How to kill a good teacher…

Yesterday I felt like a dog chasing his tail in circles.  I just couldn’t find what I was looking for.  I had no information on teacher turnover rates in the 1960’s.  I thought I had read that they spiked during this time, but I couldn’t find any evidence of the sort.  I searched and I searched, and I basically came across nothing of substance.  Then, I looked at the gigantic pile of books I have been ordering from the library (they’re beginning to surround me on both sides of the desk as if to bury me alive as I type this).  I found a book that described the history of the teacher shortage problem.  I read the first chapter, and then spent about an hour writing one, yes just one, paragraph about my new findings.

dog chasing tail

I went to class, which is honestly just feeling like a burden at this point.  Once I get into the groove of working, I hate to stop everything I’m doing and leave.  I was feeling really looney and silly once I got to class; likely a symptom of the solitary confinement to my desk.  Disinterested in the conversation that was happening, I began to do some more google scholar searches on turnover in the 1960’s.  Among my findings was this fantastic little piece: How to Kill a Good Teacher, which so perfectly captures my experience in teaching; particularly the constant surveillance and menial tasks.  It’s amazing to me that something so poignant could have been written in the 1960’s, and yet, we’ve only exacerbated the problem in the the current neoliberal policy context of education.

I slept in this morning, and I’m glad I did.  I just feel so much better when an alarm doesn’t wake me up.  I hate alarms.  I organized all my findings from last night’s class, and began reading.  I was feeling discouraged.  I didn’t know where to start, and I wasn’t sure I would find anything useful.  I came across a report which summarized teacher turnover in the 1960’s and tried to predict turnover in the 70’s.  This study found that turnover was higher in disadvantaged schools, which is an important characteristic of my research problem.  I feel like I can begin to summarize the problem of turnover and relate it to the policy context of education.  This is good.  Now, I’m off to write up these findings (in a paragraph that will probably take me over an hour to draft).


Week 4: Time to buckle down

I counted three times to make sure I really wasn’t on week four, but unfortunately, I am not mistaken.  One month in and not even one whole question answered.  As I prepare my calendar for the next week, putting homework assignments down, putting to-do items down, I begin to panic.  How am I supposed to get anything done with final projects and the end of the semester?  I have to glide into this week on the highs of a wonderful thanksgiving with family as the fuel to keep me going.

I read what I’ve written so far, and I’m reminded of how many holes there are in it, how many fill-in-the-blanks still exist.  I think about how long each will take me, and I begin to worry that I won’t even finish this first question by the end of the week.  Am I getting too detailed?  Am I spending too much time on this one small aspect of my project?  Regardless, I refuse to rush.  It’ll take me as long as it takes me, but I have to work diligently.  I have a plan of action for tomorrow and the rest of the week, so I’m off to get some rest so I can wake up with a fresh mind and tackle this mountain of questions.

2 weeks in and on pause..

I had a wonderful time at UCEA this year.  Some of the highlights were that I got to spend some time talking to scholars that I really admire about my topic.  They gave me some really positive feedback, as well as some things to consider.  At the graduate student summit, I received feedback on an idea for a paper.  I really don’t have time to work on this paper, and it wasn’t accepted to AERA, so I was going to just let it go, but after the feedback, I think I’ll continue to chisel away at it little by little.  I also had some great laughs and just some general good times with my colleagues from UTSA.  Lastly, being inducted into the Jackson Scholar network was an absolute blessing.  It’s incredibly humbling to think about how my grandparents moved to the U.S. with very little education, and now I am becoming Dr. Duarte.  I can’t think about it without getting emotional.  And every time I attend one of these conferences, I always think about how amazing it is to come from such modest roots and be immersed in the academy, which can be so pompous.  It’s also excited to see other emerging scholars coming with new ideas, particularly those who are doing critical quantitative research – finally!  I’m excited to be a part of all of this.

I also learned that professors aren’t perfect, even when they research and teach within a social justice platform.  I witnessed several microaggressions from people I admired, which disappointed me.  I know we all slip sometimes, but I especially didn’t expect to hear it from these folks.

As far as my project goes, I made a little bit of progress on the plane on the way to UCEA, but I have not worked on it since.  Besides getting feedback, thinking, and going to some great presentations, I just didn’t have the time to work on it.  Now, I’ll have family for Thanksgiving, and that is more important.  The plan is to work nonstop after Thanksgiving until Christmas.  You probably won’t hear any updates until after Thanksgiving weekend, so enjoy, but remember that we will be eating our feasts on occupied land.

Day 8: Not a thing got done today…

Well, this’ll be a short post.  I woke up and read a chapter of one of the books for my ethnography class with my coffee.  I was supposed to have this book read by today, but I’m only half way through.  I attended a research seminar series that I have been involved in planning.  It was great!  By the time I got home, I had to pack for UCEA.  This took me way longer than I wanted to.  (I just realized I forgot to pack something, so I guess I’m still not done…)

Then my friend Brenda called me.  And it was just what I needed.  Brenda is the type of person who I can just be on the phone with for an hour going back and forth about life’s most insignificant inconveniences.  We swear, we laugh, and we get through the pain that sometimes comes with sharing the world with other humans.

Then I went to class and by the time I got home and asked Mark what time he’ll drive me to the airport tomorrow morning, I was pooped.  I could have swore he said 7am this weekend, but now he’s sticking to 6, which if you know I’m not a morning person, you can imagine this was a bit of a problem for me…so I complained, but then I realized I much rather have him bring me than take an Uber, so I stopped being an ungrateful jerk.  Sorry Mark, thanks for loving me even though I’m moody.

I did have a chance to look at some of the graduate student presentations tomorrow and I am particularly excited about one that takes a critical look at the effects of No Child Left Behind on the deprofessionalization and demoralization of teachers.  This study uses the same national data set I want to use for one of my dissertation studies.  I’m most excited that this scholar is doing quantitative work with a critical lens.  I have seen very little quantitative work that is critical of policy, which is what I hope I can bring to quantitative research.  I already have so many questions, like, how did she frame this concept of deprofessionalization within the data set?!  So naturally, I’ve now filled up my schedule tomorrow with sessions I want to go to, and I have no time to work.

I will try to get as much done as possible in the airport and on the plane (although I have a direct flight, so less time).  I’m sure I’ll do a lot of thinking about my research during the presentations tomorrow.  Thinking counts as working, right?

Oprah Meme


Day 7: How has it been a week?

When I think about how I’ve been working on my exam for a week now, I begin to stress.  I worked a lot today, but I feel like I’m still where I was at on Day 1.  At least I began writing, so I’ve got two pages written (with about 12 questions in the margins waiting to be answered).

I’m hopeful that tomorrow, with a fresh brain, I can knock some of these questions out and begin to move on.  The process is going way slower than I had hoped, but I have to try to not let this bother me.  I’m being thoughtful, I’m learning, and I’m constantly thinking about the meaning of what I’m finding and how that will shape my study.  These are not bad problems to have.


Days 5 & 6: Moodswings, homework, and french fries

Day 5 was Saturday, and not very much got done.  Well, I woke up at 3am and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I got some reading homework done.  I originally said that this reading was unrelated, but it turns out it wasn’t, and it poked all sorts of holes in my theoretical framework, so now I’m confused and re-thinking it.  I had to make a chart to try and organize the ontological and epistemological assumptions and contradictions in my framework.  The chart is about 25% complete, and so is my understanding of all that.  Of course this made me moooooooooooooooody!  And there was no gym.  But there were french fries, and I ate every.  Last.  One.

Day 6 was Sunday and I finished all my reading, got my homework done, and wrote a paper for my ethnography class.  I will be able to use about a page of that paper in my exam (for the theoretical framework part that I’m still working out).  I think I’m beginning to come to terms with this process though.  I mean, I knew this question was big, would require lots of reading, and would make me think.  I’m happy that I’m chiseling away at it little by little.  However, sometimes I catch myself staring out into nowhere and just thinking of all the other things I have to do and all the other questions I have to answer.  Enter: more moodswings.

Tomorrow I have one errand to run, and the rest of the time I should be working on my literature review.  I also have a bit of reading to do for class.  In the end, I met my weekend goal of getting my homework done (albeit 1am on Monday).  Here’s to hoping I meet my goal tomorrow!


Day 5: Thinking is working, but at a snail’s pace

I had a mini-meltdown today.  I slept until 11am (oops), and by the time I ran my errands and did my chores, it was 3:30pm when I got to work.  I started to freak out a little bit, because I have all this reading to do for my classes, but I also want to continue my literature review on teacher turnover.  By the end of the day, I did get four hours done, but it was all reading for class.

The truth is that the reading I’m doing is really helping me think through my theoretical framework and methodology.  This will help me answer other questions, but it makes me feel like I’m not getting work done on my primary task.  After completing the reading for this week, I’m questioning my ontology and the epistemological assumptions associated with the framework I planned to use.  This will require a lot more reading and a lot of explanation on my part to iron it out.  But this is necessary work, because I need to be confident in the way I want to conduct my study.  I’m not just doing it to get it done, I want to do it in the way that makes the most sense for what I want to study.  Even though this makes me feel like I’m going down a rabbit hole, the truth is, I just happen to be working on multiple aspects of the same project.  Holistically it feels like I’m moving at a snails pace because I’m making progress on multiple ends while not really checking anything off.  I love making lists and checking things off, so this is bringing me anxiety.  Hence the mini-meltdown.

Despite feeling on edge, I went out for happy hour.  Hey, I still deserve to have somewhat of a weekend, and I feel like I haven’t had the chance to just sit down and talk with Mark. He’s been traveling the entire month of October, and with our busy schedules, we just keep missing each other.  I’m glad we made the time to take care of us.  I also need to make the time to take care of me.  I’ve been really good about eating healthy and working out in the last two weeks, but yesterday and today I have eaten like absolute garbage.  I mean, who the heck want’s to eat a salad when they’re stressed?!  I have to go to the gym tomorrow, or I will be a whale by the time I’m done with this exam.  If I don’t step back and take care of myself along this process, I’m going to be a miserable blob (enter: more pressure and stress).

My goal for the weekend is to finish my ethnography homework which includes writing about what I read today and how it relates to my research.  I also need to complete my ethics homework which has nothing to do with this project (lovely).  This means I won’t make any progress on my literature review, but if I can bang these homework assignments out, that’ll give me Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning to work on the literature review and hopefully check one exam question off the list (preliminarily – because God know’s I’m going to revise, and revise, and revise…).