I had an insight just now that makes me somewhat uncomfortable. Next semester's schedule has me signed up for 5 graduate classes... so far. The original plan was 7 until classes got cancelled on me, but any grad student will tell you that even 5 is an insane load (3 is considered a very full schedule here).
So, question: do I need CART for any of these? My first instinct was no, I'll be fine, these aren't going to be giant lecture classes. 30 students at most. I can cope.
But! I cope by zoning out and choosing to miss things, choosing to make do with less information. I can understand most classroom discussions when I decide to, but it's a decision to focus my full powers of attention on it, and the cognitive load is... while not backbreaking, it wears on me. It's the effort equivalent of running at 6mph. Most folks can run at the rate of a 10-minute mile; it's not hard. But 6mph running is nontrivial enough that if you needed to start jogging vigorously every time you wanted to find out what people were saying, you'd more often let some conversations go by so you could think about other things, so you could rest, because even 6mph is ridiculous if you do it for 10+ hours at a stretch with no break. So I withdraw. Constantly. Habitually. Almost unconsciously - it's a learned rhythm that I've adopted for survival for so many years.
Actually, I'm watching myself do it right now as I write this post from the corner of the classroom. And that's what triggered the insight.
I think I'll actually be fine with my advisor's 1-credit offering on social construction of knowledge; I'll check the registration numbers, but think it'll effectively be a tiny reading group with someone who knows me well, and I've done well auditing a class in that format this term -- full engagement, no zoning out. I'm also pretty confident about my German reading course, which historically tops out around 3-5 students and is basically the "hey, grad students who don't speak any German but want to read German texts for your scholarly work; we'll teach you how to get through them with a dictionary" class. No lectures. Lots of books, books about books, books about reading books... it's a course grounded in text. I'm very good at that, and have talked with half a dozen people in the department (including the chair and the instructor) to make sure I'll be okay.
My other three classes are likely to be more like the one I've got this semester; enrollment in the 20-somethings, a mix of lecture and reading and discussion. I can survive in them, I know that. I can probaby thrive in them, if I seriously haul ass. But maybe I should make it easier to thrive in them... not necessarily so that I can work less hard (because I usually throw myself completely into things no matter what), but so that I can go farther, since the earnestness of my efforts will go into better work rather than being able to understand.
Strange concept. It only makes sense when there is no maximum of "better" - no "okay, I am good enough and I am done now" point... where there is something more I could do with my extra energy that would make a difference. If you're going to get a ham sandwich no matter what, paying 30% more for that sandwich than your classmates do is fine if you can't otherwise spend that money anyway. But if you could use that extra 30% to upgrade to a brie, apple, and caramelized onion panini instead, then... glory, why would you pay the extra tax? Use your surplus to go for even more deliciousness! In grad school, it's not about how much I can do... it's about how far I can go in something, and any powers I can bring to bear on mastery of something will be... good.
I feel guilty writing this. Entitled. After all, it's not like I can't survive without assistance. I have done it all my life; I'm smart and scrappy and extremely good at making-do. But the resources are here, and maybe... making it easier for me to thrive so I can do more for the world, maybe... that's not a bad thing. Maybe. It's dumb to say "I accomplished average awesomeness, but I did it by struggling to lipread all the time!" because... masochism in and of itself does not improve the world. And it's not like I'll be getting addicted to a crutch I can't get by without. Clearly I can manage without support. Hell, I can kick ass without it.
So how much more ass could I kick with it? Let's find out.