If you’re a long-time reader of this blog first of all, thank you.
Secondly, you’ll notice that things are going to change.
I started blogging in the wake of finishing my master’s degree in 2012 because I missed writing so much. Well, since beginning my doctorate this past summer (2019), that’s definitely no longer a problem! This blog was where my freelance writing career started and where I really honed my voice as a writer. I learned how to narrow down a topic so that it would catch your attention and how to use images and students’ voices to engage conversation. When I no longer had my own classroom and instead spent my time visiting other people’s classes as a consultant, I learned how to aggregate my experiences so that nothing identifiable was left in my blog posts and no one felt singled out (or at least I hope not).
All of those pieces are now much harder.
As a vice-principal I don’t ever want my staff worrying that our interactions are going to be made public; maybe I’ll develop a reflective writing practice as an administrator but I’ll need more time to think about how that will look – there’s plenty to reflect on but how much of it can I share?
The bigger barrier, however, has been the pace of my days. I go and go and go and rarely have a minute to think about what I’ve done and why. Without notes, it would hard to remember what happened in a day – it’s a blur, a happy blur but a blur nonetheless.
And so it’s maybe not surprising that as I dig into the readings for the second course in my Doctorate in Education, I’m having a very hard time connecting to any of it. I read and I don’t remember. For an obsessive reader like me it’s a very strange experience. Who wrote that thing I just read? Where did I read that? I hardly know my right from my left any more. I feel like I’m being indoctrinated into a cult.
Usually in these online courses, I’m an extrovert, posting early and often, but in this course (Research Methods) I’m increasingly a lurker. I read and marvel that other people can cite things at the drop of a hat when I still feel like I’m drowning in a sea of readings, with no foothold. My despair has been bumped up a notch by being on a rotating series of strike days the last few weeks. Long walks in the snow give me too much time to ruminate on my failings.
My default is to respond to people’s postings with my own reflections, or my own experience, not with a reference. Why is that? Have I just not read the right stuff yet? Am I not cut out for this? Very little of what I’ve read to this point has stuck with me in any meaningful way. I’m clinging to the edges of ideas instead of holding them firmly in my hands.
If my participation is being measured by the number of posts I read and don’t respond to, I’m doing great. If, as is more likely, my participation in judged on how often I post, then I’m probably falling short. I’m not finding that a lot of the discussion in either the Moodle or the Landing is particularly helpful – I generally just feel more and more muddled. Maybe this is normal… please tell me it’s normal!
Am I learning? I’m not sure if we ever know that we’re learning when we’re learning, unless it’s a discrete skill like throwing a curling stone (something I just learned how to do… badly). In my experience, the experience of having learned becomes clear only in hindsight and with a little distance. It’s when I read my old writing or look back on how I used to think about a subject that I realize I’ve changed. One of my mentors, dance education guru Anne Green Gilbert, always says that “awareness is change” and while that has obvious implications for a motor skill like dance (once you’re aware of how you’re performing a movement, you’re already changing it), it’s also true of other learning, in my experience. I’m only aware that I’ve learned something after it’s changed, then I reflect on that change and realize that I’ve learned.
I think I’m too close to this experience right now to know whether I’m learning or not. Right now it feels like swimming in a dark pool, trying to feel for the sides by bumping into them. The tech tools certainly help to maintain those cohort connections that we established in August but I most often feel similarly defeated regardless of the technological medium. What’s saving me from giving up altogether is the back channel communications with my colleagues in the cohort, be it sharing memes in the Facebook group that perfectly capture our overwhelmedness or just texting each other.
And now I’ve done it again… I’ve written an entire assignment without a single citation.
Except for Anne – does that count? She says it all the time so let’s go with Green Gilbert, A. (2010). Take that APA.