• Just another regular student?

    Posted on February 29th, 2012 kr 1 comment

    I just finished reading through some of the HRC blogs and commenting on one of them. I was surprised by a couple of things. One,  just how many contributors there were! and how few actually interested me personally…and two, how creative and informative some of the posts were.  I stumbled upon one student who didn’t include a lot of text, but briefly described a type of art they found ineresting and then uploaded a bunch of examples.  This was actually really cool! But, as it was, I didn’t feel knowledgeable enough to leave what I would consider a substantial comment about the art blog.  I came across many students talking about the immense amounts of work they have to do and catch up on over Spring Break and all of the tests they have to study for in order to apply for *insert some sort of higher education insitution here.*  It’s funny, because the stress really does start early.  These student’s are incredibly busy now, and, if they do continue, they will only have less free time… I’m begining to think the kinds of people who continue on in education are a bit masochistic…I suppose I’m including myself here.

    I continued reading and stumbled across a blog that was talking about the possibility of studying abroad and short trip they had recently taken with their family to visit a family member in the Peace Corps in Africa.  This took me back to the place in and experiences of formal education that are not so formal and so very enriching.  I was privileged undergraduate student, I was on a full scholarship, I had a close knit cohort of fellow Honor’s Scholars and faculty advisers who provided support to those who were truly interested and guidance even for those who were not. I was able to study abroad and spend six months on the tiny island of Malta (among other places I wandered around Europe).   All of these factors and experiences have almost pulled me down my current educational path.  It’s true that I took initiative and worked and applied and went through all of the turmoil and stress that accompanies not knowing exactly where you will be in life, but in the end, it worked out for me.  How different would my college experience have been if I had not gotten into the program I did? Did not receive the scholarship I did? Did not have access to faculty members who were seriously interested in my success for no reason other than because they admitted me? To not register for classes early, to wait and register for classes with everyone else? If I did not have my close group of “other special students?”  How would my experience be different if I were “just another regular student?”

  • Public Health Models and School Success?

    Posted on February 27th, 2012 kr No comments

    Over the past decades epidemiologists have been successful at raising public awareness about risk factors or disease, such as smoking and inadequate exercise. However, they have been less successful about addressing social factors, which tend to be more proximal and less direct, that also influence or fundamentally “cause” diseases or negative health outcomes. Researchers have suggested when looking at the social causes of a disease we need to be sure to avoid the possible “pitfall” of focusing too much on a single relationship between a single disease and linear, single-cause explanations and links to social influences.  The development of an inclusive model for health and health outcomes would require a clear theoretical understanding of a number of different possible social influences on health, such as SES, health behaviors prior to marriage, family history of health behaviors, possible regional or cultural influences, possible genetic predispositions for certain emotional/psychological disorders (based on family history or past experiences); the list is almost infinite.

    How does this relate to student success? Simply.  It seems that in the U.S. our policies and evaluation of students’ performances and school success are largely viewed from an individual motivation/responsibility view point.   We have standardized tests aimed to provide an “unbiased” metric by which students can evaluated.  If the student does not succeed, they did not try hard enough; less relevant to evaluators minds (though it is highly know to both parents, students, and educators/educational board members alike) is the role of school districting and funding, the SES composition of students, school location and culture, and a number of other macro-level characteristics that all influence the chances of individual or patterned success or failure.  This is why separate could never be equal. This is why something in the current system has got to give.

  • Just breathe.

    Posted on February 18th, 2012 kr No comments

    I’ve decided that I am going to treat this blog like a nice mix between and online journal full of academic rantings and…well…maybe something more thought provoking? But, then again, rantings can sometimes lead to some of the most interesting types of thought…

    I’m in my 3rd year of graduate studies toward a Ph.d, and what I’m finally becoming acutely aware of (not that I wasn’t moderately aware in the past), is the difficult situation or obstacle it can be to try to balance school work, work-work, extra school work, studying for prelims, and life in general (which to me entails trying to squeeze in exercise, eating healthy, being social maybe once a month, paying bills, grocery shopping for said healthy food, giving time to personal relationships, and oh, did I mention? Finding time to breathe.)

    Well, I guess it’s true, life is what we make of it.  Last week was an over-load and half. Proctoring two exams, grading those exams as a TA (this is what made things most difficult because I got them on Monday around 5pm and was expected to have them graded by Wed. morning…it is no easy task trying to find 8 hours to grade in one day. Grading in itself is bad enough, but having such a short window to find that kind of time…that’s the kicker. Sadly, I’m sure many fellow grad students can relate.) , putting together a lit review as  RA, preparing a presentation for a qualitative methodology course, readings and assignments for two other courses…and the list continues. In one word: Overwhelming.  But, on the brighter side, I have a similar amount of tasks this week, but it’s not as overwhelming. The difference?  I’m refusing to be overwhelmed and being sure to take time to move, not being chained to my desk, to go for a jog, to eat dinner in peace, not while trying to continue grading, and to just take a minute every now and then to breath.

    As new graduate students we are told to be sure to enjoy life and not get too caught up in our work.  It seems that the closer you come to a major stepping stone–defending a Master’s Thesis, preparing for prelim exams, finishing coursework, teaching your first solo course, etc– the more true and vital this little piece of advice becomes.

  • So, about creativity and knowledge…

    Posted on February 8th, 2012 kr No comments

    When thinking about devloping an education-oriented blog, three starting point quotes immediately came to my mind, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new,” We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” and ““Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  All three of these quotes seem to speak to similar aspects of our current educational methods that may be less than desirable. We have become masters of reproducing “knowledge,” of regurgitating facts, and of jumping through hoops. But when it comes to the creation of new knowledge, new perspectives, new inspiration, and new forms of understanding, have we disadvantaged ourselves?

    My almost automatic response is to say “yes!” of course we have. The entire structured system of formal education is designed in  a way that recreates a society that is able to follow orders, to think “creatively” only within certain known and established boundaries, and to fear repercussion for thinking or completing tasks “the wrong way.”  I start thinking here about the essence of knowledge itself.  Feminist scholars and other social theorists have been relentless in the call to understand the epistemological origins and development what we accept as true science, true knowledge, and ever discernible fact.  Every piece of knowledge, every acceptable methodology and science, has its origins in human creation and understanding.  This knowledge has simply been reified into self-sufficient “facts” that may rarely be challenged in new ways.  We can always try to build on what we already “know,” to make this more and more complicated, but, as has been said, “any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.  It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction. “