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Fall is getting closer. The official date for the beginning of my 2012-2013 school year is Aug 20 when I have meetings to prepare for my classes for the upcoming year. The Lions had their first preseason game. In just a little under 3 weeks I’ll be sitting at MSU’s first football game of the season. This means summer is nearly over and it’s time for me to reflect on what I have accomplished after 10 weeks of working NHA-free.

I spent a good portion of the last couple of weeks working on human subjects research approval. Since I am conducting research on minors (fifth-graders) and in a “power position” as their teacher, I have to submit my study to a third party review board at MSU called “IRB.”  They decide whether I’ve taken the necessary procedures to protect my research subjects and I have to wait to do anything on my study until I have their approval. As much of a chore this is (it’s mostly wordsmithing), it’s definitely necessary. By accident at the same time I was reading a book for fun called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about a woman who was used as a research subject for cancer research without her (or her family’s) consent. Since her cells ended up being very important in several medical research breakthroughs, she was famous and in a sense exploited, to the detriment of her family after her death. This book made me think harder about the importance of ethical research, and I’m hoping to count it as time spent toward my RCR requirements this year. Every grad student at MSU must spent 2-5 hours a year doing work to improve our knowledge of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) and ethical research practices. Maybe Henrietta’s story will count.

I highly recommend anyone read it, not just researchers. I’m by no means doing medical research, but the children in my study have rights that need to be protected as well, so IRB approval is important. I think I am very close to official approval–I am waiting on the official documents which should be arriving today according to my case manager at IRB. My study was deemed “exempt”, which essentially means it’s not very intrusive into the lives of the children (the study is happening at school during their regular instruction–they don’t have to do anything too special other than what they would normally do at school). Not like collecting cells.

I also made a very-nearly-final revision of my dissertation proposal and then summarized my changes for my committee. I am hoping to meet with them in the next couple of weeks to explain all the work I have done this summer. It feels good to be very nearly done with the proposal. Come fall, I’ll be focusing on the “real thing” and I can put the proposal to bed officially.

With my IRB approval coming any minute, my dissertation proposal finished, and the new school year beginning in one week, I have one thing on my mind to finish the summer–grading. My online class ends this week and I have a ton of things to grade, so that is my singular focus until Aug 20 before my life gets insanely busy. Yes, fall is coming very soon. Even the rainy and cold weather is reminding me…


“I’ll get it done this summer”

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The title of this post is a common phrase I hear among doctoral students. I’ve even said it numerous times myself, a lot in the past week. There’s always this sense that the summer is free–free to work on whatever you’ve been meaning to get done during the year, full of unlimited time to write. Although leaving NHA has certainly freed up some time for me, I have found that I haven’t always had unlimited time for my dissertation this summer. And saying “I’ll get it done this summer” becomes more ridiculous as July winds to a close and the Aug 21 start date for the new school year gets closer and closer. So what have I been doing this summer besides writing?

I have been teaching.  I am teaching an online class– TE 842. It’s a Masters class called Elementary Reading and Assessment. Masters classes require more from the students regarding reading and writing, so that means more grading for me. Online teaching has its pros and cons and it certainly requires a lot of organization on my part. I try to read/grade at least 5 papers/submissions every day, if not more.

I have been coding data. For the first time in my grad school career, I am on a large research project called FAME (Formative Assessment for Michigan Educators–although I always want to sing “Fame! I want to live forever!!” when I work on it). I have been watching videos of teachers in their professional development meetings and meticulously writing down what they talk about, what questions they ask, and how in-depth their discussion is. I have been assigned to write “cases” of two schools and the team is trying to make some conclusions about the teacher meetings for an AERA presentation. I have really enjoyed working on a research project like this and I regret not being able to do this sooner in my time at MSU.

I have been planning. My last commitment to NHA is to teach a 2-day workshop next week on social studies instruction. This isn’t like writing a conference paper, or planning for a class. It’s 9 hours of instructional time that I am in charge of! I am looking forward to teaching about social studies again, and I think I have some fun activities planned for these NHA teachers. It’ll be nice to see some NHA people for the first time since I left.

All of these things have caused me to put my dissertation on hold these last couple of weeks. I have to get back in the game soon though because finishing my dissertation proposal revisions is the one thing I d need to get done this summer.

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