Posted in Academia, This is me

Just make a mark and see where it takes you.

Do you ever wonder how you are supposed to make your mark? Recently, my job changed from being the Graduate Advising Coordinator to being a full-time tenure track Assistant Professor of Education and the Coordinator of the Job-Embedded Practitioner Program. I am so excited, and this is a position I have been working towards for several years. It is so strange to me to think of myself as finally being where I have worked to be for all of this time. All of a sudden, I have new professional options for how I can make my mark on education. I have ideas that previously seemed unattainable that now do not look so far away, and a renewal and validation of the thoughts that I have had regarding education, relational teaching, educational technology, and the roles we should take as professors and teachers. So many ideas and goals, and not a clue how to start.

The easy answer is, “You made it into academia, now you need to start researching and publishing if you want your voice to be heard.” What does that look like? How do you even get started down that road? I have always been someone that would rather teach or present than write. So how do I get started with this need to publish that exists in academia? How do I fill the need to publish and balance it with my personality trait of needing/wanting to teach?

Today is International Dot Day. If you have never heard of Dot Day, I strongly urge you to visit http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/ and learn more about this fun day and different ways to celebrate it. You may look and think that most of the celebrations are for young children. I thought so initially, but I ordered the book (I actually ordered the creatrilogy on Amazon) and decided I would read about it to see if there was any way it could apply to my students. I quickly discovered that it not only applies to my students, but also to me. You see, I realized through reading the book that I am now both Vashti and Vashti’s teacher. I have realized my role of Vashti’s teacher for years. Encouraging students to make their mark; helping build their confidence; and celebrating their accomplishments, no matter how small, are things that I have been doing for a long time, even before I was an adjunct faculty member or teacher. Those are the things that come naturally to me, and the things I love to do. I now find myself in the role of Vashti, at a loss of how to proceed.

I read The Dot to my class of graduate students last night, and plan to read it in all 3 classes I teach today. As I have planned my lessons to incorporate this children’s book, I have thought about what that book means to the different groups of students I teach and that has also forced me to think about what it means to me. Sometimes, we just have to make a mark. Once we get our mark made, then it is time to sign it and keep making marks. I can remember writing papers in graduate school that were easy to write once I could finally get started. That is how The Dot works. It is getting started. It is encouraging our students to start somewhere, even if it is just a dot.

So, I am getting started. I have started my dots. Some of them will be frameworthy, and some will need to be thrown away. Regardless, today I will celebrate International Dot Day with my students, even though they are not the typical students who would be celebrating this, and we will make our mark. Go out today, do something that may seem a little unusual, make your mark, and sign it.

#InternationalDotDay #MakeYourMark #DotDay

Posted in Academic Advising, This is me

In the Thick of It …

So, my job is titled Graduate Advising Coordinator.  When people ask what I do, it is always a little hard to really put it into words, but I decided today, while I am in the thick of it, I would give you a glimpse into what my days entail.

It seems like there are different seasons to my job every semester.  Right now is the beginning of advising season.  That means that for  the next 6 weeks, I will spend all day everyday meeting with our graduate students and doing their advising sessions.  These happen over the phone, online, in my office, and through email, so I am pretty much at my desk for everything but meetings for 6 weeks.  I am in charge of advising for 10 different graduate education programs and have around 650 actively enrolled advisees.  I also work with the readmission process for those that took a break in the midst of their program, advise and register the new students that are being accepted, and spend a good chunk of time helping with our processes and tracking things.  That seems like a lot of really boring desk work to most people (me included) and that is why I say it is so hard to put into words what I do everyday.

The conversations that I get to have with our graduate students are inspiring.  Sometimes my job is to be their shoulder to cry on.  Sometimes it is to be the one to tell them to get focused and get it done.  I get the privilege of sharing in their successes and being a confidant for many when life is hard.  That doesn’t really fit well in a job description.  Since most of my students are online students, I don’t get that many that come in my office on a daily basis.  Kinda seems like it would be lonely, doesn’t it?  Luckily that void is filled with undergraduate students that need a place to hang out or unload about what is going on in their life.

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I’ll let you in on a secret … the thing that I loved most about teaching were the relationships I made with my students and helping them more than they thought they were capable of becoming.  Fortunately for me, that is now what I do all day every day.  I’m not a counselor, just a shoulder to cry on.  I’m not their mom, but I will share my life experiences with them.  I’m not the one with all the answers, but I will help you figure out some possibilities.

A lot of people would look at my job from the outside and say that I spend all my time with spreadsheets and emails.  I prefer to look at it from this side and realize that I really spend my time with people.  People that may share some of the same characteristics, but who are unique individuals that are working towards a goal.  It isn’t a job that you will hear much about, and it isn’t a job that you hear children say they want to be when they grow up, but it is my job and I am thankful for it.

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Sometimes it isn’t easy to take the time to do something for someone else.  It isn’t that we don’t want to help others, but we are busy.  There are a million things on our plates, the stress level is high, the caffeine level is low (this can’t just be a thing that happens to me), the patience is worn thin, we are tired, we don’t feel good, we just want to be left alone, or we just aren’t in the mood.  Remember, showing that you care doesn’t take a long time.  Sometimes it can just be a simple email or text of encouragement.

How will you make a difference today?