Connections

This month, my life is all about making connections. From my dissertation to my graduate life to my upcoming job, I’m making connections between concepts, old friends, and new coworkers. Some of these connections are more difficult to make, others exciting, but all of them carry their own challenges, and together, they’re doing their darnedest to run me a little ragged.

First, Conceptual Connections

When feedback on the first full draft of my dissertation came back in July, my co-chairs were in agreement: it’s all there, I just needed to “build connections.” It wasn’t clear how my three findings chapters connected to one another and the rest of the dissertation to form an overarching argument. To some extent, I thought I knew what said argument was, but it was kind of obvious (like, no one would have really found it interesting or surprising). I knew there was something else there… but it was hiding right beneath the surface.

After working my way through more than half of the thing making whatever connections I thought I could between chapters, I met with one of my co-chairs, who asked all the right questions and helped me tease apart my actual argument. We sat and stared at this graphic (the fancy name for it is a “key linkage chart”) for a while, trying to figure out how the top led to the bottom… how all the pieces went together.

my current "key linkage" chart

my current “key linkage” chart

I’m sure this thing will continue to change — it’s more or less in a perpetual state of flux right now, but I’m currently in the process of re-(re-re-re-)revising in an effort to make more of the connections between concepts clear. I don’t really leave my house besides to eat and/or walk the dog, because this needs to be done before I leave for Boston at the end of August.

Also, New People

Speaking of which, I’m moving to Boston in August. Actually, I’m moving to Boston in exactly 19 days. Yikes — I hadn’t actually done that math until just now.

This move means I’m working with a whole new set of people — the ed tech team for Boston Public Schools — and (from a distance) I’m getting e-troduced to many of my new co-workers via email and hangout. So far, I’m thrilled to find that the people I’ll be working with are like-minded when it comes to ed tech, that they have found many of the same things in Boston schools that I found in my research with teachers who are trying to integrate tech, and that this job feels like a really good fit. However, it doesn’t mean making new connections from a distance is easy (heck, it’s hard enough when it’s face-to-face).

Part of the challenge here lies in the fact that I don’t yet know or completely understand this community, not having worked in a central office… um… ever. I’m not sure what matters most to this community when it comes to supporting teachers, because I haven’t been in it long enough to figure that out. I don’t know ANY of the district-specific acronyms (that’s already become a bit of a joke between me and my new coworkers — everyone is going to need to spell things out for me for a while). I have done a bit of work in urban education, but only in the context of TFA, not actually working for a district. Plus, all of these interactions are online, where it’s harder to read nonverbal and tonal cues that usually help me with these sorts of things. So needless to say, I’m a bit of a fish out of water. I imagine I’ll be doing a lot of listening for the first few weeks.

And I Can’t Forget my Existing Connections

Part of moving is making sure you connect with everyone before you move — this means my time is suddenly in high demand. Whereas it used to be okay for me to disappear for a couple of months and get my work done, many of my friends want to grab a drink, grab a meal, or otherwise get together before I move. This, in the realm of problems to have, is actually a pretty damn good one.  It makes me feel pretty loved.

That said, even these connections are at times difficult to make. To begin with, I have to say no to many of them, because the dissertation needs to take a front-row seat right now, and I can’t give up too much time to my social life. Also, I’m reserving much of my weekend time to hanging out with my partner, from whom I’ll be separated for an indeterminate amount of time. But more than that– it’s sad. These people have seen me through some of the darkest, ugliest moments of the PhD process. They are some of my favorite people and best friends, and I’m leaving a full year earlier than I originally thought I would be. At the moment, as I prepare to leave half of my heart behind in Ann Arbor while the dog and I move across the country, my emotional sensibilities can only take so much of a beating.

All this connecting has left me pretty drained these last few days (or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been getting up at 5:30 to reset my internal clock from gradschool time to realworkingperson time, or the fact that I’ve been running a lot, who knows). All of these connections are exciting — watching my dissertation come together (FINALLY), meeting my incredible new colleagues, and reconnecting with some of the best and smartest friends a woman could ask for. But… I need a nap.