“Write FEARLESSLY!” (says Dr. Pajares)

FEATURED CONTRIBUTION (a wonderful comment submitted by jchen04)

I’ll post a little ditty about this topic [of being a blossoming-fledgling researcher], 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!

submitted via commenting by co-author: jchen04

PREVIEW OF SOME UPCOMING POST TOPICS:

  1. Is there a trade-off between working digitally and working by hand (e.g. paper-to-pen)? If so, what is it, and where have you found your balance?
  2. Now that you are a post-doc or professor, ARE YOU HAPPY? Was it all worth it? (Inquiring minds want to know!) What, if anything, would you change or have done a little differently? (We are ALL EARS!)
  3. Discussion on alternatives to going into research after getting the PhD
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