‘Salsa dancing’ into my second year p/t PhD: A MOOC reflection

I just re-enrolled for 2016 (confidence) and promptly got a response that I hadn’t been successful in so doing (frustration) only to have a third email relay difficulties the university is having with re-enrolment processes and reassuring me that I had indeed been successful in re-enrolling (confusion). Phew! I remember thinking at the time – Really? I’m not re-enrolled? (fear) Is this a sign? (confusion again) Should I be re-thinking this? (and fear) But my good sense (more confidence) told me I should just let it go. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on MOOC #survivephd15 with @thesiswhisperer et al. is that everything I’ve felt, am feeling, will feel throughout my PhD journey has a name, some research to back it up, and strategies to deal with it (curiosity).

This week I’ve been reading Kristin Luker’s book Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences (2008). I like how she writes. I can hear her saying the words, giggling when I do and reading seriously when I am. Infact the first chapter begins “I’m serious. Really I am.”

Me too!

Reflecting on my own blog posts about my PhD I can pretty much put a label on each entry. Everything I have written about fits into an emotion from the MOOC. Extraordinary!

In my first post about my PhD I discuss my reasons for beginning the journey itself:

This research is relatable – in fact it relates to a very important part of my memory and attitude to teaching and learning. I do this because I will never forget what it felt like to not understand what other people were talking about.

It’s personal.

Confidence

In my first blog about my journey beginnings I promptly announce that I have been preparing for this all my life. Now that’s confidence!

Frustration

There’s been plenty of frustration this last year, including potential supervisors telling me ‘you can’t do that type of research, just too much work.’ Reading between the lines it really meant “I’m too busy.” Luckily my existing supervisor who was very supportive helped me find my current supervisor -an inspiring individual who had no issue joining the team. In fact our team meeting just this week was a really fun and engaging learning experience!

Loneliness

Lonely? Are you kidding? Not anymore with my great new PhD mates on MOOC, twitter and facebook.  This experience has been terrific and I hope that it continues into the future. My final submission was an idea to begin a tweetchat using the #survivephd15 1st Thursday of every month beginning Dec 3, 2015 at 8:30 – 9.30 pm AEST. I’d be happy to moderate/ co-moderate and have guest moderators if anyone is willing

I have prepared the first three months worth  – 6 questions per chat with the themes of MOOC running through each but with a twist. More details will follow via social media as the time draws nearer. I do hope you will join me in helping to maintain the wonderful support network we have shared throughout the MOOC and retain it as a place to continue to post and share ideas and resources and even get a pat on the back or a supportive word when needed!

 

Fear

For me fear is a motivator – I work well under pressure.

Curiosity

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Confusion

There have been plenty of times when confusion and self doubt creep into my thinking. The process of becoming continues and I think it’s just one of those things that will be just out of reach until perhaps one day I will be submitting my PhD and it will be good – no more confusion or self doubt. Well, at least until the next process begins.

Boredom

This post is part of the November #HDRblog15 challenge @debsnet announced as her final activity for MOOC. Never a dull moment. I look forward to sharing and hearing about all of our PhD journeys.

💜Love💜

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Thanks for reading 🙂

I will survive my PhD

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Inside front cover of my journal

Over the last five weeks or so I have been privileged, as have been many others from all over the world to be part of Inger Mewburn – The Thesis Whisperer’s MOOC course “How to survive your PhD” via EdX and ANU.

To date we have covered, amongst others, modules to do with Confidence, Frustration and Loneliness. Each module has related readings and videos to read and watch as well as a weekly periscope live chat, twitter feed and a myriad of Facebook pages that have been set up to assist in sharing resources, feelings, and whatever else we may need or seek. Sometimes we even get homework! Last week’s was to go out and meet up with other PhDs over coffee!

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Homework complete!

 

For me as an older PhD student, at 51, the MOOC course was something that I jumped at – not to mention – I love the Thesis Whisperer.

My favourite module to date has to be the Loneliness topic only because all of a sudden the social network seemed to have exploded as the course becomes ever more popular. I have had the opportunity to connect with great fellow PhD students including the ever growing Facebook page PhD Owls -Older, Wise Learners.

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My cup tipped for all PhD Owls

While there has been discussion in regards to whether loneliness is good or bad and if it needs to be cured at all. I feel there are instances where some ‘alone’ time is essential to all but especially to me as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, neice, friend, cousin, educator, learner, teacher, PhD student and a human being. Alone time allows for me to read out loud, to walk around the house with a book or my laptop, gesticulating and making weird expressions – now they know – without having to answer to anyone. I like breaking up my learning with cooking, cleaning, folding, washing, etc. – they call it procrasti-something (replace as required)! Right now I’m sitting at my kitchen bench having moved from the study, to the lounge, into the dining room and finally to here, all after having done three loads of washing, made our bed, stripped the one in the guest room, baked a chocolate cake, and put the dinner on. My friend cancelled lunch on me today and secretly I am quite happy as it’s given me more ‘me’ time. I miss catching up with my mate but just today it seemed better for me to stay in and just get on with things, including this post that I started early this morning -now almost 5:30 in the afternoon.

I haven’t really done too much PhD reading today but I’ll tell you what, I’ve thinking about what I read yesterday. This week is all about Freire and critical pedagogy. You may have come across my post on the PhD Owls Facebook page which got a whole lot more attention than I anticipated and hooked me up with a few others who were interested and/or contemplating Freire themselves. We even exchanged some resources. See, I’m not lonely -well at least not this week so much. I just figure my way of beating the loneliness factor is getting on MOOC and bam! I write this blog with the idea that someone may read and comment and get me thinking differently. That’s how I stay connected -oh – and did I mention twitter? I love twitter. ‘Hello my name is Jo and I’m a twitter addict.’

I felt like I was there with the MOOC gang last night during the live periscope chat on Loneliness, a little awkward that the meet up didn’t quite work out but it was a lot of fun from the ‘outside in’ anyhow. My favourite part is logging in early and listening in as Inger and the gang chuckle at posts and stick their head in view to tell me only 4 minutes till we start, but secretly we’ve started – it’s like my other favourite ‘thing’ to do – taking photos of people I love and care for while they are unaware. It tends to give them this whole new perspective and mostly it reveals how comfortable they are within themselves and when interacting with others.

There’s a party going on around them but these two have got their own little ‘festa’ going on…

Anyhow, I just wanted to give a shout out to all PhDs on MOOC and to The Thesis Whisperer and her gang of helpers just to let them know how much I am enjoying the course and the interactions on social media. I love telling non PhDs about it and watching them roll their eyes or laugh out loud or look at me like I’ve got two heads – Where do you find the time? I make it cause it’s worth it. I will survive my PhD. I am not an imposter. I am smart enough to get into a PhD and therefore I will come out with a PhD. I won’t be scared and I’ll try not to doubt myself. I will survive…wait…is that a song?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Family home grown learning: waffles, cricket, scattergories & long walks on the beach.

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You know when three days go by so quickly

And you think, “Oh dear, where did the time go?”

You spent the whole time feeling happy and free and without stress

And when you think about it

You actually did so many different things that you felt empowered as a human being.

And you did it with nature and other human beings, not wifi! Of course there is a time and place for wifi but it doesn’t have to run your life all of the time.

Our long weekend consisted, amongst other things of

Family home grown learning: waffles, cricket, scattergories & long walks on the beach.

It was wonderful to see and hear our children, two families, five kids ranging in age from 10-22, play games, not of the electronic variety, but ‘real’ games where there was much interaction and conversation, and laughter and fun!

Yes, lots of fun, in fact at times they would not even bother to pack up the games at meal times, content to just keep playing as they chewed through their homemade pizza and sausages.

And when they weren’t playing ‘real’ games they were outside painting their nails, sitting and lying on towels in the backyard, talking and giggling their time away (even Master Ten was willing to have his nails done). And don’t think it was frivolous talk. In fact they were discussing novels they had read and comparing them to the corresponding films!

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Then came the cricket games, not your conventional type but just bowling and batting and fielding and catching, one would call it, the freelance variety, that took place anywhere and everywhere, where skill didn’t matter, it was all about the fun!

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Long walks to the beach and then along it up and down, feet wading in the ocean, or almost gliding across the water logged sand dodging the tide as it came chasing you, threatening to ruin your brand new nikes but secretly not really caring ’cause, “Hey, who cares when you’re having this much fun!”

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Then there was the making of rudimentary dams near the water’s edge, digging out the heavy wet sand with your cricket bat and watching the water roll on in and promptly glide away.

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Saturday morning began with a list of adventures. Not like climbing Mt Everest but just the casual list of things we wanted to do on a lazy day near the beach.

First we picked strawberries, laughing and discussing our finds, “Mum, mum, take a photo of this! I found the perfect strawberry!”

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Next on the list was the wine for our picnic lunch.

Yes, we actually stopped off at a winery, tasted the wines before choosing a lovely Juliet Pinot Noir to go with our luncheon.

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Third adventure: A-Mazing!

Personally, I don’t really like mazes but with the promise of a lolly I couldn’t disappoint Master Ten, so I tried the first one – but after that no more – they went ahead…and emerged triumphant!

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Me? I used the hedge gate and found myself in beautiful tranquil gardens.

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And then it was picnic time, mind you very late in the day by now. Couldn’t get it out fast enough.

We were starving!!

And what did they do after that? They played another ‘real’ game of course- this time it was cards!

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Sunday morning found us making waffles – well one person made them – we just ate them – with the strawberries we picked ourselves, ice-cream and real maple syrup!

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This was  followed by more long walks on the beach, cricket, and playing ‘real’ games!

What did we learn from this adventurous long weekend?

Personally I found it very satisfying to see our children, no matter what age conversing and collaborating, holding discussions that were more that just idle gossip. They didn’t spend their time posing for ‘selfies’ to post on social media sites. Instead they played together, they built ginger bread houses, they helped each other, they cleaned up their mess and they took time out to be silent and read. They didn’t complain about being bored, they just moved from one activity to another continually checking to see that all were okay with the decision.

We discussed books, travel, memories, experiences, and even their hopes and dreams for the future. I caught them collaborating when playing their games and guiding the youngest so he did not feel neglected. Every activity was inclusive and negotiated. They all had an opportunity to contribute and simultaneously feel empowered to make decisions and display leadership…seems odd but I tell you it was all there.

Young and old it didn’t really matter.

These are real life skills. This is how the real world works, developing relationships, collaborating, empowering, using our talents to make the world a better place for our being there.

AND

There was no wifi … AND … we didn’t miss it!

Sunday night…Now, where’s my laptop quick, #aussieED chat starting NOW.

Thanks for reading 🙂

1/2 a dozen new acronyms for the ATAR

It’s ATAR season! The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank received by every student who sat their final exams this year. It’s also what we sometimes term the silly season. So here’s my take on the ATAR…6 other acronyms we could use…

silly season

1. ATAR: Apprehensively Tested And Ranked

We’ve all heard it before; “your ATAR doesn’t define you”, but for those students who last month sat the VCE and HSC exams in order to get an ATAR in the hope of securing a university offer; it does define them if only for a few short days. Last week all those students received their ATAR, their rank and file within the system that will make or break their next step. It’s a pity that many are so distraught by it all and I’m not just talking about those who get what is defined as a low ATAR. I’ve seen emotion drench them, consume them at the moment that text message arrives or the moment they log into that screen to see that number. Some will cheer, some will scream with glee, many others will cry mainly from relief that finally they know their magic number. Twelve or thirteen years of teaching and learning for this one moment in time; will it matter in 12 months, 5 years or 10? I daresay, it won’t even matter tomorrow. The day the universities make their offers, then it will matter for a minute as once again we log into those screens to see what they will allow us to study, as if they know what’s best.

2. ATAR: A Thorny Achievement Ranking

No matter what the ATAR in essence it is a RANK. Students are ranked in comparison to what other students achieved. Some will be pulled up others will be stretched down, some on the high, others on the low because quite simply that bell curve needs to be just right!Bell-Curve

3. ATAR: Ability To Acknowledge Rank?

 I really need students to understand that the ATAR is a RANK not a reflection of their ability. It all depends on where everyone else is ranked and in that you have no control.

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4. ATAR: Acknowledge The Awesome Results!

 Instead, reflect on your hard work – well if you truly did do the hard work that is. If not then you pretty much deserved what you ranked – I’m pulling no punches here. So, if you did work to the best of your ability then use this experience as a ‘growth’ mindset activity. Learn from this and get out there and triumph! You can watch more about mindset here.

5. ATAR: Announce Triumph, Accommodate Reality

 I decided that this article reflects what I need to say here;

http://monash.edu.au/news/show/so-you-didnt-get-a-great-atar-its-not-the-end-of-the-world

 6. ATAR: A Terrific Achievement; Really…

 Considering we teachers spend so much time planning and facilitating the most interesting classes we can conjure up, well most of us do; it’s no wonder we manage to keep students in school a lot longer. We try to offer lots of different pathways to suit individual needs right up until that last-minute when reality demands that anyone thinking about going onto university must sit exams in every subject in order to gain an ATAR  – a RANK – so that universities can decide who they will and will not allow into their institutions to complete further studies – as if a rank could possibly reflect the true abilities, passions and convictions of a 17-18 year old student. As if a rank could accurately predict what this young person will become, will achieve and will contribute to society over their lifetime. And anyway, for years now we have been telling them that they will not be ‘a career __________ ‘(fill in this blank yourself), but rather, change their career path a multitude of times. In my opinion, it’s no use ranking them because in many cases they will get the undergraduate degree, then in 3-5 years they will once again rethink where they’d like to go next. These students think in nanoseconds, jump from one thing to another, like video games and their thirst for the now, right NOW. In fact, we need to treat this rank as a stepping-stone. What would I like to do next? What am I passionate about?

To all students out there; don’t let that RANK stop you, you worked hard now get out there and make a difference! AND, don’t forget we’ll be right behind you when you need support and encouragement – even if you don’t ask for it!

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See you out in the real world!

Thanks for reading 🙂