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:
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.