Wednesday, December 22, 2004


OK, I promise I won't go on about this for days, but just another thought ...

Considering that a PhD is an ‘apprenticeship’ of sorts, and that ideally one would use a PhD to generate a number of papers and other opportunities so to strengthen one’s ‘academic street cred’ etc., it goes without saying that the topic of research must be something sufficiently inspiring (intellectually and otherwise) to motivate one for a number of years (three for the actual project and then a number more post-thesis – perhaps many more years post-thesis!).

My dilemma is that while I’m interested in issues of literacy, technology and education, there are other issues that, since my honours thesis (2003) and my research this year (2004), continue to preoccupy my mind, interests, passions and intellect. Issues such as professional learning, dialogic and conversational knowledge construction, academic-teacher research processes, reflective practice and the role of writing in professional learning, etc. I’m not sure whether pursuing a PhD in lit-tech studies will give me the opportunity to pursue these other interests as well. I don’t really want to put these other issues of the ‘backburner’ right now. I feel as though I can make a significant contribution to this area, especially as a young early career teacher and researcher myself.

I realise of course that generally a PhD has plenty of room and that one is not necessarily locked in to a research program forevermore, and this is a comforting thought.

I guess this may be the last on my long list of concerns about this HUGE decision. I always thought of myself as a good decision maker, someone who was decisive and who took action when it was necessary – and perhaps I am this person sometimes – but at others I feel very silly and underprepared to make any more such as this.


At 6:58 pm, Blogger christinA said...

I have read your blog with great interest as someone who had just finished a phd. my advice. go for it. it is very interesting how other interests end up being in your phd. believe me. you never know where you will end up in a phd. it is a great opportunity to work with a strong reseacher and if you want to research further and be an academic you would be CRAZY not to jump at the chance. you will draw your own interests into yr phd. don't worry.

At 10:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I have to jump in here. I feel that I can relate to your dilemma on a number of levels, Scott. Ok, ok, I know that a masters isn't quite in the same league as a PhD (congratulations by the way!) but I understand how you feel in terms of being pulled in different directions.
It's tough enough balancing teaching and everything that entails and one area of study, let alone other intellectual interests as well. And I understand how you feel about 'your' students- I am faced with having to make the decision of whether or not to have a break from teaching in order to finish my masters to my satisfaction in the first half of 2006. Before I started teaching, I didn't expect that it would be that hard to do, but now I'm not sure that I can bear the thought of not seeing my current year 10 students in particular safely through year 12. So, I'm just going to try desperately to get my masters finished next year so I don't have to face that decision, but it's not going to be easy.
In terms of not being able to pursue your other interests in research, I can't imagine that your PhD will get in the way of your interest in professional learning, etc when you will be in the very process of exploring those concerns anyway through your interactions with the students and teachers that you will undoubtedly come into contact with during the research process. Besides- being at Monash all the time and constantly bumping into Brenton, Graham and co. will surely continue to bring up interesting possibilities! If it's something that you are passionate about, you will make time for it, even if it occurs in frustratingly short, sporadic bursts of time(but that's teaching for ya!). If you had told me at this time last year the amount of time and energy that I would invest in exploring beginning teacher professional learning, the role of writing in professional learning, etc- time and energy that I was expecting to invest in my masters- I would never have believed you. But I wouldn't change it for anything- I can't believe the opportunities that somehow keep springing up so early in my career. It makes me wonder sometimes why I am doing a Master of Arts rather than Education, but then I remember how important that aspect of my professional knowledge is to me too.
So, there's my two cents, for what it's worth. But whatever you decide, I am sure that you will continue to explore the issues and ideas that you have been concerned with this year, so I wouldn't let that factor in your decision making process too much.

Good luck,

Natalie B

At 4:07 am, Blogger phd me said...

For what it's worth (market value, not much), I struggled mightily with my decision to return to graduate school. There was much going on in the life (I'll spare you the details) and I just couldn't figure out if I was supposed to stay in the high school or go back to school myself. I even deferred my acceptance - got in and still couldn't make up my mind!

In the end, I decided to quit thinking about everything and just jump in. (Maybe that's the only way people start graduate study!) I knew I wanted to teach at the university; I knew I was passionate about teaching and teachers; and I knew, if I didn't start now, I'd always have a better excuse to prevent me from trying again.

Graduate school is one of the hardest things I have ever done. An intellectual challenge, yes - that's rather the point, I think - but a challenge to every other sensibility as well: emotional, psychological, social, financial, you name it. However, I will risk the jeers by saying that men, especially married men, seem to have an easier time of graduate study than single women. No scientific evidence, just what I've seen, heard and considered over the past few years. So, in that respect, you've got a leg up!

Quite frankly, I'm not always sure I made the right decision, so I completely understand one of your delimmas. I miss my classroom, with quotations scribbled on the board and student work on the walls; I miss putting my head together with other English teachers to figure out how to get through to that difficult student; I miss the students wandering in during my planning period to bug me about lost homework or missed tests. But I hope I haven't given up those things, just moved them to a different playing field.

The way I've figured it, you don't have to give up your varied interests and issues with graduate study. You may concentrate on one over the the others for several years - worth it if you ever want to finish the damn degree! - but, then, you swing back around to pick up the others waiting patiently in the background. In some ways, the PhD gives you the license to be eclectic; you can take your different interests and twine them together to make them your own.

You do have a tough decision to make but I'm guessing that, deep down, you know what you really want to do. Listen to yourself.

At 8:50 pm, Blogger Scott said...

Hey, you guys, thanks for all the sound advice and encouragement. I think that I've decided to accept the offer. Despite the pain I feel at all the 'lost opportunities' and missing all those great kids, students, classes, and colleagues I have been so fortunate to have been involved with - I will take this damned step into the dark.

thanks again,


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