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Welcome to 2013: The True Year of Writing

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The title of this blog is “the year of writing”, dating back to when I quit NHA in June 2012.  The start of this blog really marked the beginning of working without a net–having nothing to “fall back on” and just going for the end goal of finishing my PhD. The end of a calendar year always means reflection for me, and I have decided that quitting NHA was the best decision I made in 2012. And to be honest, it hasn’t even been that scary. Since I quit on June 1, I’ve accomplished a lot: revised my proposal, presented at conferences, taught 3 classes, applied for many jobs, and traveled the world. (Yes, I managed to squeeze that in as well!). Being so busy has made me forget that in just a few short months’ time, I will be facing a slew of uncertainty. Nothing reminded me more about that than the beginning of 2013. This year has lots of promise. It has the potential to be the best year of my life–the year I accomplish getting my PhD, which is arguably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The year I get a job that could be my “forever job”, the year I move away from West Michigan (?). The question marks also mean that 2013 has potential to also be truly terrifying. For the first time in my life, I have not even the slightest idea where I’ll be in a year. The beginning of 2013 has made me very, very aware of this. It’s getting closer. This is the real “year of writing.”

Every year, I don’t set resolutions, I set challenges. In 2010, my challenge was to write something every day of the year. I didn’t entirely meet this goal, but I would say I was writing 75% of the year. In 2011, my challenge was to run 700 miles and complete my first half-marathon. That one was much easier. In 2012, my friend Holly challenged me to read one fiction book a month. I was glad I met this challenge because reading fiction did give my brain a break and reminded me that reading is also fun, and something I once considered my hobby, as opposed to work. Total, I read 28 books this year– 12 fiction, 16 non-fiction/professional. Not too shabby. Maybe in the summer of 2013, I’ll have time to dust off Harry Potter again.

This year, though, I am not setting an additional challenge for myself. No diet goals, no running goals, no reading goals. I’ll diet, run, and read anyway. This year my challenge  needs to be singular, focused: GET. THAT. PhD. Write, defend, finish. Related to that: get a job. So I guess I have two challenges. It’ll be work, that’s for sure. But I am ready.

To recharge, Mike & I spend 10 days in Hawaii on a family vacation. It took a while for us both to wind down and relax, but by the end the anxiety of a new semester and the challenging year I have ahead was a distant memory as I laid on the beach at Waikiki. I came back to the snow, a bit of jet-lag, and mostly excitement to get this year going.

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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.

A Quick Get Away (Work Included)

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I am writing this blog post from a small village in Hungary. Not kidding, this is the view from my hotel room:

ImageI am working here because Mike is working here. He’s currently at a plant in Papa, Hungary and I am in a nearby town waiting for him to be done for the day so we can head to Budapest. I don’t even know the name of the town exactly. Vezprem? Either way, this is quite the adventure. Mike has been here for over 2 weeks now, working in Germany. He’s starting his last week here working in Hungary, so I joined him to travel here over the weekend. I fly home tomorrow, and he flies home Thursday. It’s a quick trip, and not exactly timed perfectly, what with the semester starting last week officially, but sometimes a get-away is needed. And every vacation I have taken in the last 4 years hasn’t exactly been work-free, hence the reason why I am lesson planning in a remote Hungarian village.

Yep, this vacation is really the end of my summer. On Thursday I meet 50 new TE401 students, and next Tuesday I meet the 5th graders I’ll be working with for my dissertation study as well as meeting with my committee to talk about what I finished this summer. I’m about to get a lot busier, so just about the only time I have left to myself is an 8-hr plane ride. 

 

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