Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Monday, February 1, 2016

Down Time During the Dissertation





In my experience, there's not a lot of down time during the dissertation process. Or rather, one aspect of your PhD life may be slow, but the other aspects usually make up for it.
At least for me, this past year I have juggled the following:
  • Higher Ed job applications (R1, SLAC, regional universities, community colleges)
  • Drafting then revising #DevilDiss2
  • Prepping conference presentations
  • Taught classes
  • Designed online Shakespeare class
I've made it a goal with writing and revising the dissertation, to never have my director wait on me. So far it's been a good strategy, I've sent CH 1-3, while they have notes on CH 4-6. Then we flip. At this point I'm revising chapters in less than a week.
Fall semester was busy with job market prep. And while I am still dedicating Fridays to job apps (there were eight this past week), there are less than there were, and by now I have solid R1, SLAC, community college template letters, and have a good grasp on how to tailor my letters, so it takes less time.
Fall semester was also when I revised #DevilDiss2. Twice.

But I'm finding that spring semester is a different beast.
Spring semester is all about waiting.
Waiting to hear if I will end up being a unicorn, getting a higher ed job.



Waiting to hear if my uni will be able to get me a class teaching this summer so I can cover the tuition for defending and pay rent and bills in June and July.
  • I found out this week that there is a summer scholarship of up to $1000 that I'm going to apply for as well, help with the $594 of tuition, and cover some bills.
Waiting to hear too, if I don't get a job, if uni can hire me as a term lecturer to fill early modern gaps next year.
  • While I know some people say post-graduation you HAVE to change your letterhead, I actually hope this comes through.
  • I won't have to move, so no expenses there.
  • I could add teaching early modern classes to CV.
  • I can work on submitting medieval and early modern articles for publication.
  • It means I can pay bills the next year, go on the market again in September, with that safety net.
But notice too that there's not a single thing I can do about any of those things. For the most part, I've already done all the prep I can. It's just a matter of waiting. Waiting for other people to decide my life.

On one hand, it's an interesting time, so many potential lives laid out before me. On my walks with Nehi I imagine what these different lives will look like- how different is me as a high school teacher versus me as a college professor? Or me as a Hastings video associate?
Then of course the imagining of possibilities is often crowded out by the abject fear of not being able to pay rent or bills, or food.
I do count myself very lucky though that both my associate chair of graduate studies and my department chair are on my side, and working hard to help me out, suggesting scholarships, and brainstorming solutions.

I've learned too that spring semester is also about waiting to see about my back up plans.
  • I received my NM teaching license last week, so I am now certified to teach grades 7-12 in New Mexico.
    • My application is in to Albuquerque Public Schools, so now it's just a matter of checking the job listings every week and see if I qualify.
      • There have been a couple that I've applied for and not gotten. I have two Master's, am a Nationally Certified teacher, with fifteen years experience. So I'm thinking it's not because I'm not qualified, or because there's someone more experienced than me. I'm not getting these jobs because a PhD comes with mandatory salary steps, and for some schools that may blow the budget.
      • But you never know, so I'll keep checking and applying. However, most schools won't know if they have openings until late, May or June.
      • None of the private schools have openings, but I sent in cover letters and CV in case they do. 
  • I'm also still checking USA.jobs. This is a little trickier. There are some education jobs on here, even higher ed jobs, West Point, US Naval Academy, Air Force Academy all post there. But so do Bureau of Indian Education jobs on reservations. And on-base teaching jobs.
    • There are also some education alt-ac type jobs, education specialists for the Park Service, Department of Defense, etc.
    • These are tricky because more so with these jobs there are people who, you know, actually trained and went to school for them.
    • These jobs typically pass certain benchmarks based on keywords, so you have to be specific about what your resume and cover letter says
  • I reminisced last week that working at a video store was the best job ever so I also put in an application for Hastings. 
    •  This was hard though, because I've been teaching since 2001. The last "real" job I had was part time at the YMCA in 2004. Before that? 1998.
    • My "real" job resume looks spotty.
    • And of course, 18 year olds who have worked all through high school look better on paper than me. Le sigh.
  • I had my phone interview for Teach for America.
    • I can't talk about it because they tell you they're confidential.
    • However, notices about whether or not I made it to the next round go out tomorrow.
    • My only concern with this is there's a mandatory 5-7 week summer training that generally takes place on a campus, with dorm housing. I've asked if that's negotiable, since TFA is designed for people with no teaching experience (NYC Teaching Fellows ran the same way). So the summer is a boot-camp of sorts to get people ready to be in classrooms. But with Nehi, and having to move states, it's a potential problem. We'll see.
  • Come March, if I don't have any job prospects, I'm going to have to really start looking for a "real" job, as I will need those months of working to afford to pay summer bills.
Last week I also sent CH 1 to my director, which means CH 1-3 round 3 revisions were complete.
We're meeting mid-February, and I should have CH 4-6 notes for round 3 revisions then, and hope to turn them around by the end of February/beginning of March.
But for now, I don't have any #DevilDiss2 work to do.
This is not to say there's NOTHING to do.
  • I log onto my online Shakespeare class every day to grade, answer questions, and of course I'm on Skype all day and answer emails. While I built the course in the fall, there are still things to tweak and add, as well as tailoring it to specific student needs.
  • I have a couple of conference papers I'm working on. Although these are mostly at the tweaking stage, so there's not a lot to be done here.
I admit though, that it feels weird to look at my planner and just see small things on my To Do list.
The last couple weeks I've been battling being sick, so having a light work schedule has been nice, as I haven't felt guilty about quitting work early, laying on the couch.
This week I also got a lovely care package, that included slated caramel chocolate from the Bod (which is now why I think people at the Bod are so smart, it's crack) and a new mascot for #DevilDiss2, to get me through the end of this process. And let me just tell you- the fact that someone cared enough to MAKE this little guy and send me that kickass care package touches me more than I can say.
 Time off has also ensured I've had time for my writer's notebook, and doodles like this.
I'm still laser locked on summer graduation, and hope this month to have a defense date. This summer I know one professor will be out of the country, one will be teaching summer courses, so there's a lot to schedule around, so I figure earlier is better.
While the above doodle is fun (and funny) it's also accurate. Those are the ONLY things that could prevent me from defending and graduating.

This week is my 40th birthday, so I plan on working in the mornings, but cutting myself some slack, eating cupcakes, recharging. Because downtime is so rare, I plan on taking advantage of it as much as possible.



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