Sleepless in Seattle

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Lame title, I know, but it does fairly accurately describe my trip to Seattle last week for the National Council for Social Studies Conference (NCSS) and it’s research-related pre-show, the College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA).

I arrived on Tuesday to an interesting surprise. My friends and fellow grad students and I were planning to share a hotel room. There are three of us total–Cheryl, Elizabeth, & I. Due to the conference booking the hotel completely, and my not following up with them earlier, we were informed that we would all be sharing a tiny hotel room with one (yes, one) double (yes, double) bed.  We all just decided to go for it and get cozy, hence the “sleepless” title. It wasn’t actually too bad, but definitely an adventure.

On Wednesday, CUFA began. I started the day with my presentation. It was at a “roundtable”, which means that there were two of us presenting our papers (both dissertations, actually–the other girl was from UM) and one discussant, who summarizes the similarities and connections between the two papers. My discussant was Anne-Lise, who had already read my paper a bunch of times. There were also three other profs there from other schools who listened and gave me some feedback on my study that was very helpful. Wednesday and Thursday were mostly full of listening to other social studies people from around the country present their research, and then walking around trying to meet them during the receptions at the end of both nights. It was inspiring to see what others are working on. Working on just my project can get to be a bubble where I forget about all of the other good stuff going on. Hanging out with other MSU grad students that I don’t get to socialize with very often was nice too, and I even met some nice grad students from Missouri and we had a very nice dinner all together.

I also got to meet Bruce VanSledright in person at CUFA. He was presenting on the new social studies standards, and I walked up to him afterward and introduced myself. I invited him to my talk the next day, and he said he had tried to come to my roundtable, but all of the seats were full. He told me to keep in touch about my study and that he would love to read it when it was finished. It was nice to officially meet him, not just over Skype. The funny part was that the first thing he said to me was that I look much different in person than Skype– “you’re much shorter”, he said.

Friday started the “big conference”–NCSS. The highlight of Friday was seeing James Loewen speak. He is the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, among other fabulous books. His stance is the misrepresentation of history by common school textbooks. His book challenged me as a undergrad to think about what is “common knowledge” about our country’s history and re-examine what I have learned. We make our undergrads read a chapter of it in TE 401 as well, and it never fails to surprise people. His talk was PACKED. I had to sit on the floor right in the front and I was sandwiched by tons of fellow history nerds. Once again, I learned something new from him–characteristics of the “nadir” of race relations in our country from 1890-1940, and then I promptly went to the bookstore afterwards and bought two of his books. I devoured and almost finished one on my flight home.


Also on Friday, I presented one more time at NCSS. I gave a one hour talk on the One Hen unit to fellow teachers. I think it went well, although the audience didn’t ask a lot of questions. Also thanks to a crazy cold that has been plaguing me for two weeks, plus the dry air or hotels and airplanes for the three days before this,  I basically coughed and sputtered my way through the whole thing. Not my finest public speaking performance, but hopefully not too distracting. My next goal is to turn that presentation into a publication for Social Studies and the Young Learner.

Friday was our last day there, and to finish, a few of us MSU people made the trek to the Space Needle. We felt like we couldn’t leave Seattle without seeing it. We left for our walk at 4:00 in the afternoon and already Seattle was pitch black and pouring rain. It was truly fitting. It was beautiful to see even if we couldn’t exactly afford to go up in it. Then we grabbed pizza and enjoyed a lovely final night in the Emerald City. It was a rejuvenating trip, really. I learned a lot, I was inspired and encouraged at times, and I was so busy I didn’t have time to think about what I still needed to do when I got home. I am still catching up, but Seattle was well worth the travel and the sleeplessness.

Time is money

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I am beginning to prepare for one of my upcoming presentations, and my advisor suggested that I start t write up my “findings.”  The One Hen unit at Lanley Elementary (Found a pseudonym! Bonus nerd points if anyone knows who “Lanley” is) is not even close to being over, but I do already have some ideas of what I want to write about and Anne-Lise suggested that I write these up as initial findings so that I have something to talk about at this presentation and any future job interviews beyond just what my study IS. SO, I set out to do that this week and I learned a few lessons:

1. This is going to take a long time to do. I knew that I need to study all of the work I have collected as well as all of the memos I have been writing in great detail, but even doing just a surface level look at these things took a while.

2. I have a lot to write about. This is good! And I think I will have even more to write about, but again this will take more time.

3. My defense could be as close as 6 months away, and I have a lot to do.

All of these lessons center around time. I need time. I need to stop collecting data soon and start writing. I made a goal for myself to end my regular time at Lanley on Nov 30. This gives me Dec, Jan, Feb, March, & April to write– 5 months. Maybe 4 if I decide I want to push myself. I need more time.

This week, to attempt to solve this issue, I applied for the Dissertation Completion Fellowship at MSU’s Graduate School. This fellowship would allow me to only teach 1 class at MSU next semester instead of 2. The class I would be left teaching only meets 10 times, so that would cut down on my prep time and driving time during the crucial writing months of Feb & Mar. The DCF would also pay me more money than I would have made teaching that extra class to make up for it, so that would be very nice.  I also am applying this week for the Graduate Research Enhancement Award, which is for a smaller amount of money to reimburse me for all of the Borax and beads I bought last week and to pay someone to transcribe my interviews for me.  That is another detail outlined in Lesson #1 above that I would love to pass off to someone else. Both awards would help significantly, so we’ll see what happens. I should know by the end of the semester on both.

Next week, I head to Seattle to present these initial findings. More to come about this fun trip…

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