Graduate School = Finished
What follows is my final reflection essay for school it was a hard three year process. I realized recently that the work I put into this degree is not about the end result of my Action Research or even this paper, it’s about the process that was the degree.
I don’t like writing these, a capstone to think and reflect on what I’ve done in this program. Not that I’m in any way am I opposed to the concept of reflecting and writing about my experiences and how it’s changed me, but more so I perceive that the GPE has been such a struggle for me that it’s hard to separate the true learning from the challenge. But then again that might be part of what has to happen. A end note to the three year process of hell I’ve put myself through in obtaining this degree.
I started looking over the books we initially read that very first fall. For me, that was over two years ago. In my mind it’s a hazy portion of time when I was “young”. Or “green”. The names of authors like Barth, Palmer and Fried who seemed so exciting or challenging or intellectually demanding at the time and in many other ways now are even more challenging and demanding to my intellect. I tried to consider if I would ever want to pick up the books again would I be able to read or exist in a mental space with these words again? When I took my leave of absence, it hurt to see the graduate program books. It reminded me of the fun I could be having had I gotten my act together. Had I not let work stress get to me in the ways it did. Had I felt that I had more agency in my own life and destiny. The truth is, I had that power I just didn’t utilize it, didn’t know how to wield it properly. Because of external challenges at work I started to get muddled in why the program was good for me, why having my intellect and having to academically read material and respond was good for me. I judge a book by my ability to pick it up again, its why I’ve read Dune and the Right Stuff every year since I was nine years old, and still to this day cannot get through Pride and Prejudice or basically any of Dickens writing to save my life. What I realized in my leave of absence is not only did I want to pick these books up again; they were calling to me to read and re-read to test, to question and study. I know that these books are going to be well used and reviewed in the upcoming years.
Work stress played a major part in my failings of being a good student in the GPE, what drives me crazy is that although I think I was asking for help from other superiors or Human Resources I wasn’t asking in the right way. I’ve always been kind of a slacker, I procrastinate, I delay, but that coupled with having to think long and hard about the questions the GPE brings up:
“What I’m doing… is it valid?”
“How I do what I do…am I being effective?”
“What road blocks are standing in my way from being my best self?”
These questions were so tied to the stress and anxiety of “work” that my brain felt like it would just shut down. It was like a poorly implemented protection mechanism, trying to help me fail up towards my goals of higher education. I distinctly remember sitting in my home office working on the summer papers and feeling sick with dread about thinking about these questions. I call it feeling pinched, but now I see it was real anxiety almost to the point of panic attacks. I don’t remember anything like that happening in my undergraduate career.
I lived in that environment for three years. I survived in that environment; I made friends, had laughter and found my sense of self through it. What I realize now is that all that pain and struggle gave me my Stance. I always knew I was a process learner, I’m tactile and have to be shown and experience my learning, I just wish it hadn’t been at the expense of parts of my sanity for the past few years. More and more I read Fried’s statement of “Their stance makes them unafraid of losing control.” As a mantra. A rule to follow. The concept of being able to hold my ground, an educational Litany Against Fear. And now, three years later the landscape of my position at Earlham is totally different. I have a new supervisor, one who not only gets what I want to do, but she knows how to ask me to be my best. Tolerates the bit of crazy fun I bring to the table but also creates the space for me to really utilize and hone my craft of Help Desk support. I’ve always seen my future as being positioned in a more client-based position. If I ever decided to a PhD program, I think I would want to study the concept of resiliency in technology education and training. I am able to do what I do day to day, in helping someone with an issue or learning a new software system, or fixing a hardware concern because I’m able to exist in a space of doubt. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t know all the answers. I take the unexpected as something to be proud of. Khalil Gibran has a phrase that states: “Say not ‘I have found the truth’ say instead ‘I have found a truth’.” That phrase has been a guiding star in my education and life. I want to be the person Fried talks about on in his book, he states “passionate people are the ones who make a difference in our lives.” (p. 17) Indeed he later states something very true for me with regard to technology: “the act of teaching has more to do with the preparing a learner to be an eager seeker of new skills than the nailing down pertinent data.” (p. 25) He speaks later about an educator with a naturalness in her teaching style, “the blend of realism, humility, and humanity- that allowed her to make a powerful connection with these kids.” (p. 157) I’ve always loved that concept. That my attitude, the way that I orient my life around technology and education is not so much a choice, be it career or life or interest but instead it flows out of a place deeper than that.
Going forward, I hope I’m able to remember how much of a gift this learning was, the challenge of learning in an environment with other people with similar interests. I don’t even think that College offered me that, to study, test and examine the process of Education. I know that the GPE has prepared me with the skills necessary to move forward, to create the learning community around me that I need, want and desire to make real. It means a lot to me the help I’ve obtained along the way, and the knowledge that there is a entire group of people in this world that although we may have different thoughts on education and how it should be managed and used by our learners;
We’re all struggling with the same questions, and we’re all in this together.