I applied for an ed tech related job yesterday and realized I haven’t updated my blog since the summer. So here’s a quick update before I avoid social media in preparation for my doctoral exams next month.
Last semester seems like a whirlwind. I took a full course load, taught a pedagogy course for graduate students, and conducted independent research on grad student trajectories (here’s mine, which I would classify as “persistent journey”). I germinated the kernel of my dissertation idea into a messy proposal. In less than 30 days, I went to UC Berkeley for a professional development seminar (oh my, I’ve missed academic German, and Claire Kramsch auf Deutsch was a highlight), I presented and made contacts at the POD conference for faculty developers and the ACTFL conference for language educators, and we hosted a good friend from Germany.
It was nuts. But mostly good nuts.
Just as things were starting to calm down for the holidays, I discovered that my course wouldn’t make enrollment for the spring semester. I had loved fostering a community of TAs and supporting their entry into the world of higher ed teaching. I had loved observing their pedagogical progress and giving feedback that made a difference. I was devastated. Not only would I miss out on the income, health insurance, and tuition benefit, but I felt pushed out of a community of reflective teaching practitioners.
Over the break, I job searched. My two main alternative grad jobs were no longer options. The few positions that I found were of the second-tier variety: $12/hour, zero benefits, and the requirement to take a full course load. Considering the extra tuition expenses for courses I don’t actually need for my degree, it would have cost me money to work.
So I did what Elmar did when he lost his job unexpectedly in 2013: I worked with him on the house. Every day. (Okay, except Sundays, Xmas, New Year’s, and the Lilly Conference on Teaching and Learning). Instead of receiving an income, we worked to create an outcome. After some frustration, I also learned to make my expectations more realistic. Like a dissertation, house building is a long labor of love. Sometimes schlepping buckets of sand or cleaning up construction trash doesn’t look like much change at the end of the day, but it’s all necessary and contributes to a final product. The house isn’t done, but we moved in on February 1. (Keeping with the dissertation analogy, I guess we did the oral defense and we’re now working on revisions… lots of revisions). And even though we can’t unpack (no closet infrastructure), I can’t set up my office yet, and people come do loud and messy work Mondays through Saturdays, it feels like home.
Things are feeling more settled now. I ended up with a part-time receptionist job at a law firm this semester. There’s lots of downtime, in which I’ve already completed an urgent translation, applied for a summer research grant, done some academic reading, and taken care of some moving and financial “loose ends”. I’ve been meeting with my advisor weekly and finally feel like I’m in a place to study for my doctoral exams, although it means I have to put my dissertation work on the back burner to some extent. That is incredibly hard for me to do, but I guess it’s a good problem to have since it indicates my continued excitement for the dissertation project. Just like with house building, I have to pour the foundation before I can put up the frame.