A little over a year ago, I wrote about managing the second 500m of a crew race. Catch – send. Catch – send. There were moments that weren’t pretty, and work that I’m glad is done, but I made it through. I’m into the third 500m now, and it’s time for a power 10: 10 strokes as hard as I can pull.
It’s spring break. Campus is quiet, undergrads are off to Florida or Mexico, other grad students are working from home, and I’m in the office, frantically writing a first draft of my dissertation proposal. In two weeks, I need to have an executive summary for the Clark Seminar, which I’m honored to have been selected to. Next week, I’m off to another Carnegie Summit to present a poster about our PiPNIC work. So this week is it.
The third 500m is when you started to feel the send. You feel the glide of the boat under you, the water beside the boat smooths out, and there is a crisp snap against the oarlocks. The power 10 feels good: a sense of power, possibility, and strength.
I’m starting to see connections between what I thought was an interesting idea and the good work happening in schools. I use words like epistemology and distributed cognition and (at least I think) I know what they mean. I have definitely developed an appreciation for the time it takes to develop from an idea to a study.
Focus on the rhythm, keep the course, send each pull.
When I graduated from college, I wanted as far away from academia as possible. I was tired, very tired, of memorization and tests that had sapped the joy out of learning. Now, I’m beginning my eighth year as a teacher, enthusiastic about learning, and am applying to graduate school.
College was an emotional and geographic roller coaster: I graduated from high school from the American School of Paris in June, split with dear friends, spent the summer working three jobs (including cleaning hotels rooms) in Door County, Wisconsin. In September, I plopped down at Washington University in St. Louis, and though I did well there, rowing crew and acing organic chemistry, I wasn’t happy. I spent the summer as a Girl Scout Camp Counselor near Minneapolis, the fall at the Biosphere 2 in Tucson, Arizona, studying astronomy, and the spring back in Paris at the Sorbonne. It was healing and grounding to have chosen to go back to Paris, a place I’d always felt conflicted about. At some point, I decided I didn’t want to return to St. Louis and applied to transfer to the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I spent the next two years there, starting in analytical chemistry, switching to biochemistry, and finally graduating in biology with a double major in French. While all my friends applied to medical schools, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I moved out to Montana to work on a dude ranch.
I began working on the report with the self study committee 2 years ago, and this past week we had our visiting team on campus for reaccreditation. As I’ve watched the whole process, I had a couple thoughts:
First, we received a commendation for how we did the self study, particularly for our use of technology. The tech infrastructure was my part of the team, so I was particularly proud of that. I’m planning to write up that piece in my portfolio.
I would like to be on a visiting team at some point, and I realized that it’s more than just walking around talking to people. You need to be a confident facilitator, whether that is knowing how to ask questions that probe deeper than what is already in the report; you need to be read to step in and redirect conversations that get tangential, circular, or personal; and you need to be prepared to diffuse potentially tense interactions amongst faculty or staff that you do not know or have a relationship with. I was particularly impressed with the two men who facilitated our middle school discussion and the questions that they asked.
One of the biggest realizations I came to in our middle school discussion was that, for the most part, people WANT feedback on their teaching. We want our colleagues to visit our classrooms. We are proud of the good work that we do and want to make it better. This is one of the reasons I love being in the Critical Friends Group with four of my colleagues. It gives us a place to get constructive feedback on units or projects. I reaffirmed for me the importance of this protocol.
I’m no longer on any committees or taskforces, which makes me a little sad, but there are other projects in the back of my mind that I’m ready to focus on!