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.

2,000 Words

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I took a bit of time off of working and writing to give myself a bit of a mini-vacation for the 4th of July and to celebrate my anniversary with my hubby (8 years of him putting up with me being a student, which I have been the entire time we’ve been dating and married, I realized). And it’s also been so hot that I couldn’t resist “working” from my beach office, and by “working” I mean flipping through an Entertainment Weekly with some friends while working on my still non-existent tan.

But today, I am back in my thankfully air conditioned office and slightly freaking out about my first deadlines which are both coming up in the next two weeks–submitting a short version of my dissertation proposal to the CUFA and AERA conferences. CUFA is the College and Universtity Faculty Assembly for the National Council for Social Studies (a mouthful, I am aware). It’s the research arm of NCSS. I am presenting my work at the large NCSS conference, but I would also like to present my work in this research division to other social studies researchers as well. This is important since I would love to someday be considered part of that group. AERA is the American Educational Research Association conference, which is essentially the mother of any research conference, and it’s the hottest party of the year in ed research.  I have been trying to get accepted to present my work there for the last two years with no luck, however I feel like what I have worked on now is better than my other work, so we’ll see.

The challenging part of preparing your submission to these conferences is that they only accept submissions of 2,000 words or less. That sounds like a lot, but rest assured it is not remotely enough to explain my dissertation study. This blog post is already 300 words and I’ve just explained the conferences! To put it in perspective, I have been working on fixing the version of the dissertation proposal I already wrote and it is 8,500 words. And I have more to ADD! Cutting your work down so much is a serious higher-order thinking exercise– you want it to get at the heart of your work and still be compelling enough for someone to choose it to be presented. At the same time, a lot of it has to go.

I have one week to make the cuts and prepare my submissions, but I am also working on an online course I started teaching on Monday (TE 842: Elementary Reading Assessment and Instruction), my presentation I’m making at a NHA conference at the end of July, work for the research team I’m on, tweaking the One Hen unit, applying for IRB (I’m sure another great blog post for the future) and of course fixing my proposal to resubmit to my committee. My stack of books is also growing:

I made my first trip to the MSU library last week since PhD orientation. (YES, first. Don’t judge.) Once I got past the novelty of staring at the colored lines on the floor directing you to the books you need Alice-in-Wonderland style, I managed to add more to my never-ending reading list. I have a feeling it won’t be my last trip there either.

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