Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mental Preparations – Getting Ready to Play

At the beginning of January, 2010, my world was about to change. Although I had essentially “signed up” for this change, I did not yet realize the full impact that my decision to return to university would have on me and my family.
On the day my textbooks for my first course, Research Methodology (ERES 800) arrived in the mail, the full impact of my choice hit me.
I cracked open McMillan and Schumacher’s seventh edition of Research in Education: Evidence Based Inquiry, skimming the table of contents. Nineteen chapters with titles such as Designing Quantitative Research: Purpose, Validity, and Ethical Considerations, and Non-experimental Research Designs, Surveys, and Secondary Data Analysis, plus four appendices and over 450 pages of text, graphs, charts, and … (gasp) math!!!
Then, I peeked into book number two: Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts by Margaret Kovach. According to the book flap, the author “examines the theoretical and epistemological basis of Indigenous methodologies …”
Frankly, it was all quite daunting. Frantic thoughts twisted around and around:
·         I haven’t been a student in over ten years! What if this is too much? What if I am no longer able to learn the same way I did when I was younger?
·         I am working full-time as an educational coach. I am on the road nearly every single day. How will I make this work?
·         I have three teen-age boys who are extremely busy. Why did I ever think I would have time for this?
·         My husband and I farm. Am I going to be able to get my work done and help him? 
·         I value volunteering in my community and in my school. Would I have time to do it all?
But returning to school to work on my Master’s has been a life-long goal of mine. I was determined to make this work.
Besides, I have been a mother, farm wife, teacher, and team manager for a multitude of years, so I knew that I would have to create some sort of plan of attack if this was going to work!
My plan was simple:
                                            Book time to do the work .... then do it.

Sounds simple, right?
Well, after some deep breaths and self-affirming thoughts (“Yes! You CAN do this”), I got the ball rolling.

Here are two strategies that have worked for me throughout my studies:
1.      Set aside a place to work. I began the course by working upstairs in the office space. After a couple of months, I realized that this was not working for me. I felt too isolated, and although the solitude was productive, I wasn’t enjoying being so separate from my family’s activities. It felt as though I only had limited time to spend with my boys as it was, and I didn’t want to miss out on being with them.
So eventually, I moved to a corner in the dining area. For certain tasks, such as working on the discussion forum, or reading, I would put on my headphones and work. During my one synchronous class, I would often watch the boys as they made supper while I was online! That was fantastic! For writing tasks, however, I headed back to the quiet of the office. I found the balance I needed to make the study time work best for me.

2.      Create a schedule for school work. After adding the boys’ activities to the calendar, I scheduled time for my studies. As much as possible, I tried to stick to my schedule, but the reality of life is that “things happen”. To account for this, I booked “flex time” on weekends to make up for any missed time during the week. If I were able to commit to my hours during the week, the weekends could be free, but the time was available if I needed it. Truthfully, I often needed to spend one afternoon on the weekends working on my grad studies work to make up for missed time during the week. But the weekends that were “free” became even more special for our family.

Sticking to the “plan” takes perseverance and commitment. It takes support from a variety of sources, most importantly, from family. I am so fortunate that my family was willing to pick up new responsibilities in the house and around the farm to help my dream become a reality.

Note to reader: I invite you to join my in future posts as I reflect on even more experiences.
And so let the game begin …


  1. Hi Jade!
    I can relate to much of what you're taking about in your post. My first class (in summer of 2011) was ETAD 802....and cracking open that text book opened a flood gate of terms and people that I hadn't heard of since my undergrad ed psych days.

    I was overwhelmed by a feeling of inadequacy - it felt like I was the only one joining the pack mid-stream - but others in the class (like you) made me feel welcome. I eventually (didn't take long) found my voice and realized that I too had something worthwhile to say and to contribute. I'm in the mid-point of my journey right now and loving every minute.

    Thanks for the great reflection!

    1. Jeff -
      I am going to miss the collegiality of the online classroom, but have joined the "conversation" about learning and teaching in others ways, such as Twitter and reading blogs. I believe that we are an ETAD family and as such, will keep in touch as we continue to grow and learn.