The Scamp Laughs

I have been running around like a mad woman this week trying to get the chapter edits done and make some headway with my thesis. I’m not sure how much luck I am having, but I survived the week, so at least that is something.

All the running around means that I have been too lazy to cook. I stopped at Subway on my way home this week, and while I was waiting for my sandwich, the guy behind the counter asked me if I was headed to work or headed home from work (it was 4). I told him I left one job and was headed home to another one. This is the conversation that followed:

Him: another job?! What is it that you do?

Me: I work for a university, but I am headed home to work on my PhD.

Him: (sceptical) what are you working on?

Me: I study how students respond to the feedback they receive from lecturers and whether or not they learn from it.

Him: Feedback?

Me: Like the comments on an assignment, or if you write an essay and get notes written in the margin.

Him: You can study anything…

Me: I mean….there is a guy studying how takeaway trauma effects people. Like how anxious you get waiting for your pizza to arrive.

Him: See, that is a worthwhile study! That is important!

Me: ……….

That’s it. I quit! I’m done with academia. I had a really good giggle over that because it reminds me that my work, as important as I think it is, is really only important in my corner of the world.

I’m okay with that though. Even though I am massively behind schedule and freaking out about the future, I am happy that universities will fund almost anything so that I have a chance to try and help people in my little corner of the world. I also really needed the laugh.

Plus, the guy looked so serious that I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the takeaway trauma study was probably bullshit.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 13

…or, The Scamp is a Reluctant Statistician.

I don’t like the writing challenge for this week, so I am just going to make this one up as I go. I’ve been back in Scotland for more than a week, and I finally had to have the conversation that I have been dreading for months. I have spent almost two years collecting survey data and interviewing the staff and students at the uni as part of my thesis research. Most of the surveys were passed out in classes, and then entered into the dreaded SPSS software system. I have just been playing around with the software to see if I remembered how to use it, but I have been putting off doing anything more than finding averages and simple standard deviations within the data.

I hate statistics. Those who know me, and who were with me through the two semesters that we studied it (hey old study group, I’m looking at you and our old Google Docs) know that you often had to drag me kicking and screaming through an explanation of the relationship between the numbers, and I had to sit with a very formulaic fill-in-the-blank sentence structure so I could just plug in the numbers into the template. I only passed that class because I had people way smarter than me sitting next to me helping me understand what I was doing. I’m a qualitative researcher. I’m more concerned with the hows and the whys, with talking to people or observing phenomena. I like interviews and focus groups. I like interacting with others, and spending time going through documents to learn. I do not spend my time with large data sets.

My director of studies loves numbers. He is a scientist. He loves big numbers, he is very uncomfortable with emotions (which I can see every time I cry in his presence), and he does not think that Grounded Theory is really a thing. We’ve clashed a bit on the theory for my thesis, and in the last few months he has been pushing me to sit down with the statistics and really start to create questions and hypotheses (hypothesi? I’m not sure) to explore for the analysis chapter. He has been after me to meet with him, to create charts and spreadsheets, and to get some hypotheses written on paper.

I’ve been avoiding him and making passive aggressive comments about not wanting to work with the numbers. When that didn’t work, I straight out told him that I was worried that I have no idea what I am doing with the stats, and I am really afraid that I am going to have to do complicated bivariate correlations and ANOVA tests and then have no idea how to explain the results and the numbers that are produced from it. He kept saying that things would be fine, that he would sit down with me and we could do it together and everything would be fine.

Meanwhile, I’m stressing out over stats and the never-ending edits to the paper. I had my 6 month review this week and cried in front of my external supervisor who has met me exactly one time 6 months ago. It is my physiological response to frustration and stress (or anger or embarrassment, or sadness). My external was really nice about it, and did her took her job wonderfully and tried to mediate the situation. She helped me get a really good compromise, and I think my supervisor finally understand where I am coming from.

I also think I will be able to handle the stats I have to do for my thesis.

I know that this is all part of the process. I know that I am not going to always agree with my supervisors, and that I am going to have some bumps in the road, and that there would be some learning that I would have to do. I haven’t been able to meet with all of my supervisors at once in a long time, and sometimes I feel like I am a one woman show. I’m currently the only person working on an Education based PhD, and it is not always fun being a lonely island. It doesn’t help that my depression is up and down and I have killer anxiety. I enjoyed my time in my in California, but I have a stop start relationship with my work, and see it as a waste of time when I take a break, rather than a chance to clear my head and center myself before I continue. Thank the sweet baby Jesus I have a therapist that helps keep me on track.

I hate that cry when I am in situations like that, but I do feel better that things are out in the open. I’m hoping now that my plans to spend the summer with my data will not be as stressful.   In the meantime I will binge listen to My Favourite Murderer and try not to think it is weird that I enjoy listening to tales of murder and two super neuritic women telling me to Fuck Politeness! and Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 37

Week 37 is a good week for writing. I think it is a topic that I can really find a lot to write about: something I am good at. I happen to think that there are a lot of things I am good at: being negative, overly critical of myself, stressing out, self doubt….the list goes on. I’m also good at napping, finding ways to avoid most social situations, and having odd reactions to medication.

No. In all seriousness, I have many talents that I am actually proud of (well, the napping is something that I am proud of). I think one thing that I am very good at is research. Maybe it was my years as a librarian, maybe it is my love of education and being a student, but doing research, finding articles and sources to support my claims, things of that nature do not make me want to cry. When I worked for the University of San Diego Law School, I was able to track down an obscure Japanese article that had not been translated into English. That was a proud moment for me (and a life saving moment for the Law Review student who had to verify the source in an article). For my thesis I have been able to track down the first use of the word feed forward, and track down specific survey results from ten years ago. I have every confidence that my research skills will help me out has I get deeper into the writing of my draft chapters.

I also think that I am a good traveler. I think my wanderlust and love of visiting new places has made me a good person to travel with. I’ve only cried in one airport four years ago, and I think that was more about my lack of sleep, four heavy bags, and how ridiculous London Heathrow is to navigate. I’d like to think I am a very versatile traveler. I like a good plan and can have a week’s trip planned with all sorts of great things to do and see (I love me the Lonely Planet guide book), or I can go with the flow and just wander in a new place and see what I can find. I like those days, or the days on the beach. Days on the beach are my favourite. In my old age I have become more easy going about hiccups, bad hotel rooms, plans changing, weather, and dealing with tourists. I’d also like to think that I am fun to be around.

I’m sure there are more things that I am good at, but for the moment, I am way too tired to think about it, and I’ve wasted almost an hour and a half on this and drag queens when I should be working on my methodology chapter. I’ve also realized that I can cross one more thing off my list: Start a new tradition. I cannot go home at Christmas and my birthday, so my mom comes to visit me at Thanksgiving. When I moved back to California I had a tradition of spending Thanksgiving in another country, and now my mom is helping me keep that tradition alive. This year she is meeting me in Paris, and next year we are thinking that Amsterdam. I cannot wait to have my favourite travel buddy with me in new countries. She is really the only person who will take photos with Pirate Rubber Chicken.

I will be sneaking into California next week to participate in the ultimate JEW wedding and to teach my muffin how to say ‘Aunty Kimmy’. I promise you, by the 1st of October that little bundle of perfect will be speaking his first words, and they will be ‘Aunty Kimmy’ (or I will settle for immy, as it will be easier for him to say).

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries (1/3 done with my trip to Malta)
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 26

It is July.

Seriously. July. I survived the month from hell, became an official PhD student, and made it out of Scotland for a quick jaunt into the world of academic presentations.

I’m not sure I was entirely successful.

I turned in a report last week to justify my becoming a PhD student. It took me two and half weeks to write, and I was terrified the entire time. I had a really hard time putting into words why my work is significant and what made me a good candidate for the transfer of title. It really freaked me out. If I cannot explain what I am doing and why it is important, then why should the university move me on?

Which led to a whole host of other problems. If I do not get to advance and complete the degree, then it is back to the land of Trump and Hilary. A land where I have no job, no money, no insurance, and more importantly, no identity. I cannot go back there.

A rather large problem that I have navigating life is that I tie my entire self worth to the things that I produce. I saw this report as an extension of me. If my supervisors don’t like the report then it means they do not like me. I know that this is absurd. I know this, I write about this in terms of students and the feedback they receive, yet I can’t help but be stuck in that quicksand.

The report was just as bad as I thought it would be. My supervisors ripped it apart. They told me as it was, the report would not pass the committee. I had spent so much time being crippled by self doubt and the impostor syndrome, that I produced a really shitty report. I missed a few typos, the report seemed rushed, and I misinterpreted a  question. It was bad. While the team signed off on me becoming a PhD student once I edit and do some heavy revision, I still cannot look past how defeated I feel. I can’t help but think that I am a huge disappointment to my supervisors. None of what I have turned in so far as been good quality work. I’m not a bad writer. I know that. I usually enjoy writing. Lately I have not been enjoying myself. I’ve been stressed. I’m worried what people will think when they read my work, wonder if I have done enough to show that I am worthy of all the things that I have been given in the last year.

I’m also trying to live up to the pressure that my position brings. I’m the first education based PhD, the first one based out of the Department of Learning and Teaching, and I am the living example of why pedagogy is important to a university. With great power comes great responsibility….and a supervisor who is incredibly hard on me, and expects a whole hell of a lot from me. Unfortunately right now I have hit my breaking point. I am a bit burned out.

Luckily I have people around me who believe in me, and a couple who have gone through the process. They talk me off a ledge, send me goats through the mail, and remind me that I am not defined by the drafts that I produce.

This week I had the opportunity to present my paper at an assessment and feedback conference. Last year I got to go to the conference as my introduction to the university and to the role that I was soon to play. I heard a lot of good talks, met some interesting people, and saw a little bit of England. This time around I got to give a 3 minute presentation to a room full of experts in the field. I knew a few people who were there, and I got to sit between two men that I reference in my paper. It was brilliant.

My presentation…..not so much. I went first, and seeing as this was the fist time that the conference had ever done these nano presentations, I was once again the guinea pig. My paper is based around a food metaphor (and I don’t want to give it away yet since it is not complete, and has not been published), but no one laughed at my jokes, and no one asked any questions or had any comments for me. The other seven presenters all had questions and comments. I had silence and a joke that the picture that I used to illustrate my point was only good because it had a bottle of wine in it.

Yeah. Not really my best showing for my first time out, but, hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? I’m feeling pretty beat up about it. So beat up that today as I tried to sit down and make the edits and that I ended up watching a lot of E.R. and then sneaking over to Dan’s flat to nap with him since he is on night shift. This was after I was a massive pain in the ass with him and extremely passive aggressive for the last couple of days. He told me to come over and tucked me into his side for a nap. Then we ate Chinese food and watched Top Gear  until it was time for him to go protect the Queen (yep. She is in this lovely city and he is on palace patrol tonight…hopefully it doesn’t rain tonight).

So now I sit on my couch trying to pretend that I don’t have a million and one things to still do complete my paper for next week and get back to feeling like the badass flamingo that I am. There is always tomorrow, right?

I didn’t even make it to the writing challenge for this week: my family. Tomorrow. As it is almost midnight, I will come back to that tomorrow.

The Scamp’s World View

I had a meeting this week with my supervisors. They mapped out the next three years of my life, complete with a little sad face of death in the third year.

2015-10-22 17.05.17 2015-10-22 17.05.33 2015-10-22 17.05.40

As you can see, year 1 (my current position) is booked from now until July. I start to get a little more frazzled in year two, and by year three I have died before being reborn and achieving glory! I have sense added some things to year 2 and year 3 in terms of deadlines and things that need to be done, but I’m choosing to stay with these pictures because they make me a little less sad than the full chart.

Goodbye social life, hello burning the candle at both ends.

Despite this, I am excited that things are finally getting to the point that real work is getting done. For the last year I have been dealing with the disappointment of CSUF and the way that I was treated. It seems like forever ago that I was collecting data, doing research, and really doing something worthwhile to contribute to the field of education.

The problem is, before I can really get to the nitty gritty of collecting data, I have to settle on my world view. My supervisors asked me what my epidemiological and ontological views are. Now, this is a question that all researchers are asked at one point of another, especially PhD students as these views shape the way they gather data, the way they analyze the data, and the way that they present results. The answer to these two questions set the tone for the entire project.

The answer to these two questions are thus far eluding me.

I had to answer these questions when I was at CSUF, but I no longer view the world the same way.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. For those of you who do not aspire to be a student forever, or those of you who are a little rusty on your word parts, let me start with a simple definition of the two words.

1. Ontology and epistemology are both branches of philosophy that try to explain the existence of an entity or something.

2. Ontology which indicates the study of how something existed, its nature, or being, usually answers the question ‘what’.

3. Epistemology is often considered as the theory of knowledge, in which we know something exists, and it answers the questions ‘how’ and ‘what’

So now it is time for me to sit and think about how I think, how I construct knowledge, and how I go about answering questions in those categories. Easy right?

Wrong. First, I am not good in silence. If I spend too much time in silence then I am liable to go to the dark and twisty with my thoughts, so I always have music, podcasts, or TV playing. That does not allow for a lot of serious contemplation about the way in which I construct meaning in my world. Am  I a realist? Am I constructionist? Am I an interprestist?  Where does my belief in Critical Theory come into play? How can I explain my view in 500 words to my supervisors, and how can I spend more than 500 words explaining my views when the first chapter of my thesis is written? Do I want to do a Phenomenologicastudusingroundetheordiscourse? Do I even understand what that means?  I’ve been sitting with my laptop on my lap for the last three hours, and even with my crack skills as a researcher, I feel like I am no closer to answering the question than I was two years ago when I encountered them. 

Right now, I feel like I am sitting in the Pragmatism camp.

PragmatiParadigm

Ontology:Realitithpracticaeffectoideas.

EpistemologyAnwaothinking/dointhaleadtpragmatisolutioniuseful.

Methodology:MixeMethods,designbaseresearch,actioresearch

Anything that allows me to do action research is okay by me. We all know that I have had some battles with action research (Scamp on the Battleground), but luckily for me for the UK does not have the same hangups about a valuable form of research. I thought that maybe by the end of this I would have some better insight into the inner workings of my own mind and how my world view shapes my research, but I think that I have to spend some more time in the quiet to really figure it out. It might be time to unplug, turn off, and really get my shit together.

I am looking at my flow chart and I see how busy I am. I really need to refocus and get those 500 words written so I can start setting up the rest of my research I need do to stay on track with my three year plan.

The Scamp and Squishy

With only one day left in 2014, I decided to try and end the year on a high note, so I made a new friend.

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World, meet Squishy. Squishy is the son of one of my dear friends from the cohort. She has known my mom for years, but I got to know her while she was my study buddy last year. I was beyond excited when she announced she was pregnant, and even more thrilled when she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Thanks to my own personal hell, it has taken months for me to finally be able to meet him, but let me tell you….it was well worth the wait.

Squishy sleeps like an angel, barely fusses when he wants to be fed, and burps like a well skilled frat boy. He puked on me after I fed him, so I am choosing to see that as a sign of acceptance.

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Squishy was a great distraction from graduate school applications, and the never ending hunt for funding. The good news: there are plenty of options to fund my entire study. The bad news: I may have to start over and do the full three years. At this point though, if it means I get to finish a degree and research that I am passionate about, then I am all for it.

The Scamp Completely Completes Her Dissertation

Exactly 4 months after I sat at my desk in Scotland and wrote a rough outline for a potential research project, my final draft is complete. No more editing, no more counting words or triple checking references, and no more children’s literature for a long long time. As of 11:30 pm Pacific Standard Time, my labor of love is now in the hands of my readers…..or at least in the in-box of my supervisor and the secretary in the front office who is going to print my hard copies.

It is too late in the evening for me to be super excited, but I am very very very happy with the final product. I think it is some of the strongest work I have ever written, and it is much better than my last dissertation (or thesis as it is called here). Tomorrow, I will do the happy dance and try to get everyone I know to read it and tell me how awesome I am.

On the bright side, I now have 8-10 hours in my day that are free….well at least for the next 7 days. I have a stack of novels waiting for me to read them, and the weatherman tells me we are all set for a heat wave. If you listen closely, you can hear the pool calling my name.

In case anyone is dying of curiosity about what my paper is about, here is the abstract:

  ‘¿Como frijole?’ or ‘How you bean?’ Is Not a Greeting:

How the Use of Critical Literacy Can Raise Elementary School Teachers’ Awareness of the Picture Books they are Presenting in the Classroom 

This study was aimed at adding to the field of critical literacy analysis by highlighting the importance of analyzing cultural representations of Mexico in children’s picture books.  Gary Soto’s (1995) Chato’s Kitchen and Judy Schachner’s (2005) Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse were used as two examples of how Mexican culture is represented in children’s picture books. The aim of this research is to highlight the importance of analyzing critically the picture books before they are presented to students in the classroom. Teachers can encourage cultural sensitivity among their students by choosing culturally sensitive picture books to read in the classroom. Two pages from each of the stories were analyzed with special attention given to how the authors and illustrators used color, texture, layout and characters to represent Mexican culture. In addition to the visual text, I analyzed how the use of Spanish words affected the representation of Mexican culture.

This study starts with a review of critical pedagogy, critical literacy analysis, and critical media analysis. Important research and scholars are highlighted, as well as the definition of critical literacy analysis that was utilized for the purpose of this study. Because picture books are analyzed, literature on children’s literature and picture books was also analyzed. The study concludes with a reflexive discussion on the importance of content and analysis and action research, as well as how the example of analysis used in this study can be used to analyze cultural representation in any picture book. I conclude with a reflection on the importance of using critical literacy analysis to encourage cultural sensitivity.

If that isn’t enough, I’ll even show you the pages that I analyzed.

Skippyjon Jones Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse 

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8S1BDVrKQSKHrfPSKRDY3Cy4

Chato’s Kitchen

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If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then use it as a cure for insomnia. I promise that Chapter Two will put you to sleep before you can finish reading about critical literacy analysis.

I would like to thank my family and friends for letting me sit in my office with my headphones on and ignore them, for feeding me and entertaining me on breaks, pretending to understand what I was writing about ,and to my mommy for reading the whole thing to make sure all the commas were in place and all the words were in a proper order.