Tag Archives: moving

First Week in Boston

It’s a Friday night, and I’m sitting on a cushy chair in my living room, fans blowing and windows open, desperately trying to ditch some of the heat from Boston’s 90-degree day, and reflecting on my first week as an EdTech Guru for Boston Public Schools.

And about the most poignant reflection I’m capable of is… “whoa.”

In the past week, I have moved across the country and farther away from home than I have ever lived. I’ve said goodbye to my best friend and partner in life for an indeterminate amount of time. I’ve started a new job in the city. I’ve ridden the T (subway) to and from work every day. I’ve walked to work along Boston’s Freedom Trail. This is my view every morning as I walk up Washington St. in downtown Boston after getting off the train:

my walk to work

my walk to work

I know, right?! It’s crazy pants.

And yet, when my boss paused today in the middle of a conversation about the online laptop rollout PD we’ve been trying to get up and running all week to ask “how are you doing?,” I couldn’t help but chuckle when I realized I have had absolutely no time to process what just happened.

In many ways, this is a blessing. My life has changed drastically in the past few days. But when I got to work on the first day, we hit the ground running. And I’m not talking a leisurely jog through the park here. I’m talking a dead sprint to the finish line. There are two of us in my position, and we share an office. Thankfully, we were able to get along and think together right off the bat, and off we went. We spent the entire week troubleshooting, designing and developing, joking and laughing, and banging our heads against our desks as issue after issue presented itself. There was nothing we couldn’t tackle, and no major problem we didn’t find a way to solve. I’ve learned more about administrative responsibilities, district operations, and online learning environments in four days than I would have ever expected would be possible. And I’m completely exhausted.

Sprinkle in the fact that Ms. Gertrude and I are still adjusting to our new environment, and it’s kind of amazing that I haven’t completely dissolved into a steaming pile of Liz in the middle of my living room. As it happens, I stinking love Dorchester. This Boston neighborhood is fantastic. In particular, my neighbors are awesome. Here’s a pic of G and I after my upstairs neighbor’s ridiculously cute Frenchie took over my lap last night:

me, missy, and gertrude

me, missy, and gertrude

The sound of small children and dogs graces my windows in the evenings, and the mornings are quiet as I get up early and spend a couple hours writing before work. G and I have even managed to squeeze in morning runs. Somehow, I’m still standing. And smiling.

Don’t mistake my meaning — elements of this move are incredibly difficult. It’s hard to come home to an empty apartment that, despite my best efforts, still doesn’t look, smell, or totally feel like “home.” People here don’t talk like people in the Midwest, and along with the linguistic differences come differences in social expectations and conventions, none of which I’ve mastered. I don’t have a routine, and I’m never sure what to eat in the evenings, since my partner was the one in charge of the meal plan (and he was awesome at planning out what we would eat all week). The silence is palpable and lonely. There are times when it physically hurts to be so far away from “home.” I am dedicated to making this place home. I’m even calling it home. But it’s not. Not yet.

But this week has been good. Hard. Overwhelming. Busy. Rewarding. And good. I will cling to this goodness as I begin first weekend on my own in Boston, knowing I made the right decision, difficult and uncomfortable as it has proven at times.

 

Missing the Midwest

Tomorrow, I move out of the Midwest for the first time in my life. It’s off to Boston for a new job, a new place, a new adventure.

After spending the past 29 and a half years in “America’s breadbasket,” a landscape filled with golden swaying cornfields in August, expanses of blowing snow in January, golden/orange/red/purple drifting leaves in October, and the freshest-smelling rain you’ve ever experienced in April, I have to be honest — it’s unbelievably difficult to leave.

So I wanted to pause for a moment, and write a quick list of the 10 things I will miss most about the Midwest. Some of these things you might only understand if you’ve lived in and loved the Midwest yourself. Others are true for anyone who has fallen in love with a place, with the people in it, with its landscape, with its ethos.

a midwestern field with a rusted-out grain elevator

The top ten things I will miss about the Midwest:

  1. The flat fields of Illinois. These open spaces make some visitors uncomfortable. They feel “exposed,” I’ve heard. You might think you’ve seen “flat” if you’ve been to Kansas. And sure, Kansas is pretty flat. But in certain parts of Illinois, the view includes a few dots of grain elevators, barns, and farmhouses among vast expanses of land that seems to have been pounded flat with the world’s largest rolling pin. I’ve not lived in that land for years now — over seven. But whenever I go back, I feel at home again, comforted by the blue bowl of sky overhead and the beauty of wide open spaces.
  2. The laid-back humbleness of rural Midwestern communities. There’s something beautiful about those little towns, the ones with one stop sign or a single stoplight. They know if you don’t belong. If your family is from there, they know every story about you from that day you broke your forehead open playing softball to that time you ran naked through the neighbor’s strawberries and came out the other side all covered in red juice. They are unassuming and slow-moving, and they love their homes fiercely and unapologetically.
  3. Dirt roads. Sure, every region has its dirt roads. But there’s something comforting about the roads in the Midwest — they’re on a grid, with numbers. Getting lost is damn near impossible, and you can’t see in any direction in the summer thanks to the cornfields (in Illinois) or trees (in Michigan) blocking your view. Our last two houses were off of dirt roads. My cars hated it, but I found it charming in a roll-up-your-window-or-you’ll-be-breathing-dust sorta way.
  4. The kindness of strangers. I have had so many strangers help me do all sorts of things. Get chairs into my car in a Meijer parking lot when they didn’t fit. Jumpstart my car. Unlock my car when I locked my keys in it 40 miles away from home. Carry something heavy. Carry something bulky. Figure out how to do something I should already know how to do (like pour coolant in my engine). Most of these have to do with the car, actually. Maybe that should tell me something…
  5. Watching squall lines charge across a cornfield. Because it’s so flat in Illinois, you can walk outside as a storm (or tornado…) approaches and just watch the beauty unfold. Unbelievable colors — reds, pinks, yellows, deep dark blues. Fast-moving and slow-moving stacks of clouds, menacing and at the same time comforting and beautiful. When the storm arrives, the smash of rain against your windows as you curl up in a comfy chair, warm and safe.
  6. The smell of tailgates on a Saturday morning in the fall. Hot dogs. hamburgers. Bacon, eggs, champagne, beer, chips, mustard, ketchup, pickles, cookies, brats. Also the sights — college kids painted head to toe in orange and blue or maize and blue or gold and black, hanging with their parents and their friends, throwing a football back and forth or standing around a grill, playing horseshoe or cornhole in large fields set aside especially for Saturday morning football debauchery. The party goes on all day as you first watch your team, then other teams, analyzing how the conference standings will play out over the next few weeks.
  7. The decidedly unique food cultures of Big Ten college towns. They’re all different. Here in Ann Arbor, we have Zingerman’s, of course, along with just about every other food you can think of. The main street strip is its own special awesome place. Local food is king here, and it’s easy to find places that use ingredients from local farmers. In Indiana and Illinois, good Mexican food is really easy to find. And don’t even try to pretend like you know what sweet corn is unless you’ve bought it from a farmer out of the back of his truck.
  8. Lawns. Not that people don’t have lawns all over the country, but lawns are a source of pride around these parts. Lush, green, manicured, tended patches of land that are all yours. You sit on your lawn and watch the neighbor kids play in a kiddy pool, sprinkler, or slip n’slide. You have yard sales. Your kid/neice/cousin/neighbor kid picks dandelions for you and brings them inside as gifts (thaaaanks, kiddo). Your weekends are devoted to yardwork, to tending gardens, to pulling tiny weeds from between your impatiens.
  9. The roar of the crowd.  I will miss my college sports, the energy and drive of young athletes as they train alongside getting a good education, the dedication of fans from one end of the Big Ten to the other. I have been an Illini, a Boilermaker, and a Wolverine, and I sympathize with all B1G schools (except Ohio State. Love to hate poor Ohio State). There’s an energy to these Midwestern college towns that really can’t be matched.
  10. Doing shit you’re not supposed to in friends’ basements / a cornfield / a park / a movie theater. Kids are rebellious everywhere, to be sure. And not all Midwestern teens are up to something they shouldn’t be. But there’s really not a whole lot to do in corn country, so we got really good at making some stuff up. From parties out in the fields (where we were pretty sure the cops wouldn’t find us) to boyfriends in basements to school playgrounds in the summer, we could always find somewhere to get into some good old-fashioned, but not too terribly illegal, trouble.

I will truly miss this beautiful place. I know some people spend their lives trying to leave it, but not me. If anything, I’m likely to spend many years hoping to one day get back.

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.