To blog or not to… Oh, you know the drill!

By js, 23 October, 2008, 2 Comments

It’s been a pretty strange semester so far and I have an inkling to why so many phd students go ABD for so long.

I have had alot of different things vying for my attention and I don’t feel like I’m spending enough quality time thinking about my research project. I am able to think about it in-between working on alot of other projects.

I have talked to a couple of my friends, also department chairs, about resigning from the chair position so that I can dedicate more time to my work. They understand all the different projects in which we are required to participate and all the extra tasks we are required to do many on an emergency “deal with this now” basis.

I also spoke to another department chair who recently earned his EdD and asked him how he managed to do it. He said he neglected his family, spend most of his evenings and weekends in his office working. He managed to finish quickly and his stay-at-home wife took care of the kids.

One of the decisions that I made at the end of last semester was that I was not going to neglect my family and I was going to take of my own physical well-being. Pushing too hard, like I did for two years, may have created some habits that I am having a hard time reframing.

I used to work consistenly until 2 am. I used to not help the kids with homework very much. I used to spend my entire weekends in my office working. Dedicating all that time I was able to both fulfill my administrative and teaching obligations as well as my graduate school obligations. Working this way, though, took its toll.

For all these reasons I have been considering “giving up” the administrative obligations. Though the change sounds tempting, I’m not sure that I would be able to abandon many of the projects to which I’ve dedicated so much time. I may be suffering from delusional self-importance but I don’t think there is anyone in the department who has the skills to continue doing what I have begun. Of course, not that they couldn’t learn, but I would be the one who would have to teach them and that would probably end up being time-consuming in itself. I don’t think that I could resign and be completely free from responsibility until maybe 3-6 months depending on how soon the new person would learn. I am almost sure that many of the projects which I have begun would just be abandoned.

This morning I was reading the new Cs journal which I received yesterday which made me think of all the different interests that I have. A little voice was telling me that I should be reading something else directly related to my diss. So I wondered to what extend all these disperate interest and all the projects I have begun are hurting my progress.

To some extent, I think it necessary to have a focus so that everything that we do is able to propel us forward to completion of our goals. I wonder if the goals that I have for myself as a leader of my department and as a teacher are in the way of my focus on the dissertation topic. Perhaps if the topic were more related to my administrative and teaching duties my current work would seem as working toward the same goal instead of against it.

At this point, I’m not sure that I’m willing to change my topic. Any type of direction which I choose would be good; we certainly need more people of color in composition or in assessment but I am not sure that the work which I will find in those fields, which is very similar to what I am already doing, would be fulfilling for very long. I find composition, assessment, and management very taxing. This feeling, though, may be a function of the context in which I currently find myself.

Still I find that I become much more excited when I am thinking about literacy practices in general and digital literacy practices in particular. I am convinced that my gut instinct for this project was a good one. I am disheartened, though, that I have not received word from the IRB for my study. I feel like I can’t make much progress with their permission. I am currently thinking about methodology and methods for analyzing the data that I collect but I don’t want to begin the collection process until I know that the work that I am doing is “safe.”

So I continue my struggle to find a balance with all that I do. I fear, though, that I may have to abandon the struggle and decide to commit only to projects which will help move me toward finishing the dissertation.

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2 Responses {+}
  • Jaime Armin Mejía

    Hey JJ,

    “House” is on, but it’s a re-run. You lay out a few issues here which are obviously important to you. My suggesting you quit isn’t or wasn’t a very good suggestion. Ok.

    You’ve invested a great deal of yourself in your job as Chair and don’t want to abandon that because your job represents who you are. I would want to be the last person to have you walk away from what you’ve invested so much of yourself.

    What I think you fail to mention is your fear of change. If you devote all your time to completing your diss., you’d no doubt suffer a major cut in your family’s income, even if you still taught two or three classes there or elsewhere nearby. Your income probably helps your family make its mortgage payments as well as car payments and many other things. You can’t deny that walking away from the position as Chair wouldn’t hurt, unless it’s the case that it wouldn’t.

    Also, there’s the other issue of what such a change will do to your marital relations. You’ve previously said your husband doesn’t offer up the best in terms of being supportive of your completing your PhD. Being the family person you are, you seem to be someone who would, no matter what, not want to jeopardize your marriage. And I think this is so because he’s a good father to your two kids and because, no matter what, you love him dearly and want to grow old with him.

    I think your imagination doesn’t or can’t run wide enough to encompass the possibilty that you can do all these things: stay as Chair, even if you have to teach that extra class (something that won’t last), being a good wife and mother and daughter and friend to your friends and colleagues; getting past your PhD exams, and then completing your diss.; as well as so much more.

    You say that before you spent too much time with work and that your family suffered because of it. Well, now you know better. Don’t let our work, with your job and with your studies, stop you from being a good woman to your husband and a good mother to your kids and a good daughter to your parents.

    I think you take your job at that school too seriously. While it’s important work that you do as Chair and as a teacher, you need to try taking that job in a different stride. Whatever things you’ve begun there and however important you think they are, none of that amounts to a hill of beans if you’re not happy with yourself, your life, your goals. While it’s sad your bosses aren’t making accommodations to help you with your job so you can complete your PhD, you should not wait for them to do so.

    You seriously need to think of moving on. You will do more good with a PhD than without one, and the sooner you get it, the sooner you can move to a position where you can effect changes that’ll be good for more people on a more permanent basis.

    Of course, as you’ll find out when you get the PhD, you’ll not be the same person that you are now. My wish is that you’ll remain to your kids and your husband the same wonderful mother and wife that I’m sure you’ve always been. You’ve always had brains, so you’ll finish the PhD. As you do that, don’t lose what’s most important to you: your hsuband, kids, and parents and friends.

    Your job is secondary. With the job, as a job, don’t let it interfere with your getting that PhD, since the PhD is what you want.

    I AM and WILL BE here for you. I know others will also be there for you. You have a very good support system, chief among them, of course, are your kids. I’m not entirely convinced your husband isn’t supportive.

    Again, the thoughts you’re having about where you’re at these days I think are fairly ty[ical. Focus, concentrate, plan, and move forward, and as you do, know that you’re doing so on the backs and shoulders of your kids and so many more, including me.

    xoxo, JAM

  • js

    Jaime,

    You are very right about several things.

    1. I have to remember about my long-term goals and help to set my current goals to not interfere with those. One reason why I started the phd program was because I saw the way that could make an impact and determined that it was no longer enough. I needed to do something different which I hope also translates to being able to do something more.

    2. Fear of change….I have not thought about my dilemmas in those terms before. There are things which I am more willing to change than others and the change is worth it, while there are other things that I need to work so that they don’t change because I value the way things are. I just need to distinguish between the two.

    3. I appreciate the support I receive from others; I truly do. Debo demostrarlo un poco (mucho) mas. Gracias, Jaime.

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