms during my entire MA, really. Now that I’m back working with them (from villanelle to ghazal), poetry’s become much more fun/puzzling again. I know that’s not the right way to word it, but it’s true. Marty’s said I’m very capable of working with forms, freeverse, and prose poems, so this’ll be something interesting to keep track of as I continue writing through the summer.


Teaching here, in Georgia, has made me feel so privileged. I am appalled by teachers who complain about students here. Georgia College is a wonderful university filled with a much higher overall quality of students than the students I was used to working with in Arizona. The other week, as students slipped into the regular end of spring semester laziness and refused to work at understanding Othello, I explained that I know they’re all smart and capable of understanding Shakespeare. If they weren’t capable, I wouldn’t be so disappointed when they refused to try. At NAU, I’d come home frustrated because students didn’t have the knowledge base to understand readings or write coherently at even the basic sentence level. Here, I’m frustrated when students give up because they have the potential. I’d much rather be frustrated here than there.


Teaching highlights of the semester, in no particular order. I’m sure there are more, but I’m tired!: 1) Student bringing me Little Red Riding Hood Burger King figure, which soon became our class mascot. 2) Getting a thank you note from a student right when I was feeling discouraged 3) Students coming to view the performance of an excerpt of my screenplay. 4) Students getting excited about my engagement and my hair cut. 5) Student emailing a poet in hopes that he’d give some insight on his poem for a paper. (Not sure if he ever responded, but I thought the student’s effort was exciting!)


In terms of my personal life, this has been one of the best and worst school years of my life. Yes, Derrick and I got engaged, and I’m still not totally over that. I can’t help but look at my ring 50 times a day. Our wedding planning has been going great. We’ve got the venue, the dress, the bridal party. Hope to start working on addressing Save the Dates early next week. I’ve had my occasional freak outs, but for the most part it’s all unfolding as it should.


As far as the worst, my Uncle TJ’s death in November couldn’t have done more to shake things for me. (See this previous entry if you haven’t been keeping up with it: ABI joins Rice death investigation) Now, only two weeks away from the six month anniversary of his death, I have no updates to give you. The cause of his death is still unresolved and under investigation. I know that the real world doesn’t work the same way as CSI: Miami or Criminal Minds, but I’m still so disappointed with how things have been handled. Everyone in the family deserves closure. I don’t think I would’ve been able to keep up the teaching, the school, the house stuff and everything else without Derrick. He’s been my rock during all of this horrible drama.


I guess that’s it for now. The air conditioner’s broken, and sitting next to this hot computer is starting to make me a little warm! Summer is definitely here, and I’m ready for the break, though my break will consist of lots and lots of writing for my thesis.


  1. Rachel, I am so proud of you this semester. You’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but you have handled everything really well. I’m glad that I was able to help you and be a part of it.

    I will always be your rock :)

  2. Anytime you mention your engagement I smile like I’m watching a rom com lol I had a lot of personal struggles in my first year too with my son having extreme difficulties. It’s hard for me to call it the worst time in my life, even though it was, because the experience of being in my program has been the highpoint of my life thus far. So I like the way you put it…it was the best and the worst. I hope some resolution comes for your family soon!

  3. Wow. Just looking at the keywords for this entry is enough. It’s almost a poem in itself.

    How like a poet even to see poems in the most random, stupid things.

    But in any case, congrats on all the good. Kind of a messed up world that the good stuff takes so much damn work, and the bad stuff just happens a lot of times. But I’m still partial to it.

    The world, that is.

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