First of all, thank you to the dozens of people who responded so kindly over the past few days with a wave and “We’re still here”!
And thank you as well for allowing me finally to confirm up there whether my use of ending punctuation in a sentence with quotation marks has been correct all these years. (Pro-tip: If the heart-breaking question, huffy exclamation, or staid statement belongs to you, the writer, put it outside the quotation marks. If it belongs to the speaker, put it within the quotation marks. To wit:
“I can’t believe Kim Kardashian gave birth in high heels!” Stacey declared.
I can’t believe that I didn’t stab her eyes out with my high heels while she declared that “I can’t believe Kim Kardashian had her baby in high heels”!)
Anyway, thank you.
In the spirit of reconnecting, I also sent a couple of apologetic, inquiring emails off to old blogger friends this past week. I’ll leave them anonymous because I haven’t asked their permission to say anything about them. I was struck, though, by the sadness in both their replies: very glad to hear from me, but both remarking that I was the first blog correspondent to follow up with them in awhile. I suspect, too, that in the habitually isolating profession that is ours, connection becomes all the more treasured.
Oh, friends, readers, countrymen…er…countrypeople: No guilt trip intended. But you have no idea what power you have. Leave those comments. Send those emails. You are being heard. You are missed when you do not.
Part of the adventure this year that kept me off the blog was finally giving a Ph.D. education program a shot.
I applied to six, with the assistance and kindness of more people than I can name. Results: three rejections, two acceptances, and one “You can’t find my transcript? Here’s the email proving I sent you my transcript. You can’t give me a decision right now? Well, we’ve already decided, so… thank you?” Guess we’ll never know about that path less taken. NOT COOL, ROBERT FROST.
The acceptances were generous and wonderful and exciting. My husband and I embarked on weeks of intensive research, involving hours on the Internet and consulting with people in the profession and academia and our financial advisor and climbing high Asian mountains in sandals of yakskin.
I took a day off. We sat in a coffee shop with legal pads. For four hours. During which we asked repeatedly if we were cheating the waitress out of tips and could we have a little more coffee.
In the end, for a gazillion non-John Grisham-like prosaic reasons, we decided against it. And when I say “a gazillion,” I mean “three of the legal pads were labeled ‘cons’”. Here’s probably the best summary of it, which I wrote in an email to the professor who advocated for me the most strongly on this adventure:
The bottom line is that even if we stripped back to the barest of bones, even if the miracle of a decently paid church position and professorship occurred within commutable distance of each other (never mind our families), within a slightly-less-than-dysfunctional public school system, in June of the year I graduate– even if that happens, the doctorate would still mean an accrual of heavy debt, and a necessary uprooting, that we would be fighting for the rest of our lives, right when we need most to be stable for our children and other loved ones. We have more commitments on that front than are typical. So it sucks, and I’m just heartbroken. But I am also at peace. If that makes any sense.
A few weeks later, the Chronicle of Higher Education printed this article, which sounds exactly like they bugged our coffee shop booth~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I write this not only to explain some of my silence this year, but also to mourn a bit. On this blog, going on almost five years ago, I recognized the dead end uselessness of getting a Ph.D. with the intent of remaining a classroom educator. In the intervening time, we continue to think that firing teachers is a viable alternative to providing sustainable and differentiated career advancement, and instead of celebrating and nurturing the kickass teachers we have, we use completely inaccurate data to pick on teacher preparation programs, like a schoolroom bully who can’t spell.
In otherwords: nothing has changed.
So it sucks, and I’m heartbroken. And about this aspect of my decision, I am not at peace. Don’t think I ever will be.
I’d love to hear your stories about Ph.D. work or professional advancement, and/or the lack thereof. I will run them past some folks I know at the amazing Center for Teacher Quality who are working hard to change this, and get some feedback for you.