Tag Archives: BPS

Tackling the To-Do List

There are actually a number of strange to-do lists occupying my life right now, not just the one I’m going to talk about here. They include:

  1. The Packing To-Do List. You know, cuz I’m moving to Boston in 5 days (OMG).
  2. The Dissertation To-Do List. That’s the one I’ll talk about in a sec — hold tight.
  3. The CV/Cover Letter/Teaching Statement/etc.etc.etc. To-Do List. Because the academic job market kicks into high gear soon, and the partner-person and I might need to go hunting for jobs in the same city, depending on how some things hash out over the next few months.
  4. The What-Do-I-Want-to-Publish To-Do List. Now that I’ve written a dissertation, I should really publish some of this stuff.
  5. The Must-go-to-all-the-Places To-Do List. Because it’s imperative that I eat at all my favorite Ann Arbor restaurants before I leave.

But for this post — The Dissertation To-Do List.

I’ve hit that funny point in the process where there’s simultaneously very little and TONS left to do. Here’s my list as of this very moment:

to do list

Not too bad, right? I mean once you get about halfway down, all I have to do is format (hahaha — I’ve heard so many horror stories about formatting). Really, there’s relatively little writing and revising left to be done (depending, of course, on a bit of pending feedback from committee members). This list feels manageable. I could knock out a few of these in a single sitting, if I dedicated a few hours to the task.

And at the same time, this list feels downright huge. In part because of all the other to-do lists, and all the to-do lists that I’m going to acquire in about one week when I arrive in Boston and start my new job (again, OMG). So sure — not too bad. But still oh-so intimidating.

It’s okay, though. I have a plan.

My plan is going to sound crazy, but here it is: every morning before work, I’m going to get up at 4:30 a.m. and work on this sucker for an hour and a half. YES. I’m going to. I have multiple things that will motivate me to do this:

  1. The dog. Because she’s a weimaraner and thus extremely high-energy, my dog needs a run every morning. But because she’s a weimaraner and thus prone to an awful and deadly condition called bloat, she also needs to rest before and after every meal. This presents a timing conundrum that can be solved by getting her up and feeding her early, then running her right before I leave for work.

    me and my pup after our daily run

    after our daily run

  2. I’m a morning person. You know, once I convince myself to get out of bed, wash my face, and make some coffee. I get a lot of my best writing done in the morning, when my mind is fresh and the world is quiet (including social media).
  3. I’m NOT an evening person. Around 7pm every day, my body starts to shut down, brain first. I have held many jobs that require me to be “on” well past 7pm, including evening teaching jobs, but I have always struggled with working after the sun has set on the day. This means working in the morning is a far better move for me than planning on working after work, which will inevitably just not happen.

So that’s my plan. What do you think? Too ambitious? Probably. I’m hoping, though, that sticking to a schedule and allowing for occasional slip-ups will enable me to get through this particular to-do list without too much trouble. How have you tackled scary to-do lists, I wonder? Tell me on twitter!

 

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.

 

 

Moving is Scary (And Other Reflections)

I have started writing this post about a million times, and stopped each time, trying to figure out how to talk about this mega-huge thing that’s happening in my life in t – 1 month.

Basically, I have some news. I’m moving. To Boston. WITHOUT my husband-person.

(To start a new job with Boston Public Schools as an Online Learning Specialist.)

And this is scary.

This Post: An Explanation

Deciding how to communicate this to whomever might happen upon my website and then happen upon my blog was difficult, because my audience is so varied. I know a few close friends will read it (because I’ll post it on FB) — most of them already know that I’m moving, why I’m moving, etc. It’s also possible that my new boss will happen across this post. I hope she knows it’s the moving that’s scary, not the prospect of working with her (she’s awesome). It’s possible future employers will read it and think “this girl is crazy pants.” It’s possible that audiences I’ve not even imagined will read it. See, since this is a professional space, it really complicates the whole “blogging about my feelings” thing. And I have the feelings, folks. Lots of them.

So I thought about it a little bit, and decided to go ahead and just stinkin’ say it, because I don’t really want to be part of a professional world that isn’t willing to see me as a whole human being, put together messily and with little attention to logic or reason. Being a human is messy. Being an adult human is messier. It’s just that the tiny humans wear their messes on their shirts, and the adult humans squirrel away their messes in their brains. Well, consider this post the unloading of my brain-mess. Because finishing up a PhD has left no room inside my brain for my brain-mess, and because I don’t think squirreling anything away is healthy.

Why I’m Moving to Boston

Ha! I like how the header implies that this is an explainable thing. “I’m moving to Boston, because _____.” Like those sentences you filled in on worksheets when you were learning about compound sentences and conjunctions.

Basically I’m moving to Boston because BPS offered me a super cool job that lets me do a bunch of stuff that I love doing. That “bunch of stuff that I love doing” includes:

  1. Working with teachers to think about how to improve their practice
  2. Working with teachers to help them integrate tech into their practice
  3. Developing professional development resources for teachers
  4. Working on a team of people who care about teachers and teacher learning
  5. Making online things that help people learn
  6. Thinking about online learning and how people learn in hybrid (online/f2f) settings
  7. Thinking about how teachers learn in the midst of being teachers

You know, all that cool stuff. So really, it’s that simple. I accidentally (seriously, it was sort of an accident) landed myself a job doing exactly what I want to do at the oldest school district in the country. I get to acquire PD development experience and urban education experience while honing my skills and knowledge in #edtech. #winning.

See, in my dissertation study, sort of unintentionally, I wound up examining how PD structures impact digital integration. In the process, I discovered that I really, really, REALLY like thinking about PD and about how to improve teachers’ experiences as teachers and lifelong learners. I realized I kind of wanted to help schools design “good PD” (ftr, still deciding what I think that is). I realized I could do this in multiple contexts: either at the university level as a researcher, or at the k-12 level working with a district. I realized that this latter option was actually an option, which had never occurred to me before. And it sounded kinda… awesome.

Why it’s Kinda Weird

I always thought I’d be a professor. I had a PLAN, people — since undergrad. Get degree, be teacher for 3 years, earn master’s, get PhD, be professor, teach methods courses, get tenure, publish lots of things, etc., etc. So when I announced to my friends and family that I was going to move to Boston to work with a school district, some people were a little surprised.

This is because I had told everyone forever that I wanted to work at a R1 institution doing professory-type things. Conducting research with teams of graduate students and undergrads. Applying for grants. Leading future teachers to classroom excellence. Teaching research methods courses. To a large extent, I do still want that. This still sounds like a fantastic future to me.

Why I’m Doing this Anyway

The past few months of writing my dissertation have made me want to run screaming from the academy. I hear this is normal.

But beyond that (because that’s not enough of a reason to leave), I would like to gain some practical experience doing the thing I research. If I eventually choose to go back to academia, I’ll be armed with some experience as a PD professional at the k-12 level. Also, I’m almost done with this beast of a dissertation, and continuing to wallow in it for one more year while I do the academic job market dance makes me want to crawl under a table and cry for a while. A long while.

Furthermore, a career in k-12 education does not mean a career void of research, problem-solving, and publishing. A number of my favorite academic minds aren’t in the academy, but left it to return to the classroom or to work as administrators. These individuals attend the same conferences I attend, write for academic and practitioner journals, and are extremely tapped into the lives of the classroom simply due to the nature of their work. They maintain a foot in both worlds, even though it might not seem like it. In the words of one teacher-PhD:

I often feel like the world looks at this choice we’ve made as some sort of failing condition. Once in a while I get a student asking me, carefully, why I’m not teaching college if I’ve got my doctorate. The assumption often seems that it’s because I couldn’t make it as an academic so now I’m stuck teaching high school.

I do not know where I will end up after this year. Because my partner is still looking for a job and because I’m not yet sure what this new adventure holds in store, I might stay in Boston, I might look for an academic position, or I might seek out administrative certifications. But I do not subscribe to the notion that just because I’m in k-12, I cannot contribute to the scholarly community. That only the life of an academic at an R1 institution will allow me to question, shape, and change education writ large.

NOT Why I’m Moving to Boston

And for clarity’s sake, here are a few reasons that are NOT reasons why I am moving to Boston:

  1. Because I am getting divorced. (Seriously, why is this the first place people’s heads go when I tell them my partner is not joining me? He’s employed here, people. And if you’ve ever met my husband, you can imagine what he would be like unemployed. Not okay. We’re fine, and we’ll be fine. Get over it.)
  2. Because I run. Would I like to qualify for the Boston Marathon? Sure. Am I going to any time in the next 5 years? Hella no. Is Boston a runner’s paradise? Definitely. But no, I don’t base major life decisions on my hobbies.
  3. Because I hate academia. That’s just stupid. I’ve spent 6 years of my 7-year career in academia. I’ve been happy. I’m sure my career, in whatever form it takes, will continue to interact and intersect with post-secondary institutions.
  4. Because of the sports. I really can’t stand the Patriots. I can handle the Red Sox and am indifferent to the Bruins and Celtics.
  5. Because I’ve always wanted to live in the city. I come from the cornfields, and a dream of many cornfield-dwellers is to move to a big city. This actually terrifies me a little bit, I have to be honest. I’ve never done well with big transitions, and this is the biggest yet.
  6. Because I love lobster. Though I do love lobster.
  7. Or clams… or oysters… Though I love those too. Actually if I’m being honest, the food might have been a motivator…

Dang it, now I’m hungry. And on that note, it’s just about dinnertime here in Michigan, and I have one more month at home with my husband and puppy to enjoy our evening dinners and chill time, so I’m going to peace out. I hope this sheds some light on why I’m moving to Boston, and why it’s scary, but also pretty awesome.