Nine Years

Oh my goodness… did I love looking for a picture for this blog entry. My kid is going to hate this photo… she was not a fan of the bangs I gave her as a small child. Some of the photos made me laugh (see below). She is such a ham. I’m glad she is the same girl today as a thriving 13-year old in high school. For those who follow me on social media, you’d know that my daughter is 4 inches taller than me and she loves sports. I cannot believe that I started my doctoral work in 2008. I was working full-time, I had my little bub, and I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. Nine-years. No shame.

Admittedly, my dissertation journey changed the trajectory of my life. I don’t want to sound over dramatic, but it did. I left teaching in 2010. I became a school trustee. I feel privileged to be a part of the Math K-9 Curriculum Development Team, teach at SFU and St. Mark’s College as a sessional instructor, and be part of the BCSTA Board of Directors. I also had the opportunity to become an entrepreneur, be part of the Sunshine Coast Community Futures Board, and be part of the BC Association of Mathematics Teachers Executive Committee. There is so much to be grateful for… and there is so many opportunities I got to be a part of that I have not mentioned. It’s been incredible and I needed these opportunities to write my dissertation but also restore my love for education.

The dissertation journey (aka. this chapter of my pedagogical journey) will end this summer of 2017. My paper is with an APA editor and it was previously with another editor who looked for flow, grammar, and sense-making. I’m not done yet… but will be very soon. I might be writing this blog entry a bit too early but I blog when I am inspired to write. I am overwhelmed by the idea that I have been at this for nine years. Why was I so persistent? Who cares? Why did I walk away from my teaching career with hopes of finishing this research in a timely manner. In fact, I went overtime. 8 years is the max. I timed out… and now I’m back to defend. Oh yes… I am. I struggled with my research question for the first few years. The next few years I struggled with my “why” and “Chapter 1.” The last few years have been phenomenal. I have no complaints. Change takes time. Oh yes… and I took my time. I have no regrets. I cannot believe how beautifully my literature review, my data, and my recommendations serendipitously converge into a place of solace. I am hopeful.

After 9-years, I am so please with what I found in my research. My research started with a problem in education. I had many questions. Thankfully, I was able to stick to one. The messiness in my mind attempting to transform a problem from practice to research was a HUGE challenge. To top it off, I had to deprogram my stories or beliefs of myself… “I cannot write. I cannot read.” Those were two barriers that I had to overcome internally. No one can tell your story but yourself. Anyway, I don’t feel that way anymore. I do wish I would read more. The introverted tasks of research is extremely challenging for someone who is extremely extroverted. I love talking and connecting up with people. I thrive on people’s stories, especially ones about education, teaching, and learning. I am even more interested if you can relate it to mathematics education and leadership. I am curious. It leads me to many questions, but also to many solutions. Once I was able to bring my research proposal to ethics and start gathering data… it was a joyful dissertation experience. The rewriting, recalculating, and reevaluating my work was intrinsically rewarding. I loved it.

So, what’s next? I am planning to submit my paper in the next couple of weeks to my committee. Hopefully, it will make it’s way to the external examiner and a defence date will be announced. EVERYONE IS INVITED… if you want to hear more about my study. In the meantime, I will finish writing up my trustee study on gathering information and sense-making for decision-making and I am teaching a course at SFU. So, expect to be flooded with blog reflections from my Educ 454 course this summer. Part of the course is reflection and I like to do what I ask the students do in my course. I have a 13-blog entry series of Educ 471 from the fall session. Please refer back if you’re interested. This time I will answer the same questions I ask the students. In my Educ 471 blog entries, I reflected on the class as a whole and my experiences as the sessional instructor. This time, I want to reflect on the same questions posed to my students. I want to make my learning visible. I want to lead by example. I want to “be the change I want to see” in education. We lead together.

My big take-aways from my 9-year dissertation: (1) I cannot do this alone. I want to lead by lifting others up. I don’t want to be dragging a bunch of people behind me. Leadership has nothing to do with me and it has everything to do with the people I serve. In return, people life me up. I have to be willing to accept/ask help from others. This was a humbling point for me. It’s not easy for me to ask for help. The relationship is reciprocated. The lifting is mutual. (2) Have a goal in mind. This was a personal/professional challenge set upon me by my supervisor and my sister. What’s my why? At first, I wanted clarity. Midway, I wanted to explore and experiment. Now, I have a 10-year goal. I have a vision. My mission and purpose are actionable. I cannot wait to take my first steps soon after my dissertation is submitted into the SFU library. (3) Finally, do what you love. I am convinced that when you put your passion into practice, only good things will happen. The key here is, what are you passionate about? This has to be clear. Your actions need to be aligned to your passion. My dissertation helped me to define what’s important to me and I hope that I will have many opportunities to explore my passion further and put it to practice.

Nine-years, not wasted. I would not have learned what I have learned had I not taken this detour on my pedagogical journey. I would not have met all of the wonderful people I have met or experience all of the experiences I’ve had in the last 9-years. There is always something to learn and you are only ready to learn when you are able to receive those lessons. Some of these lessons were tough ones. Please do not take this joy-filled blog-entry and believe that the path was easy and straightforward. That is furtherest from the truth. I have learned what I value the most, what I care about the most, and what I am most passionate about. I am heartened by those who lift me up and I am honoured to have the privilege to lift others up. This is my purpose. Let’s ask the tough questions, listen, and just go for it. I feel such solace nearing the end of my dissertation journey that I can only feel hopeful and optimistic for what’s to come. My daughter will be turning 14 soon and I look forward to what lies ahead.

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