Yesterday evening I noticed I had an abundance of energy. Usually I crash around 8pm, so this was unusual indeed. Then I realized that I had dropped off the copies of the completed and corrected thesis that afternoon. A weight I had unknowingly been carrying around (for over 6 and half years) seems to have been lifted. Yahoo! There were some hiccups (mostly leaving my wallet in the city where I live while travelling to the city where I did my Phd, but my wonderful supervisor gave me the money I was missing, supporting me until the very end, as she said!), and there are still some administrative issues to iron out (I need a letter attesting that I am really done so I can officially get the long awaited pay raise), but I am done. I will be back soon to do a retrospective on staying sane for those of us who took the long route, and also about the varying amounts of time it takes to completion, as I watched those who had started after me finish before me, but also as I now hang out with those who started with me but are not yet done… After that, I need to rethink the purpose of the blog and whether or not I will stick with it. Stay tuned!
So I did it, I successfully defended my thesis. I was nervous beforehand, but I enjoyed the event, and the Prosecco afterwards, and the lunch, and the celebratory dinner with family. I did learn that, with a PhD in Education, I am not allowed to use Dr. in front of my name. Not that I would have done this seriously, but I learned that I am only allowed to write Ph.D. or Doctor of Educator after my name. I am pretty sure I will never do this. I was also not planning on attending the long and excruciatingly boring graduation ceremony, but I just learned that as a professor, when I attend these ceremonies to support my students, I have to wear a gown, and if I don’t attend my own I have to wear a very heavy and ugly yellow gown, instead of the lightweight black gown with the thing you receive at your own graduation – I am not sure if it is a hood or more of a vest-like thing, but apparently I have many of these painful ceremonies in my future and I will attend my own. I am not completely finished, I still have some corrections to do before the final submission, but I passed, and I will soon no longer have access to the student discount at my gym.
The good news: Accepted with minor corrections after the thesis, mention = excellent (I think this ranking system is particular to French language universities in Quebec)
The bad news: Still no defense date, and those minor corrections seem not so very minor to me!
So as you may know, I have been working as a tenure-track assistant professor for the past two and half years, while finishing up my PhD. When they hired me, I was supposed to complete my PhD by May 2017, and got an extension last year. The new deadline is May 2018. I submitted the thesis at the end of December, and the 5 evaluators (my supervisor, co-supervision, thesis committee president who is another professor in my department, and the two external evaluators) had 3 months to read the 350 page document and send back their reports. However, one of them is late. If I don’t defend before the end of the month, I need another extension, which has to be negotiated by my union. However, in order to negotiate, I need a thesis date. The department (of the university where I am doing the PhD, not the one I work at) has been very supportive, and they are sending out a Doodle with some dates, hoping that the last evaluation will be positive and that the thesis is ready to defend. Those dates start 10 days from now, and end mid-May, so within the next month and a half, I will defend my thesis, if all goes well. My first reaction was excitement, followed by wondering whether I should check the Dr. box next time I buy a plane ticket, followed by some fear, wondering if there will be major or minor corrections, wondering what to wear to the defense, feeling like all of a sudden it is all happening very fast…I suppose all this is normal. I’ll keep you posted!
I’m went to a colleague’s thesis defense this week. She spent 8 years on this project. It was beautiful. She managed to condense 450 pages of text into a 20-minute presentation, complete with beautiful visual support, posters on the wall, and an excellent presentation style. It was all perfectly coherent and clear. The round of questions at the end was also beautiful, because her committee asked questions not meant to test her knowledge or challenge her work, but questions about future research projects, how she plans to disseminate her results, and other creative and respectful questions. At the very end she read out the acknowledgement section and made us all cry.
Officially, my committee has one more day to read and evaluate my thesis. I have a draft of my defense powerpoint, even though I don’t have a defense date, or any confirmation that the committee will accept that my thesis is ready to defend. I am inspired, a bit intimidated, but also excited for my turn!
Or heroine. This article is great. I love knowing I’m not the only one who loves her job but has no desire to work more than the 37 hours a week I am paid for. Thanks to The professor is in for sharing it on Facebook. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-awesomest-7-year-postdoc-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-tenure-track-faculty-life/
This week I submitted the first official version of the complete thesis (366 pages including references and annexes) to the evaluation committee. I also : attended two Christmas meals at my son’s school, including spending a morning decorating the school gym and cutting up meat pies for the Christmas halal lunch; attended a meeting about health advocacy in the region I now live in; attended a union meeting where we voted to strike (for 10 hours, over the course of a month, that’s another post, maybe); met with 2 colleagues, separately, regarding courses we are co-teaching, one next semester, one this past semester; travelled to the city I used to live in to attend a meeting and a Christmas party; hosted the family Chanukah party; spent a day revising the thesis; spent a few hours here and there marking; completed the Christmas/Chanukah shopping; and reviewed a chapter where I am a co-author. Work-life balance at it’s best? At it’s worst? I have no idea. There were stressful moments, there was some celebration, now I wait 3 months for the committee to evaluate the thesis and set a defense date, oh and spend my holidays marking, which I swore I wouldn’t do this year!
The second draft has been emailed away – yippee! The references are all done, I was even audacious enough to write the acknowledgement section, so let’s hope my supervisor and co-supervisor think it’s good enough to submit to the committee.
In other news, I spent the week at a great conference, where most presentations I attended challenged my thinking and inspired many new ideas. I presented a paper titled “Revisisiting narratives of relationships with marginalized families during the transition to school: An ethnopoetic inquiry,” which, as you might have guessed, was yet another way to analyse my thesis data, specifically the data that didn’t make it into the thesis. The idea was to look at transgressive emotional data, shared by my participants and my own emotional reactions to their stories, as well as emotional memories evoked by the participant narratives. I was terrified, because my family laughed at me for calling poetry research, and because I’m not a poet, but it was so well-received, I am still in shock. Also, it was great catching up with friends and colleagues, and I somehow managed to drink too much every single night, which tends to happen every time I go to a conference.
Back to the busy semester of teaching, and marking, and administrative tasks, but first, looking forward to a restful weekend!
It’s a great semester so far, the three different classes I am teaching (to four groups) are going really well – especially the one I am teaching for the third time. I’m finally having fun and feeling like I’m becoming the professor I want to be. There are way too many meetings, as usual, not that I don’t enjoy them. I’m involved in a colleague’s really exciting research project, which so far has only meant meetings with the research team and with teachers, and accompanying immigrant and refugee children on explorations of the city. Article accepted and final revisions submitted. Planning a reading circle for professors of preschool education with all the other universities in the province, we’re going to talk about Beyond Quality (Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 2007), which was one of the reasons I decided to do a PhD in the first place – to have people with whom I could discuss that book! So things are going well. I am very much enjoying living in the same city where I work, and being so close to nature. All good, except the stagnating PhD, but I am pleased to announce revisions of chapter 4 (the assembled narratives) are complete. Only 2 more chapters to revise, some references to update, some formatting issues, getting someone to proofread, and I should be able to submit the first official draft to the whole committee (it’s called a jury where I am) before the end of October. Woohoo!
So, summer is coming to an end. Course syllabi have been submitted, planning for teaching has begun. Committee work is kicking up, and I’m off to Italy this weekend for a conference. I received feedback on my initial thesis draft while I was on vacation, and have spent most of August revising, but I still have 3 chapters to go, not to mention the references to go through (now is not the time to tell me I should I have been better with my use of reference management software!). While the revisions are not major (I don’t need to rewrite anything, yet – the whole committee hasn’t read it, just my co-supervisors), they do take time. I’m a bit worried about keeping the thesis as a priority once classes start (2 weeks from yesterday), but I have a deadline (September, I am amending that from beginning of to end of, in a rare attempt to face reality), so hopefully that will keep me on track. That’s the update for today, the end is in sight, but still a ways off. Any encouragement will be much appreciated 🙂