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A stressful semester

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I don’t want to spend this blog post bitching about how stressed out I am. Everyone I know is stressed out a lot of the time, so to continue to announce it to people gets pretty redundant. However, I think it should be noted that this semester seemed tougher than most. My dissertation data collection stressed out way longer than I wanted it to (I won’t be done until Friday–blog post on that forthcoming), I struggled with completing grading and writing without losing my mind, and in the month of November alone I made not one, but two trips to the West Coast. Nothing stresses me out like airports. But I got the sense that other people have been having a rough time too. The teacher I work with for my study frequently seems stressed, many of my students had a tough semester, Mike is stressed out at work…it seems like everyone is having a difficult time. Not to mention the news lately. Michigan is not-so-slowly turning into a conservative wasteland, and of course, there is the school shooting in Connecticut last Friday. I imagine if Mitt Romney had won the election, I would be in a mental institution right now. Or living in Sweden.

The school shooting news made me incredibly emotional, more so than stories like these usually do. Clearly, it’s because of the nature of the violence and the setting. This man murdered 1st graders for chrissake. This happened in an elementary school–a place where I spend Every. Single. Day. (Especially this semester). I am so saddened by it, but there have been so many mixed emotions as well. I cried so hard hearing about teachers who gave their lives for their students because I totally get it. I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t worry about their students, feel proud and brag about their students, and yes, wouldn’t stand up to a man with a gun for their students, even if it meant possibly losing their life. Just like a parent would.  I hope this makes the general public see (especially the Michigan legislature) that teachers are incredibly important people in a child’s life that should be protected and treated with respect by society. Ask the parents of those kids in CT who survived how thankful they are for their child’s teacher and they can tell you. I’ve seen stories that we should arm teachers and train them to use deadly weapons. I’ve seen a story from a complete idiot who said that this maniac would never have made it into the building if there was just a MAN around to protect everyone (the CT school principal and most the teachers were female). These disgusting stories completely miss the point. You want to protect kids, you start with putting the people who would give their lives to protect them on a much higher pedestal.  Teachers don’t need guns, they need respect.

Life is stressful this semester looking for jobs. I got flat-out rejected from three positions–the one that hurts the most was Hope College. I really thought I had a chance there, but apparently neither of the search committee chairs that I met at LRA and talked to on the phone late one night thought I was very impressive. It sucks because that job meant I could possibly stay in Holland, but who knows now. Good news is that I do have an on-campus interview at my old stomping ground, Central Michigan. I am a finalist for two positions there– elementary social studies professor and introduction to education professor. I think on Jan 31, I’ll be heading up there for a two day visit of schmoozing people, talking about my research, and teaching a class! I am very very excited about this. Hopefully it turns into something positive to turn this semester around quickly.

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The Literacy Clique

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Grad school sometimes is about labels. I was often told I had to define myself as either a “quantitative” or “qualitative” researcher, someone who wants to work “in academia” or in the “K-12 setting”, “secondary” or “elementary.”   Labeling myself has always been difficult. I do mostly qualitative research, but I have done quantitative studies too. I do want a job as a professor preparing teachers, but I worked as a curriculum specialist in the K-12 setting for 3 years as well. And elementary or secondary? I was a middle school teacher, so good luck defining that! I was literally both! Another label people want to give you is by subject area. I guess I would be considered a “social studies person”, since I taught social studies and my dissertation is mostly social studies. However, I will not be getting a PhD in “social studies.” My PhD will be in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education. I have a lot of interests that go beyond social studies.

Most of my time at MSU I have dabbled as a “literacy person.” I have a Masters in Reading, and I am a certified Reading Specialist. Throughout my teaching career I was very focused on improving my students’ content area literacy skills. In fact, I originally came to MSU to study content area literacy with Nell Duke after I had done a quantitative Masters thesis. In the last few years, I have veered more toward the social studies realm, as being a “literacy person” at MSU required a lot more literacy and a lot less social studies. I decided I wanted to be a “social studies person” who dabbles in literacy, as opposed to a “literacy person” that dabbles in social studies. This choice meant that I would not be really known as a “literacy person” among my colleagues. But that doesn’t stop me from horning in on their universe.

I teach a literacy methods course. In this course last year, I introduced my students to Twitter as an attempt to increase their own digital literacy. Twitter itself can be considered a form of literacy; one can be Twitter-literate (or illiterate) as much as someone can be mathematically literate, or develop historical literacy (which I also teach in my SS methods course–see! Both worlds!). I submitted a presentation on this study to the Literacy Research Association as part of a symposium with other MSU “literacy people.” We all traveled San Diego last week and I should off a poster on my Twitter study. Although I was only in San Diego for really one day, and I barely went outside, I did manage to snap this pic:

San Diego

LRA was a great conference that I mostly spent talking to new people– “literacy people”– as opposed to attending sessions. I did see Sam Wineburg speak, who is a “history person!” I felt very welcomed into what I call the Literacy Clique.  I want to explore more in this area, definitely submitting a journal article about my Twitter study. I am also applying for social studies jobs and literacy jobs. I applied for social studies jobs at Hope College, Central Michigan, and Oakland, and literacy jobs at Central Michigan, Grand Valley, Oakland, and UM-Flint. We’ll see how these places label me when and if I get interviews anywhere.

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