My friend Christina and I were chatting not too long ago about the desperate lengths one will go to make progress on one’s dissertation. She told me about the various desperate phone calls she’s had recruiting participants for her study, and I tried to reassure her that this isn’t “desperate”, this is “the hustle”. We should reframe this type of work the way rappers do when they have to sell drugs on the street to make money before dropping their mixtape or something–we’re just “hustlin”. (Yes, I compared recruiting participants for a dissertation to selling drugs. I am desperate.)

I came up on my own hustle situation recently when I finished writing the pre and post assessment for my study. This assessment is meant for the 5th graders I’ll be working with– I am going to give it to them at the beginning and at the end of the One Hen unit to see what they have learned. The assessment asks a few questions about economics and entrepreneurship to meet the state and national standards for elementary economics. I thought what I had developed made sense and that I had made it kid-friendly, but my experience writing assessments for NHA has taught me that you never really know the assessment is good until you see the kind of answers it produces. Since this assessment is a very important piece of data in my study, I don’t want to wait until I give it to my dissertation participants before I discover it won’t work. At that point, I will be screwed. So the best solution is to “pilot” the assessment with some kids that are not part of the dissertation to see what happens before I give it “for real.” Sounds easy, but I don’t know any kids.  I ideally need a kid going into 5th grade and none of my friends’ kids are that old yet, and since I have been basically writing and working for 4 years, I haven’t gotten to know any of my neighbors and their kids.

While I was trying to figure out this new dilemma, my nephews came to visit. They live in Houston and come up once a year, usually in the summer, to escape the insane Texas heat (unfortunately this year, the heat followed them to MI). They stay a while and Mike & I usually spend a few weekends tubing with them on the boat on the lake, swimming in the pool, and having dance parties in my living room– you know, typical aunt & uncle activities.


While playing in the lake one weekend, it hit me all of a sudden– my nephews are kids! And the oldest of the three, Mikey (in the blue life jacket above), is going into 4th grade which is close enough to 5th grade! Yep, I had decided to resort to using my own family to help me with this assessment. Just hustlin’. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Mikey turned out to be an easy sell to help me despite having to take a “test” about topics he knows nothing about during his summer vacation. I guess he just loves his aunt. Or, he liked the idea of being able to tell a teacher whether her test questions were good or not. Or, the thought of a $10 Walmart gift card to spend on whatever toy he wanted was an incentive. I am going to pretend it’s the first one.  Mikey was also a tremendous help, pointing out words he didn’t know and telling me when some questions were redundant (or seemed that way). My favorite is when he started reading the directions to one set of questions out loud, gave up, and finished them by saying “blah blah blah…”  Kids are pretty blunt about when you’re too wordy, apparently.


I really am going to take his suggestions to heart on this one. The fact that he’s going into 4th grade, not 5th, actually made sense. Perhaps many of the students I’ll be working with might be a grade level below when beginning the school year and most likely would struggle with a few of the same things Mikey did. I think I want to pilot this with more students, but I am out of nephews. If anybody knows of any 5th graders, let me know. The hustle continues…