Tag Archives: family


Maybe you’ve heard — there’s a Women’s March on Washington scheduled for the day after tomorrow. And if you know me at all, you know I voted for Clinton, and you know I was extremely disappointed by the outcome of the election, and you know I’m a democrat, and you know I believe in funded public schools, racial justice, socioeconomic reform and awareness, cultural acceptance, sexual identity awareness, gender identity awareness, and just about any type of “liberal” or “progressive” reform you can imagine.

So it might not be a surprise that I’m planning to spend two nights on a bus so that I can march in Washington, DC on the 21st. In fact, people who know me might assume that the list above are the reasons why I’m marching, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. My sociopolitical beliefs are certainly a major motivator.

But to assume my political leanings are the only thing driving me to spend precious weekend family time away from my one-year-old girl and supportive husband would ignore the many, many other reasons why I am participating. Among them, these five:

Because my daughter is watching me. Posting memes and articles on social media to a crowd of individuals who mostly agree with me doesn’t count as “standing up for what I believe in.” The week of the election, my husband challenged me as I struggled to drag myself out of a deep depressive state. It wasn’t about my candidate not winning — it was a moral, emotional, ethical, deeply personal and also deeply professional loss when the citizens of our country voted for a leader I feel is the embodiment of anti-intellectualism, misogyny, intolerance, and hatred. “What are you going to do about it?” he asked me. Well, I have a long-term plan that I’m sure I’ll share here later, but for now: this. I am going to do this.

Because I am able. I have the means to pay for the bus ticket. I have a husband who supports my decision to participate and will watch our daughter during the 36-hour trip. I have the means to pay for food along the way. I am in good physical shape. I have friends and colleagues who share my cause and passion, and we can stick together in DC on Saturday. I am well-off and able, and many who might want to participate may not be.

Because rhetoric can be harmful. While some journalists are claiming that the march lacks purpose, march leaders have made the case that the march is in resistance to hateful rhetoric (among other things):

“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us–women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault.”

This may not seem like a clear purpose to some, but is very clear to me. If studying language, linguistics, texts of all types, and rhetorical theory as my life’s work has taught me anything, it is that rhetoric has power. Protesting the vile rhetoric our new president and his supporters have launched against women, disabled individuals, and minorities is therefore, for me, a perfectly substantial purpose.

Because I know people who are genuinely afraid about their family’s future safety in this country. My daughter’s teachers at her daycare. Some of the students in the schools for which I work, and their families. Teens who have been bullied or ridiculed in the days since the election because of their racial or gender identities. Because our nation was built on the shoulders of immigrants, and yet has hypocritically thrown hatred and intolerance at minority groups throughout our history. Because that needs to stop.

Because sometimes, #thestruggleisreal. And I mean that in a less sarcastic way than usual. I have always worked in a field dominated by women — education. literacy. reading. Until recently, when my career path somehow landed me in the male-dominated tech field and in a leadership position right as our family welcomed a tiny new member. While I am still in education, surrounded by strong and inspiring female leaders, a few of whom will be on my bus tomorrow night, there are days when I can feel that glass ceiling pressing down. Days when I can’t attend an evening work function because of the baby’s bedtime.  Weekends when family trumps (heh) imperative paperwork, rendering me farther behind and scrambling to find the available hours to catch up. Mornings when getting out of bed after a rough night of wakeups is the closest thing to torture I’ve ever experienced. And while I am fortunate to work among men who value the input of female leaders and understand the demands of family, some interactions highlight the very real struggle of women who strive to “have it all;” respect and integrity in their work, love and comfort in their homes.

These are just a few of the not-so-obvious reasons #whyimarch this weekend. To my sisters marching all over the world, stay alert, stay safe, stay strong, stay peaceful, and stay positive.

A Letter to my Daughter on the Eve of her First Birthday

I usually reserve this space for posts dedicated to professional reflection, sometimes with a touch of the personal. But today, I am out of my office, home with my daughter as she fights off an ear infection, and I’m not thinking much about digital learning, professional development, software, hardware, or 1:1 initiatives. Instead, I’m spending time with my daughter, who turns one year old tomorrow. This post is for her.

Dear Josephine,

A year ago today, I knew you were about to arrive, but I didn’t know anything about you besides that you were most active at night, waking me with kicks and somersaults, a nightowl from the very beginning. I knew my life was about to change, but I didn’t know exactly how — or how much. Your Daddy and I were excited to meet you, to find out who you were, to learn how to do this parenting gig together, to hope you would forgive us our inevitable mistakes.

A year ago, Tomorrow.

A year ago, Tomorrow

A year ago tomorrow, on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, you arrived at 3:33 pm, after a grueling 36-ish hours of labor. I vividly remember the moment they placed your squirmy, slippery self on my chest. You were finally here, and you had the lungs to prove it.

I have learned so many things from you, and you aren’t even one yet. You have taught me how to find joy in every moment. You smile big, with your whole face, with your whole body. You have done this since you were four weeks old. You smile at everything. At everyone. For you, life is exciting, beautiful, and most importantly, full of joy. Your smile is contagious, your joy infectious.


Your four-week-old smile

I have also learned that I only need about three consecutive hours of sleep to function, but I need about five to participate; a lesson I could have done without, but useful information nonetheless. I have learned that hugs and kisses should be given liberally. I have learned that meatballs are the best food in the world. I have learned that socks are overrated, that one doesn’t need toys in a world full of kitchen utensils, and that an open window with a light breeze is the best way to induce a state of pure zen.

Your first year, my love, has been a challenging one in so many ways. Your Daddy and I moved across the country before you arrived, and it’s difficult not to have the helping hands of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins as we teach you about the world. We started new jobs before you arrived, jobs that challenge our minds and our time. 2016 has also been a difficult year for the humans of Earth for a number of social and political reasons, which I imagine (or hope) will be a distant memory for me, and something you’ll read about in history books.

You make any challenge life throws my way easier to face. You greet every single day with a smile and a giggle, sweetening my morning coffee with your still relatively toothless grin. You recently started walking, and whenever you lose your balance, you plop down on your butt and just keep trying. You pick up new skills, preferences, and words at a breakneck pace that astounds me daily. You don’t give up in the face of a challenge: why should we? You never let a day go by witho20160504_182224ut learning something new: why should we?

It’s your first birthday tomorrow, and we will celebrate with presents shipped from the Midwest, with cake your Daddy will bake tonight, with a celebratory supper that you probably will eat some of before you throw the rest on the floor for the dog. It’s a celebration of your first year, but it’s also a celebration of our first year — with you. A year that has looked nothing like the well-organized, schedule-conscious, on-top-of-things life we had come to know before you, and has been perfect and beautiful in its blonde-haired, blue-eyed chaos.

Happy birthday, boop. You are my best thing.

<3 Mommy


My coffee, in my favorite mug — the Polish pottery one my grandma sent me to congratulate me on my new job — pours steam into the air beside me. I need to leave to catch the bus soon, so I only have a few moments, but after my beautiful walk with the dog this morning, I wanted to pause and write before the hectic day began.

I’m feeling inspired by last night’s #edtechchat on Twitter, which was all about being thankful for the educators who have shaped our lives. I don’t normally get all warm and fuzzy about Thanksgiving — I prefer to thank the people who have shaped my life throughout the year, in the small ways that I can: with smiles, time spent, conversations had, help given.

However, last night’s chat really left me thinking about how blessed I have been this year. It has really been a pretty epic year for the husband-person and I. We have moved across the country, run marathons, seen me through the last bit of a PhD and him a post-doc, started new jobs, and begun a new life.

And a few things have made this transition easier, or at least more manageable in the face of so much change. So here are a few things I’m thankful for this morning, and this holiday season:

  1. The view as I climb over my favorite hill in Dorchester, next to an elementary school, when the landscape opens up and I can see the harbor in front of me, the skyline to my left. More than once I’ve thought, coming over that hill, pinch me… is this really my life?
  2. My sister’s courage as she braves her way through her first year of teaching 1st grade.
  3. My mother’s constant and dependable support and mentorship as I re-entered k-12 education this fall (and always).
  4. My husband’s passion for our little family and for his work. I can always depend on him for somehow intellectual AND light-hearted conversation at the end of the day.
  5. Food. Specifically, SEAfood. Which it turns out is plentiful around here, and which will grace our Thanksgiving table this year.
  6. Running. Running, what an epic year we’ve had. Thank you for helping me find my center in the midst of much chaos.
  7. My friends and colleagues here in Boston and across the country — you make my hard work (and my hard play) so much more meaningful.

Happy holidays, wherever you are, and however you celebrate. It’s off to the bus for me, and back into this hectic life I love so much.

The Ageist Myth of Digital Media: Or, My Chat with Papaw

Today, I talked to my grandfather.

Why did I talk to Papaw? Well, two reasons. 1) I like talking to Papaw. 2) For one of my classes, I need to write a blog post. Requirements stipulate that the post be in response to an interview of someone who has used a typewriter. I have used a typewriter, but one cannot interview oneself. Correction: one can, but one would look crazy. Besides, those moments reside in the far reaches of my childhood memories (and once in college). So I racked my brain. Who to ring up?


A former teacher?

Wendell Berry? I don’t know him but I once knew someone who knew him…

I rested on calling my grandfather, not because any of the above options wouldn’t have worked just fine for this assignment (Wendell Berry would’ve been downright cool), but because I am in the throes of dissertation proposal madness and wanted to talk to someone who composed his dissertation by hand and on typewriters, to find out what that was like. And to be reassured that this process is, in fact, this difficult no matter how or when you do it. And to learn some stuff about dissertating from someone who got his PhD at The University in Illinois in 1974 — a very different time, when dissertating meant library-going, dewey-decimal searching, and hand-drafting.

Papaw started by describing how his doctoral thesis came together — the word “laborious” came up more than once. He wrote his dissertation (I just learned this today — how is that possible? I’m ashamed.) on the electrical responses of houseflies’ hair receptors. Electrophysiology… or something. He wrote much of the dissertation by hand, piecing it together in various drafts and with various versions, typing it on a shared electric typewriter in the lab when it a chapter needed to be sent to a committee member. He didn’t type the final version; instead, he hired a neighbor/typist who lived across the street from him and Nana in the their tiny town of Homer, Illinois.

By the time Papaw was working on his PhD in the 1970s, typewriters were common. Were electric. Papaw has never really worked on a non-electric typewriter, though he and Nana had one — a hand-me-down from my great-grandfather that got lost in a move or a spring cleaning somewhere along the way. But though Papaw spent much of his adult life using electric typewriters — his job as an editor in New York pre-PhD required some time in front of typewriters, no doubt — he has since moved on to a computer command station that seriously puts mine to shame.

Papaw’s Command Station

He’s currently writing a book about American jazz pianist and organist Milt Buckner (did I mention my Papaw is also a professional jazz pianist? Someday I’ll be as cool as him), and has composed — and researched — the entire contents of the book with the aid of digital technologies.

When I asked him, “was there anything better about the way you used to do it?”
He said, very decisively, “No.”
And I laughed.

I laughed because my septuagenarian grandfather is one of the more digitally literate adults I know, and because I knew that would be his answer even before I asked the question. He went on to tell me how much more quickly he can work now that he has the Internet to help him track down resources, a word processor that allows him to revise in the moment, and the ability to cut and paste without literally cutting and pasting pages together. His book has been coming together over the course of the past year, and has involved phone and email interviews, Internet searches for Buckner’s daughter, and database hunts for books and articles at the U of I libraries.

As the “digital revolution,” if that’s a thing, has progressed, Papaw has altered his approach to writing and composing drastically. He has a system for converting old records into digital music files (this has always eluded me), he scanned and archived all the family photos (this came in very handy when I made a photo-video tribute for my Mom upon graduating college), and now he is composing a biography (for fun). He was a die-hard iPod user starting with the first version of iPod Mini. I’m not a Mac user, and I give him and the rest of my family plenty of guff for joining that cult, but I’m relatively astounded by Papaw’s willingness to try on, check out, and experiment with new technologies.

But maybe astounded isn’t the right word for me to use. I know plenty of people between the ages of 30 and 80 who know how to “use computers” in ways that many college and high school students do not. As I have designed my research study on teachers’ uses of digital media, many people I’ve talked to have questioned whether or not my findings will simply revolve around age. The mantra: “well that’s easy — the older teachers won’t use technology, and the younger ones will.” Though I see why this relatively ageist belief gets perpetuated in our society, I’m not terribly convinced. I talk to Papaw, who is using his digital devices to do everything from compose and disseminate music to write a book about a jazz organist, and I’m not convinced. I watch a veteran teacher use digital spaces to conduct writing workshops with her students, and I’m not convinced. I watch my undergraduate students in my composition courses struggle with how to create well-thought-out, rhetorically-intelligent websites, and I’m not convinced. Do I think that today’s adults face challenges when it comes to learning how to use digital media in ways that work best for what we want to do? Yes. But so do kids, especially when we fail to teach them how to use these technologies in ways my grandfather is using them now — carefully, critically, and with a purpose in mind.

Marc Prensky, in an essay that I really need to quit citing but that continues to rile me up, argues that today’s teachers are “immigrants,” today’s students “natives” when it comes to the “digital language” (first of all, Prensky, it’s not language, it’s literacy) of the 21st century. I’m going to set the offensive immigrant/native language aside for a moment and focus on the implications of his argument — if, indeed, teachers and other adults who grew up around typewriters and wrote their theses by hand are “immigrants” who can’t shed their non-digital accents, then the digital literacy divide issue should be solved with a generational turnover, right? Wrong. Today’s teacher education curricula do not contain emphases on critical uses of digital technologies, today’s students are slammed with tests that do not communicate the relevance or importance of digital literacies, and today’s teachers are forced to respond to legislation that threatens to take their jobs if they don’t raise test scores. In this environment, a generational turnover isn’t going to “solve” anything related to digital literacy smarts.

I often meet older adults — like Papaw — who are critical users of whatever writing technologies serve the purpose of the moment (and are relatively available). When Papaw needed to use a typewriter, he did. When something else came along that made comprehensive revision more possible and mistakes easier to fix, he learned how to use it, attaining new digital literacies that he did not have before. This isn’t to say that typewriters might not be the better choice for a writer, even today. It is instead to emphasize that it isn’t the technology, but what the writer wants to do, what the technology enables, and how these two things align, that matters.

As our conversation ran off on a tangent, away from typewriters and into Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging, Papaw and I shared our experiences with various social media. I talked about how I have a Twitter account that I’m horrendously bad at keeping up with, and he mentioned how he has a LinkedIn account that he barely touches. We talked about the various purposes of these sites, who their audiences are, and how the various disciplines of music, art, academia, and business use different media to create their digital networks. Eventually I realized that I needed to read, write, and teach; that the conversation had strayed far from typewriters; and that I should probably get off the phone.

But the impact of my chat with Papaw lingers, and will likely linger throughout the week. This conversation raised a number of questions for me about the assumptions our society holds about young people, old people, and all the somewhere-in-the-middle people. Are our nation’s young people somehow naturally adept at using particular technologies in ways older people are not? Are the experiences, literacies, and technologies of older people obsolete in a 21st century world dominated by computers, tablets, and smartphones? My gut reaction, obviously, is a resounding no. My bigger question, then, is how to communicate that one can be, or become, a critical, intelligent, careful consumer and producer of digital media, no matter the times and no matter their age?

Thanks to Willard Woodward, retired biology professor, amazing pianist, and forever my inspiration.