The Scamp Meets a Milestone

If anything ever summed up the way I feel right now, it is this photo.

Today I have officially graduated from Edinburgh Napier with a PhD in Educational Assessment. I’m a doctor now. Dr Kimberly Davis.

I’ve thought about this day for a long time. This is my second attempt at a PhD (well, the first one was an attempt at an EdD, so not quite the same). I always thought that I would feel different once I was done. I thought I’d feel more grown up or more serious, but I’m currently wearing leopard print yoga pants and eating a cupcake, so I guess things have not changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly happy and relieved to be done. I am so glad that I don’t have to deal with Napier anymore and that I don’t have this extra stress hanging over my head. This means I can focus on my actual job, I can write for fun, and I can actually focus on getting healthy again. I am splurging on a meal plan and PT for the next couple of months so I can have my butt kicked and eat actual well balanced meals. While all this is good, and moving in the right direction, I really wanted to feel different.

I know that this is not an uncommon feeling. I know that it is even harder to really feel something when the hand-in was a PDF emailed to the research office and graduation was an email and cupcake. I didn’t really celebrate after the viva because I was ill and the experience was so awful, and the pandemic is keeping me from really being able to celebrate now, which I think will go a long way in being able to close this chapter of my life.

I have had the question of ‘What’s next?’ a couple of times, and to be honest, there is no next. I’ve been a student since I was 6 years old (with a year off between the MA and the MSc) and I am ready to not be a student. I’m ready to not have to juggle fourteen plates whilst hula hooping over a fire pit. I want to feel normal. I want to sleep in on weekends, and I want to start a hobby.

I’m also really looking forward to being a good friend again. I want to go out when the rules lift and meet people and do fun things. I want to help and support all of the people that spent the last five years supporting me. We got the tentative date of pubs being open on the 15th of July, and that might also be a tentative date when we can travel within the UK again, and you best believe I’m getting my doctor butt on train and going on an adventure.

If anyone wants to read the thesis, it is 221 pages of pure assessment and feedback fun.

Okay, if anyone is having trouble sleeping during the pandemic, my thesis is 221 pages of proven sleeping tonic. It’s even more fun when you have Microsoft Word read it out loud to you in one of the three preset slightly robotic voices.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 13

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”
Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Week 13 of the year is dedicated to someone I admire. While there are many people that I admire, I’m choosing to focus this moment on Malala Yousafzai. While procrastinating on my conference presentation, I came across the documentary He Named Me Malala. In 2009, at 12 years old, she wrote a blog for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule. When the world took notice of yet another injustice that of this region, Malala rose in fame by giving interviews and becoming the face and the voice for women in the region would wanted education. In 2012 she was shot three times while on the bus to school. Even while in the hospital recovering, she continued to speak out for women, and continued to speak out for the importance of education. In 2014 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and continues to build, and sometimes rebuild, schools for women, refugees, and those in a war-torn region.

“I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.”
― Malala Yousafzai

I admire her courage and dedication. At 18 years old she has done more for the world than most people hope to do in a lifetime. She has faced death, doubters, and incredible adversary to continue to push for a cause that she believes in.

I only wish I could be half as courageous and make a fraction of a difference in the filed of education. When I had my chance to stand up for what I believed in two years ago, I caved, and let it break me. I had the chance to pursue the matter, and to let the university know what was going on in the programme, but instead, I chose to just bury it and get out of the United States as fast as I could. I’m still terrified that somehow that programme will catch up with me and it will hurt the work that I am doing in the UK (stupid I know, but I sometimes worry that the sins of my past will catch up to me).

And now that I have watched a young woman who did not let being shot in the face stop her from defending what she believes in, then I should not let a momentary blip in my educational journey stop me from pursing avenues that I think will improve the learning potential for students in higher education. The two things can hardly be compared, and I admire the way she treated it as nothing more than a reason to continue trying to make the world a better place for women.

 

The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge: Week 25 and 26

Week 25 is all about education.

Everyone who knows me knows that I put high stock in the value of an education. I’ve been in some form of school or another since I was 5 years old. Even when I wasn’t a student I was a teacher, and looking into PhD programs.  Even when I got expelled it did nothing to taint my love for education. The thing is, I now understand the importance of the education that you cannot get in the classroom. The real world education I got from the program, from the people that I have met along the way, and from the massive amounts of therapy taught me as much, if not more than all of the classes I have sat in combined. I learned a lot about politics, about sticking up for what I believe in, and what it really means to be a citizen of the world. Week 24 of this challenge will also give some insight into the way that education has turned me into the sparkling gem that I am today, but what I am really grateful for is everything I learn about myself and others while I travel, research, and have the chance to interact with others.

Week 26 is an important one. Week 26 is a person that I have had the pleasure of meeting. There are a lot of people that I have been able to meet and interact with, but right now, the one I am most grateful for has not even been born yet.

That’s right. This Scamp is about to be an aunt! The wombmate is pregnant with her first child.

World, meet little Gizmo

2015-07-02 17.19.16

That’s right, I have named my future niece or nephew (I’m hoping nephew) Gizmo, although the sister is strongly objecting to that, so I call him Gizzy. Now, while looking at the inside of my sister’s uterus is not what I would call a good day, being able to see this little guy (or girl) and the little tiny heart is truly one of the coolest things that I have ever seen. I cannot wait for February. Despite all the anger and stress of the visa issues, the research questions that still need to be written, and the ethics application that is in its second round of editing, I am excited that I will soon be able to impart my wisdom and sass on the next generation of Rodriguez children. I am already making a list of noisy toys that need to be purchased, of Scottish themed clothes and toys that need to make it to the States, and a playlist of the best songs of the last few generations to be played. While most of this education will have to be done through Skype, when the kids is old enough, I am going to start insisting that it spend the summers in Scotland with me. Lord knows that someone is going to have to teach the kid how to eat right, how to dress with some spunk, and how to think of a witty comeback on the spot. Plus, the kid needs to learn about the great wide world, and who better to show him (or her) that than the perpetual Scamp?

 

The Scamp in Scotland

…..kinda. I’m currently in Birmingham, England at a conference on assessment in higher education. I was supposed to attend the conference with my supervisor, but he hurt his back, and decided it was best if he stayed home. I’ve never been to Birmingham, but luckily the train station, hotel, and conference center are all less than ten minutes from each other. I’ve already decided which lectures I am attending, but now I have to network on my own, and eat dinner solo. I’m not good at those sorts of things. I am horribly antisocial, and I have a lot of work to do to make up for the things that I did not do whilst in Spain (I also have a lot of writing to do about my trip, but that will have to wait). It is also strange to be one of the youngest people here, and one of the few from the States. Already today someone told me that I have a fantastic accent, which is not something that I get to hear very often.

My first day back in Scotland was not a pleasant one until dinner time. I spent the whole day on campus meeting with my supervisors face-to-face, and trying to sort out what my schedule will look like for the next three years. I was unprepared for the fact that they see the research I am doing for the school, and my PhD as two separate projects, with two separate papers to be completed. I’ll be running data for 16 programs, complete with questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews, and from that, I will have to find a little bit of data to use for my PhD. On top of that, I am working on two projects with other professors in regards to gender and assessment, and social justice, equality, and assessment feedback. Each one of these would produce enough results for four separate dissertations, and I am slowly seeing my free time slipping away. On the upside, I have my own desk, a work phone, and really fantastic people supporting me. One of my supervisors took me to lunch and told me that she was the one I could call when I needed to vent, scream, or cry to, while the enthusiasm of the man in charge of me is completely contagious. I left the meeting with them excited, scared, and ready to get to work.

I wish I could say that they were a representation of the school. The rest of the day went downhill from there. The school refuses to reinstate the number I need for my visa, and after a trek to a campus 30 minutes walk from where I am based, I was informed that I am here illegally, and that they will not allow me to apply for the visa from the UK. This was said rather loudly, and in full range of all the other people working in the office, and it was all I could do not to cry in the office. I was so turned around when I left that I almost ended up on the wrong bus, and I walked into the wrong bank to try and make a deposit into my Scottish account (Note to self, The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland are not the same). I had to use some fancy talk to get a new phone since I do not have a permanent address in Scotland yet, and I generally felt like I had been run ragged before I made it to dinner with one of my best friends.

Thank God for wine and good banter. Seeing Lozza after almost two years was fantastic. Meeting her fella was just as great as he is a wonderful guy, and she looks so stinkin’ happy with him. I was in fine form with the poor boy, but he was a great sport about it. I look forward to when I can cook them a proper Mexican feast, and more crazy catch-up sessions. It is nice to know that there is a friendly face in the crowd for bad days.

I now have a meeting with the international office to see about sorting me out with a visa, but I am not above crying and then going to the American consulate to get what I want. I know that things will work out, but I am just hoping that it is sooner rather than later, and that I don’t have to threaten bodily harm to make it happen.

The Scamp Opens Her Eyes

I have been very negative lately. My life has been a revolving cycle of work, school, research, grade, repeat. Because of that, I let myself get caught up in the drama of my cohort, and really let five horrible women almost drive me from the program. While I am still not sold on staying, I am learning to let what goes on in that room once a week stay there. That room does not represent the real world, and does not represent the people I will be working with, and the students I hope to help.

Today I felt vindicated. I am in the process of completing a basic skills certification for my job. For the last few months I have been attending workshops that range from how to help students read their textbook to how to reduce stress in the classroom. The workshop this morning was entitled: How to Overcome the Institutional Alienation of At-risk African American and Hispanic Students. At first I wasn’t going to go. I get enough of this from my cohort, and I did not think I could sit for two hours and listen to how horrible I am because I am white. I need the hours, and I feel that helping at-risk students regardless of race is important, so I decided I would give it a shot. When I left the house this morning, I decided that I was going to sit in the back of the room and not say anything. I can not afford to make anymore waves in my bubble, and pissing off people where I work is not something that I want to do.

I could not have been more shocked about the workshop I participated in today. While the statistics presented demonstrated that people of color are the most at-risk when they enter college, the discussion that we had was about how to help at-risk students. The only time race was mentioned was when the presenters mentioned that at the conference they went to, the presenter was the number one thing a teacher can do to alienate a student in their classroom is see them as a monolith for their race, and treat them based on the color of their skin. The discussion revolved around barriers that any at-risk student would have entering college, and what the institution can do to help break down these barriers and help promote student success.

It was the discussion that I wish I could have every Tuesday night. The presenters kept saying “What can WE as an institution do to help students?” The room was full of men, women, old, young, humanities teachers, math teachers, and science teachers. There were Asians, African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and White people. No one was singled out by their race, and the blame was placed on the institution as a whole, not on the race of the people involved. I left that workshop finally understanding what it meant to grow and learn as a educator, and finally learning what it would be like for me working in the real world. This is how educators behave. This is how open and honest conversation brings about change. When I discussed a bit of what the conversations are like in my class, one of the presenters told me that was a retrograde way of thinking, and that was not how progressive educators worked.

So while the program is still awful, and I am far from being a proud Titan, it feels good to know that I have now been snapped out of the Twilight Zone, and when I make it into the working world as a professional, my ideas about change, and my strategies for helping students are valuable, and have merit. Why it took me so long to figure out, I have no idea, but I am happy that my eyes are open now.

The Scamp and the Tough Academic Week

This week was tough for me in the academic world. I was told that I do not understand what it means to struggle in academia (or in life for that matter) because I am white. I was told that the American educational system is set up for white people to succeed, and for the rest of the population to struggle. Because of the color of my skin, I cannot possibly know or understand the path that people who are not white have to take.

The person who said this to me is studying to become an educational leader. They will one day run a program, or be a dean of a college campus, and affect policy and choices made in regards to students’ education.

This frustrating to me on many levels. On a superficial level I am angry because I am not 100% white (my mama is Cuban), and I do not feel like I should be dismissed as white just because I have been living in Scotland and my skin tone resembles that of Casper the Friendly ghost. On a deeper level, I am frustrated by the insinuation that because I look white, I cannot empathize with a person of another race who has to endure hardship in the world of education. I’ve lived and worked in a variety of places and had the privilege to get to know and interact with a variety of people, many who have not had an easy go in life. I am also frustrated because while my road to higher education hasn’t really had that many bumps, it has not been all sunshine and roses. I grew up in a single parent household, and had to work really hard to get scholarships and aid to go to college. I don’t think I need to mention the disease that sometimes makes me so tired that even rolling over in bed is too much effort, and that in a down cycle the pain in my hands makes it almost impossible to hold a pencil or type on a keyboard.

I fully recognize that I am very lucky. I have parents who support me and helped me pay of school the best they could, and I have access to medication that helps me control the bad days. My bumps are small compared to many, but I resent that the color of my skin excludes my struggles from mattering. I am also worried that someone who carries this attitude into our classroom, will carry it into the workplace. This is potentially alienating for anyone who is white, and therefore does not seem to be deserving of help because they do not have to struggle the way other ethnic groups do.

The conversation then turned to religion, and because I was already keyed up about race, I got a little snide about why Christian morals should not be used as the framework for schools because not everyone wants a religion they may not subscribe to shoved down their throats. The thing is, I like morals, I even have a few. I also like religion. I have no problem with people who are guided by their religion in the shaping of their morals. I don’t think religion and public schools go together all that well, and I don’t think one religion should be given preferential treatment over another, but I understand people who are ultra serious about their religion.

While I know that I should just write it off as a bad day and being oversensitive, but two days later I am still annoyed about it. I wasted yesterday in a blah mood, and while today has been better for my productivity, I am not looking forward to more conversations that will lead to me being wrong because I was born white…..like I had a choice in that. I think we all know that if I could choose, I would choose to be leopard print.

The Scamp’s First Day as a Doctoral Student

Riddle: How many doctoral students does it take to create a study group?

Answer: too many.

 

More than thirty minutes of class time was dedicated to putting the groups together. Some of the groups were still not finalized at the end of that time. Don’t get me wrong, I am in a program with some very very intelligent people, but man did they make that process harder than it had to be. They started trying to sort us by the district we work for, then the times we wanted to meet, and finally, I just looked to the three people I knew who lived near me, asked them to be in my group, agreed on a time and place, and called it a day. There are only 22 of us, it really should not have been that hard.

Other than that, the first day went smoothly. I really like the group of people that I am working with. There are some really sharp, really funny people in the program. I like the unique perspectives, and even found a couple of people who are interested in basic skills and basic skills education. The unexpected bonus is having the pleasure of being in class with two individuals who know my mother. They are hard working, funny, and quickly agreed to let me form a study group and presentation group with them. I can already tell that I will get along with them just fine. I even went to school dressed like an adult so as to make a good impression.

 

Look mom, I'm wearing heels!

Look mom, I’m wearing heels!

 

I love that dress. It was the last thing I bought in Scotland, and I have been saving it for months for just the right occasion. The heels were not the smartest choice I have ever made, but they make the dress look better, so I toughed it out for the evening.

The day was filled with overviews and expectations for the classes, and included get to know you games (I had pick three words that best described me…I channeled my inner feisty philosophy teacher and wrote down take charge, snarky and sassy…..so much for professionalism). I hate get to know you activities, but I am glad that I have a better sense of the people I will be spending a lot of time with. I’m not really looking forward to the philosophy class (There is one of you who can expect a lot of questions coming your way…you know who you are), but I am going to enjoy the culture of high ed class. I feel like I have a better grasp on the materials in that class than any other. I also love the professor, so that helps a lot. She showed us this video last night, and I think it really speaks to her sense of humor:

 

 

I had a job interview today, and while they are making me jump through a lot of hoops, the people are really nice, and I am hoping that my year and some change long stint with being unemployed has finally come to an end. In the meantime, I have plenty of reading and a critical incident scenario that needs to be written……which really means I am going to read a crime novel or nap through the Angel game.

You may all start calling me Dr. Scamp now, just to get used to it when I graduate. I think it has a nice ring to it, don’t you?