Dissertating on location | Main | The Difference Between Theory and Practice; Or, How I Learned Where to Draw the Line

February 14, 2006

Sometimes I don't think my head is big enough...

To wear all those hats, that is. Yesterday, my "mom hat" collided with my "dissertating hat" and what never fails to surprise me on some level is how I respond to those rough spots.

I was totally in the zone, following the A** to Chair Method of graduate studies, thrilled that I was nearing the end of my prospectus. This paper, which was 98 pages long when finally emailed to my committee, has been an absolute challenge to finish. I've been struggling with maintaining my own integrity as a researcher admist the multiple paradigmatic epistemologies of my committee members. I've also become keenly aware that Michael Quinn Patton's (2002) comment about dissertations needing to be much more explicit in all aspects of the research process is really something they should put in the grad school welcome letter. I cannot believe how detailed I have had to be in describing my data analysis procedure. What do you mean, I can't just say that the data will be analyzed according to emerging themes? Oh, that's right--I have to explain that I know the difference between methodology and methods, and that I know there are different research paradigms, and and and and and...

So, there I was, practicing the A** in Chair Method, doing the final edits when I got a call from J's daycare. It seems that he was doing all of the -ing words a parent of a 4 year old doesn't want to hear: kicking, hitting, throwing things, spitting, and, of course, name calling. They needed me to come get him.

No one knows exactly what started it all, including J. He was pretty emotional when I got there, and he still struggled a bit when we got his stuff together to leave. I told him in the car on the way home that he had made some bad choices, but he's a good kid and I knew he could make some different choices. He fell asleep.

When we got home, he woke up, and we agreed to make some cards for the three teachers who he had been having difficulty with. He wrote each of their names on the card as well as his own, along with the word "sorry." Then, we thought about how to help each person feel better about what had happened. He stuck bug stickers on one card, flowers on another, and more bug stickers on the third card. Then, we moved on. Dinner, a short little bit of playtime, and a somewhat early bedtime in honor of how tired his body was feeling.

As I sat there with J, helping him write a few of the letters in the words, I thought about my prospectus and how just one more hour of work would be all that I needed to get it done. For a fleeting moment I felt impatient, like I wanted to get back to work. But the truth is, my committee could wait. The paper will still get read. There'll still be an enthusiastic discussion about my research proposal--it might even be more enthusiastic than I want it to be. In that moment, for a minute, I wished there wasn't even a "dissertation hat" because the work of helping J learn about relationships and kindness and making a good apology seems like more important work than any ol' research project ever will be.

The fact is, though, I also see the benefits to J of him experiencing me (and his papa, who is also in a doctoral program) wearing my grad student hat. J has aspirations to be "the president of the professors" (I wonder if President Bruininks knows he has competition from a 4 year old). As a child, I didn't really have career aspirations, and I think that it's important that J is surrounded by ideas, curiousity, cultural differences, and high aspirations.

Posted by chri1010 at February 14, 2006 11:33 AM


Boy-o-boy, I feel and know your pain! But your J is my newest hero. And I am writing myself a new motivational sticky adapting your line "he had made some bad choices, but he's a good kid and I knew he could make some different choices" to my experience as a doctoral student trying to let go of the past in order to move towards the future.

BTW, glad to see you're workin' the A2C Method. It does work--But you're right: Sometimes your a** (and your heart, mind, and energies) need to be elsewhere.

Here's a toast to you and your efforts! *clink* I know you'll get there.

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