Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In grave danger of growing, or, on being 40, a mom, wife, and grad student, part 2

This is a two-fer. That means that I am writing this blog post AND using it for an assignment that's due today (nevermind that today is almost over.) Get it? A two-fer... as in "two fer the price of one."

Here goes...

We read "IN GRAVE DANGER OF GROWING: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROCESS OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT" (Charles Seashore, Washington, D.C., June, 1975) and I was surprised to find that some of my cohort-mates found it depressing. I, personally, found it validating and freeing in many ways.

This article, which explores the reasons, perils, and pitfalls of folks entering into intensive academic programs (yeah, those are professional development, too), was spot on in many ways for me. First of all, it spoke about the family issue. This is something I ranted about back in June upon completing my first week of grad school (On being almost-40, a mom, wife, and grad student) Now I look back and consider how much that's been ratcheted up by the additions of my full-time job, my eldest back in school, my youngest back in speech, and the impending (damn, how did those sneak up?) holidays. 

In all seriousness, though, it's not just the fact that I'm trying to keep life as normal as possible for my family (O.K., those Saturday classes and every Monday and Wednesday nights are REALLY starting to cut into quality time with my brood), it's the fact that this program has forced not just me to change, but everyone close to me. 
"...these close friends and family are also forced to re-experience some ways that they had become dependent upon the partner turned student, and thus face up to the discombobulating notion that they might have to grow and change, too — all because of that crazy program."
Before I entered this program, there was some talk with friends about my husband having to learn to take over a lot more because I just wouldn't be able to do it anymore. Now, in all honesty, I hadn't thought about that as being a part of a change effort, just as part of a coping method, a temporary coping method. But now I see that this may be a more long-term change, and hooray for that, because I always needed help with the laundry and the dishes! It's not just that, though. My family has had to learn to get along without me for hours and hours, some of those hours long Saturdays when I'm in class. And, I'm happy to report, they are honestly doing just fine. They are happy and healthy and getting to know each other really well, and I am realizing that, yikes, maybe they CAN live without me (sniff.)

I suppose this will be something I go through constantly as my children grow and become more independent. I'm just thinking that I wasn't supposed to go through these feelings while they are the tender ages of 4 and 7. I guess you can't start preparing for the empty nest too early.

But I digress. This article included the Menninger Morale Curve, but, being the tech-head that I am, I found one that fit me a whole lot better online:

I've been to the land of Uninformed Optimism already, had a brief stop in Informed Pessimism, have definitely overstayed Crisis: Checking Out, and feel I am now moving toward Hopeful Realism. (I really hope that this is a straight shot with no detours, but I truly doubt it.) Granted, I'm behind in my papers and have just changed the topic for my thesis project (uh, yeah, I know, it's November) and am paying handsomely for checking out, but I had to live my life, and have fun... right?

Seashore gives his recommendations for what should be provided in a well-designed program:

Informed Consent and Supports for Growth Among the Student's Family and Friends: Well, I think I've had these. I mean, I talked at length with hubby about what this would mean to our family, and we agreed together that it was the right time. I still feel it is the right time. However, I experienced quite a bit of anxiety before the program began not knowing how much work would be involved. I also didn't know how this would affect my family and was hell-bent on making sure it would be as normal as possible for them. I think that more support for "non-traditional" students like myself is needed by folks who are in similar situations. I'm definitely going to look into creating a support group for folks with kids trying to balance this program...

Faculty AwarenessAvailable Support System, and Appreciation and Tolerance for Craziness: (disclaimer: I am not trying to score points here) My program does all of these really well, and that is why we stick with it and make it work, no matter how much we have to do. The faculty are beyond aware, they are even a little psychic, if you ask me, and remain very flexible and understanding. They encourage collaboration, which is the one thing that has saved my ass on more than one occasion. They also do that appreciation and tolerance for craziness thing very well. Now, it could be that they are in the business of education around education. Dunno... all I know is that it's working for me. I love my program, have since Day One, and if I didn't love it, I wouldn't be up 'til all hours doing all this.

Most importantly, Seashore's sixth recommendation for a well-designed program:
Realistic but High Expectations for Professional Competence: Most definitely. I am challenged, but not to the point of frustration. I am growing, but not at an insanely fast pace. I am changing, but it's more like a doable evolution.

So, this wasn't so much of a rant... more like a celebration. See, I really am on my way to Hopeful Realism. Maybe.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Racial Contract and Our Country's First Black President

Last night, I was lucky enough to see Professor Charles Mills of Northwestern speak on his book "The Racial Contract". He started off speaking about how philosophy is the only area of study that doesn't require research; how university presidents love mathematicians and philosophers because mathematicians require only a pencil, a pad of paper, and a wastepaper basket while philosophers don't even need the wastepaper basket. He then spoke of the dearth of folks of color in philosophy; that if there were a convention of Black philosophers, they'd have to travel in separate planes because if one plane went down, and there were several Black philosophers on it, there would be a significant percentage lost. OK, yes, I was expecting a somewhat dry speech on the racial contract, and was pleasantly surprised that it was nothing like that.

So, what is the racial contract, you ask? In all honesty, I'm still wrapping my head around it, but it goes something like this: The racial contract is an unspoken agreement amongst all in society that keeps white folk on top and the rest below. Folks of color are considered "subpersons". All white folk are beneficiaries of this contract, although not all are signatories. Depending on where you stand on this deep, philosophical stuff, this racial contract (along with the sexual contract) takes the place of Rousseau's social contract. 

This morning I read Willie Brown's column ("Willie's World") in the Chron where he espoused on the thrilling of minority workers by the election of Obama. Toward the end, he wrote:
All I can say is, we started out with the promise of 40 acres and a mule. What did we end up with?
A White House.
Well put, but according to Professor Mills, we must stop looking at it that way. To paraphrase, we must stop looking at it like "look how far we've come since Jim Crow". So true. Let's set our sights higher. Let's TRULY KNOW AND BELIEVE that all children, no matter their color, can achieve...

So, how do things change now that our president-elect is a Person of Color? Well, I didn't mention that Zeus Leonardo was there too and I feel that he said it best when he said that now the racial contract has not been voided, but must now be revised. I also agree with the head of my program who said, "It's not the revolution, but it is revolutionary." Amen. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on becoming the next leader of the free world. You have inspired hope in so many, including myself. Thank you.

In your acceptance speech, you asked us to "summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other." I know that you are being asked to do a lot of things, to be a miracle worker. We all need to work hard with you to see the change we are so desperately hoping for. I realize you are one person, but so am I, so is my husband, my brother, my neighbor, my friend. If we all work together, as we did to bring about this historic presidency, we will see change. 

With this in mind, with the hope I feel in my heart, and the belief I have in transformation through hard work and reflection, I pledge to:
  • continue loving, supporting, and nurturing my children- helping them with their homework, teaching them lessons when they need it, reading them bedtime stories- in essence, to be completely involved in their lives.
  • when budget and availability allow, buy locally and/or organically, and always purchase consciously.
  • become a community organizer of sorts, no matter how small the task. 
  • continue to be involved in my eldest son's elementary school.
  • continue to fight for equitable practices in public schools- this means I will continue to question our assessment system, our modes of instruction, and NCLB in general. 
  • complete my Masters in Education in a timely manner so that I can get to the real work of changing our educational system. 
  • work harder than I have before for the children of Richmond, California, so that they, too, will be prepared for the everchanging world we live in.  
I know you have a lot on your plate, but there are some things I think you need to work on sooner rather than later. Please consider:
  • the educational system
  • the healthcare system
  • the economy
  • Darfur, the Congo, Tibet
Again, thank you. I have an amazing amount of faith in you and the American people. As you said on Tuesday night:
"...out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can."
God bless you, President-Elect Obama and God bless the entire world, no exceptions.


Monday, November 3, 2008

I vote for the children...

... because they can't yet.

Standing on the edge

Tonight we are all standing on the edge of we know not what. What we DO know is that it will be historical.

I'm writing this post from that edge, as I stand with all of you. Will we fall into an abyss when we step off into tomorrow, or will we fly? 

I can tell you this. I have hope. I've never had this kind of hope about something that is so un-personal. In truth, it is personal though, isn't it? This affects everything.

I haven't been sleeping well lately. And I think I've been listening to too much NPR. I'm addicted to talk, to that constant flow of information, to that hash, hash, and re-hash that I make so much fun of after football games. I need to hear what everyone has to say. I need to hear it so I can try and figure out what they're thinking. Where is the pulse of America? Who has her or his finger on it? What's it telling us? And is it the true pulse or the one your high school gym teacher told you not to take... you know, when you put your thumb to your wrist and feel a crazy pulse? 

I have a lot of anxiety about tomorrow. I have a lot of anxiety about what will happen after tonight even if what happens is what I want to happen. 

I went in to my children's bedroom tonight to check on them. I looked at them and prayed that what happens tomorrow will be the right thing for them and all of their generation. 

I am posting from the edge. 

Tomorrow, I hope to be flying.