In the last few years, I have become more "connected" as an educator through the use of social media. I had been opposed to the use of Twitter, primarily because I had only seen it used by my students to distract themselves from class or homework. However, a colleague of mine explained how she used Twitter to connect with fellow educators in order to get new ideas and inspiration. I was wary of joining my first Twitter chat and just "lurked" for a while. Learning the language and trying to gather your thoughts in 140 characters was quite a challenge. It was through the exposure to some amazing educators, their tweets, and their blogs, that I decided writing my own blog would be an effective way of reflecting.
But what do I have to say? And if I say anything, will anyone actually listen? So many thoughts about schooling and education research fill my mind as I am completing my PhD in education. I just spent the last few hours coding some of my data, which are book club discussions about dystopian fiction and how youth explain their understanding of power, identity formation, and resistance. But this post is not about that. It's really about one question: Why did you enter a PhD program?
Two years ago I sat at the CA chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) with my advisor and she asked this important question. I stared at her for what felt like a few dreadful minutes. Why? Who asks that? Actually, it's one of the most common questions I get. Well that and how much is it going to cost and what do you plan on doing after you are done? I looked at my professors, a woman who has inspired me to be a better educator and a better person. She pushes me to think about schooling as a process whereby teachers and students can make a different in the world. I didn't want to be wrong. I didn't want to give an answer that would make her seem like she was wasting her time. When I think back to that moment, I wonder how many time my own students feel this same way.
I told her that I certainly wasn't in it for the money. She laughed. What I said was that I looked into PhD programs because I did not want to be a complacent teacher who did the same thing year in and year out until retirement. I too wanted to feel challenged by learning some about myself, about my students, and about education. Being in a doctoral program has been one of the most challenging and fulfilling processes. From day one, I was challenged to think about research, education, and teaching differently. Now I am not saying that every one should go out and get another degree; however, there is certainly a need for educators to continue honing their craft. If we don't ask questions or seek inspiration to make every day a new experience for ourselves, and most importantly, for our students, then we can't expect to see any change for our world.
As I get closer to finishing my dissertation, the first thought I had was that I would no longer have access to academic journals. I never realized how much I love and revel in new scholarship. In fact, it wasn't until I became a doctoral student that I found my passion for presenting at conferences. The only way that education is going to change for the better is if teachers actively seek ways of being that change. Teacher conferences are my favorite. Participants show up to your session because they are interested in the topic. Sometimes a few walk about - but I do not take it personally. The subject wasn't what they wanted at that moment. Teachers give honest feedback. I learn more from the questions and comments I receive, which makes me a better presenter and helps me shape my ideas.
So I take this foray into blogging for many reasons. First, I have never written so much in my life before starting a PhD; however, I learned that writing helps me crystallize my thoughts and forces me to organize my ideas. Second, I want to actively contribute to my field. Teachers have a lot to say about what they experience in the classroom and this is one platform upon which we can build networks of support. Finally, I want to challenge myself to actively reflect upon my teaching. A student recently interviewed me about being a teacher and one of her questions regarded what I liked about teaching. My initial response response was that every day is different and every day is on opportunity to learn. I want to take more time to think about those moments.