Key Co-Author Posts Collection (in order of date submitted)
submitted Nov. 6, 2011 by jchen04
I’ll post a little ditty about this topic, although I’m not sure if it’ll stay on topic completely! The life of research is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Frankly, I ask myself on a weekly basis: “Why did I not just stay in high school teaching??!!” But my words of advice constitute my researcher’s motto, and it comes from advice given to me by my late advisor (Frank Pajares): “Just be fearless.” When I was an undergrad, I took Dr. P’s ed psych class. Dr. P, for anyone who doesn’t know, although somewhat small in stature and seemingly innocuous is downright frightening if you read his syllabus (and if you become his doctoral student). He says things like this: “You have 1-page reflections due every week. You MUST make elegant connections and back up every contention with relevant sources. Oh, and don’t forget to be BRILLIANT.” So as an undergrad, I walked into his office to seek his council. We ended up chatting about random things for an hour. I asked him, finally, how I should go about writing this reflection. To which he responded: “Jason, just be fearless. Write fearlessly!” I was puzzled. Over time, though, I figured out what he was saying. I was also fortunate enough to have run into him because he was an awesome teacher. Later on, when I decided to teach, I was nervous because I had to teach chemistry and physics to 120 kids. His wise council: “Jason, just be fearless. Teach fearlessly.”
When Dr. P died, I went into depression because I thought that everything that I had worked for would go down the drain. But he spoke to me still. And I was reminded again to be fearless. I had to fearlessly carve out research questions, write lit reviews, the whole 9 yards … and with no real advisor. I don’t think the credit goes to me for pulling this off. The one thing that I did was I pulled myself together, and ACTIVELY pursued people to help me. I called people … hunted them down at AERA … emailed folks … went to mentoring sessions and asked people to help me. I don’t normally do that sort of stuff. But it was the will to move on and continue with a dream that drove me. That sort of thing requires fearlessness. I think everyone defines fearlessness according to their context. But that’s something that you need to figure out. What fears are holding you back? Find it, put your finger on it, and ACTIVELY choose to conquer it. I kept a researcher’s journal too for a little while before becoming overwhelmed. But you should check it out, because I’ve written about some things that have helped me. Here it is –> http://lifeafterthedoctorate.blogspot.com/
Z, I do think that you are taking a great and fearless step forward by starting a blog because you are now putting it all out there. If you go to my blog above, read the one about Chef Gusteau (from the movie Ratatouille). It touches on this idea of fearlessness. Thanks for starting this!
Blog creator’s quick aside: Interestingly and providentially, entry #2 below, in my opinion, provides amazing WHYs for post #1 above!
submitted November 7, 2011 by Alyssa
I have three research-related mantras that I keep on sticky notes (virtual and hard copy) in my office and on my computer. They are from three different points in my “research life.”
1) Upon entering graduate school, I came across this poem by Bonaro Overstreet, entitled To one who doubts the worth of doing anything if you can’t do everything: “You say that the little/ Efforts that I make/ Will do no good;/ They never will prevail/ To tip the hovering scale/ Where justice hangs in the balance./ I don’t think I ever thought they would/ But I am prejudiced/ Beyond debate/ In favor of my right/ To choose which side/ Shall feel the stubborn/ Ounces of my weight.”
2) Upon beginning my own research for the first time, a colleague shared this quotation by one of my favorite authors: “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston
3) Upon finishing my dissertation and being challenged by the reality that the people who I thought should know about my results did not WANT to know about my results, my dissertation co-chair shared this wisdom: “Your most powerful voice is what you write and not what you say. Words from your mouth are mostly forgotten or misrepresented minutes after you say them. Your publications last even after you are not around. You will ultimately have the last word.” –Jacqueline Jordan Irvine
I’ll talk about the first one for now because I think it relates to both teaching and research in education, which I think are inextricably linked if they are to be done well. I keep this poem as a reminder that, though I may not “change the world” as an educational researcher, I will change part of it. People often ask why I study education and why I teach, in particular, about urban schools and students. “Don’t you get depressed?” they say, “It’s all so hopeless.” I often respond that, on the contrary, I am a very hopeFUL person. I could not do what I do—and encourage future teachers to go into urban education—if I didn’t believe that things could change… if I didn’t have hope that there was a better future for education. Teachers, myself included, are some of the most hopeful people I know! None of this effort would matter if we didn’t see the possibility of an alternative to all the problems.
This poem also comes in handy when, as Jason wrote in his post, I wonder if I am on the right path. I think about teaching high school nearly every day and speculate about what it would mean to return to the secondary classroom. I miss it terribly, and I’ve been told by people much wiser than myself that I will never stop missing it. Overstreet reminds me that I can’t do everything all of the time, but the efforts that I make are mine to make, no matter whom I teach and what I study. In the end, borrowing the words of Jamie Washington: as with teaching, being a researcher “isn’t about what I do, it’s about who I am.”