Metawriting posts from the new blog location

Friday, February 1, 2013

Metawriting Has Moved

After three years of publishing here on Blogger I have decided to move my blog to my own web site. You can continue to follow Metawriting at

Read more about my Grand Re-Opening and my new post PLNs, Serendipity and Learning.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My blogging persona

I am writing my 100th blog post at the same time that many elementary school students are marking their 100th day of school. For many of those students the 100th day brings with it an assignment to collect/display/share 100 items of some sort (buttons, paper clips, etc). I can still remember my son agonizing over what he should collect. He wanted it to be something unique, but it also needed to be readily available and portable. Now I can’t even remember what he chose, but I suspect it was something we found in the kitchen. However, my recent consternation about what to do with my 100th blog post combined with recent Facebook posts by parents and teachers of primary students celebrating the 100th day of school reminded me of that dilemma and helped me put my own struggle into perspective. Yes, this is an exciting milestone, but there will be many more blog posts to come.

But what can I, or should I, use this occasion to discuss? I started two different posts (about alternate academic career tracks and my annual review) and considered a host of teaching-related posts (my recent experiments with badges and Google+ communities, for example) but in the end decided that these posts can wait for a less momentous occasion.

Then I contemplated whether this might be the best time to wrap up this blog – as a Blogger blog that is. I have a professional web site and have been considering for months the advantages and disadvantages of maintaining a separate blog and web site as well as the issue of Blogger vs. Wordpress. But I’m pretty sure I’m making the switch to a Wordpress blog on my own web site (the control and aesthetic issues I’m having with Blogger are simply beginning to outweigh the advantages of Blogger) so there goes that topic which many others have ably discussed such as this post on The Painted Hive and Build Your Own Blog.

Then I mulled over the idea of discussing my history and development as a blogger. This blog is three years old so I have been able to maintain a fairly consistent presence, but the fact that it took that long to arrive at the magical “100” is a clear indication of my inability to post weekly and doesn’t tell us much about me as a blogger. My tags are a little more telling, but also somewhat problematic as I haven’t always been consistent (or smart) about their use. I’m kind of interested in my Top 5 Posts (as indicated by readership) but that also says more about my readers than about me. In the end, I concluded that a picture was worth more than words and simply plugged my blog into a Wordle. This simple graphic summarizes what my blog is all about.

My description of my blog is:

This blog reflects my interest in writing pedagogy, agency and efficacy, and teaching with technology -- as a rhetorician and researcher as well as writer, teacher of writers, and teacher of writing teachers.

The Wordle clearly highlights the topics that I write about although some trends were a little surprise to me. Obviously as a teacher and National Writing Project site director issues surrounding students, classes, and education are of keen interest and I clearly write about them a lot. However, I tend to write from a more personal place about my own experiences and experiments in my classroom. As a social media proponent and online teacher/learner it is also not surprising to see that idea highlighted.  Similarly, as I am interested in the idea of community as a teacher, administrator, and researcher I was not surprised to see that featured prominently. But I was rather surprised to see that writing was not among the most prominent topics I write about. Perhaps I need to consider that as I plan future blog posts. I think using Wordle as a reflective and analytical tool can help a blogger consider the past and plan for the future. It was certainly a worthwhile exercise for me.

Finally, after reading Pat Thomson’s post about blogging identity I decided that this might be the perfect time to explore my own blogging identity. Like Thomson (and most other humans), I have multiple private and professional identities and have written about this identity problem before. However, I tend to keep this blog focused on my various professional identities (although I have upon occasion discussed more personal topics that connected with these professional interests). I do not do a good job separating the personal from the private when it comes to social media, but that is another post for another day. Unlike Thomson, I did not delete my rant about education, but then as someone who works (and writes and researches about that work) with teachers I think my concerns about my son’s education touch on (at least peripherally) what I write about in the normal course of blogging.

I really like two ideas that Thomson shares in her post. I, too, blog in an effort to “de-privatize” my own thoughts and struggles with teaching, learning, and researching. Yes, I sometimes worry that I overshare, but as someone who advocates reflection for her own students how can I not practice what I preach? I truly believe in the importance of reflection to learning and growth and this blog plays a tremendous role in my own growth and learning. Interconnected with this is the simple fact that I am a teacher and a National Writing Project site director. As such it is my job, my duty, my calling to make visible my struggles, failures, and successes in hopes that these experiences will provide lessons for others as well as my entrĂ©e into conversations about these issues. That is the power of blogging and social media – that I can connect/communicate and learn/share with someone like PatThomson who is not even on my continent.

Also, blogging is a powerful tool for creating that sense of “there” that Thomson discusses in her post. Face-to-face and real-time connections can be powerful and have a long-term impact, but they are also transitory. I have a terrible memory, especially when it comes to verbal interactions, but blogging can live on and remains accessible. It can provide a “just in time” spark or response -- at least I hope mine does.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

NOT The Trouble With Online Education

My Ph.D program recently shared a link to a New York Time’s Op-Ed piece about online education that still has my blood boiling. “The Trouble With Online Education” certainly does not present any new ideas or arguments about (against?) online education (nor did it when the piece came out in July), but I suppose the timing of reading the piece during the first week of our semester – a semester when I am teaching two online classes – sparked a need to respond. Whatever the reason, there are several points the author makes that are really bothering me as an educator in general and online teacher (as well as former/ongoing online student) in specific.

As an educator it really bothers me that Mark Edmundson is offended by the notion that professors might learn from their students. Yes, I am the content specialist in my classroom and as such usually know a lot more about my subject than my students, but I would argue that if you are not learning from your students then you are doing it wrong. Education is not just about transferring chunks of information from one head (yours) to another (your students). That is an outmoded and ineffective model and one of the things wrong with education today. Education is about exploring ideas and if you are not giving students the opportunity to explore, understand, apply, and share in your class then you are missing out and, worse, you are cheating your students.

Edmundson then goes on to ask the question: Can online education ever be education of the very best sort? This is a valid question and one we should continue to ask, but what irks me is the assumption that a lecture class is the gold standard by which education should be measured. Just this week Cathy Davidson argued that “If we profs can be replaced by a computer screen, we should be.” She makes many excellent points about the need for education reform and how/why online education will be a major player in that reform but she also points out that lectures are an economic expedient but not good pedagogy. Davidson points out lectures may (if done well by the expert performers Edmundson lauds) be entertaining, but research shows students do not retain information presented in this format or understand how to apply it. Just yesterday Matt Reed agreed with Davidson and noted that lecture has never been “a particularly effective way to teach.” Online classes can be and are designed and taught in similarly ineffective ways all around the world, but as Davidson and Reed point out there is also great potential for innovation in both the traditional classroom and the online classroom if we adapt to new circumstances and knowledge and employ new strategies and new tools. Whether we like it or not, times are changing and we profs need to reform and “turn into the skid” or the university will indeed be torn apart as Edmundson so fears. The fault will not be with online education but will instead be with profs (and institutions) that refuse to evolve and grow.

The idea that Edmundson presented which really made my blood boil is that an online class cannot be a genuine intellectual community because it is a monologue rather than a dialogue (ironic much?). He goes on to describe online education as anonymous, sterile, abstract, and lonely. I thought my head my spin off my shoulders after reading this opinion which was apparently formed after watching a pre-filmed online class. Well, of course that model of online education is not as rich as the live lecture (which is already pretty ineffective) but apparently Edmundson is not aware of the tremendously rich and varied pedagogy taking place around the world that harnesses the power of technology to make online and blended classes exciting and challenging places to learn. It makes me wonder how Edmundson would respond if his students present such a poorly supported argument.

I would urge anyone who questions the exciting class design possible in online and blended classes to visit such collectives as HASTAC and Hybrid Pedagogy to find overwhelming support to counter the idea that online education is anonymous, sterile, abstract, and lonely. I strive to make my classes an interactive community with dynamic, collaborative projects and my class activities and assignments are constantly evolving inspired by the amazing work being done by my friends, peers, and colleagues around the world. This is an exciting time to be an educator and I believe our students are enriched by the experience. Sometimes my class activities and assignments don’t work out as planned (or hoped) but then that was true when I taught face-to-face. Often my online space is messy but then so was my traditional class space – we were often loud too. But this week, our first week of classes at my institution, we have begun building a community. I shared personal tidbits about my hobbies, family, and dog and invited students to share as well. As we interact as a group, we have talked about favorite books, movies, TV shows, and video games as well as tattoos, crafts, and pets. We are finding out who is creative, who is nervous about technology, and who is incredibly busy. After only three days, 22 students have posted more than 150 messages to each other in our Community forum. Sure I have included some prerecorded videos to explain assignments but there are no lectures. Instead we will continue to share, discuss, challenge, and question – and I know that I will learn from my students just as they learn from me and from each other. I don’t know how Edmundson defines a “genuine intellectual community” but I’m pretty sure we’ve got one going on and I know we are not alone.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A letter to my students

I am excited to begin the semester with you because I have big (and fun, I hope) plans in store for our class, but before we embark on this adventure together I want to ask you some very important questions. Your answers to these questions will determine your success for the semester. I want you to succeed, but, ultimately, your success and failure is up to you and your fit with online instruction, this class, and this instructor, so please consider these issues carefully.

Is an online class right for you?

If you have never taken an online class then you really need to consider your technology and ability to use it. You will need consistent and reliable internet access and a backup plan if you lose it. Lack of internet access is not a get-out-of-jail-free-card and is, in fact, a one-way ticket to failure. You need internet access to participate in class activities and submit your work. It is that simple. Similarly, you will need a reliable computer and a backup plan if yours dies or is attacked by mutant viruses from outer space. Just like internet access you will still need to participate in class and complete your assignments. Finally, and most important, is your ability to negotiate the internet and use your computer (and its programs). Do you know how to use Word (saving files in various formats, add page numbers, etc.? Do you know how to attach documents? Do you understand email and discussion board etiquette? Do you know how to search databases (not just Google)? Do you know how to use advanced search functions?

Even if you have successfully completed another online class you may need to think not only about the issues above, but your willingness and ability to use more Blackboard tools than the discussion board and, in fact, to venture outside Blackboard to use other communication tools and social media. Don’t assume that all online classes are taught the same and that past success will predict future success.

It is also important for you to consider your self-discipline and learning style. Many students still sign up for online classes because they believe they will be easier and less work. The only thing that is easier about an online class is the flexibility. You still need to do the work and complete it on time, but you have the option to complete the work at 10 p.m. after the kids are in bed or at 10 a.m. before you report for your afternoon shift at work. However, this flexibility or freedom can be a real problem for students who need regular tasks and reminders. If you are the kind of person that finds things that are out of sight are then out of mind then you could have a real problem staying on task and up-to-date with your assignments. I do employ pictures and audio, but ultimately an online class tends to be rather text heavy. If you find it difficult to plow through lots of reading and writing then you might want to reconsider taking an online class. Remember, in an asynchronous online class your participation will mean typing and reading your classmates’ contributions to the class because we aren’t physically together to discuss our work verbally.

Is this class right for you?

This is a writing class and so there will be a lot of writing. This shouldn’t be a shock, but I assign an above average amount of writing because I also believe strongly in the importance of reflection. This means that not only will you write the assignments you might expect, but you will also write weekly reflections. Plus, as this is an online class your class participation activities will also involve a lot of writing. So, that all adds up to lots and lots of writing! For many students the problem isn’t so much the amount of writing, but the fact that I also ask you to think about your writing, sometimes weeks before the due date, and then write about that. This is going to be a challenge for many of you as you haven’t done this type of activity before.

This is a project-focused class. This means we will have several smaller assignments that support one major assignment due at the end of the class. This will give you a great deal of freedom to interpret these assignments as you wish, but not everyone finds this amount of freedom comfortable. In addition, this can often make these assignments more challenging and time-consuming than more traditional assignments. They can be more fun and more fulfilling as a result, but there are always trade-offs in life and the time-energy trade might not work for you this semester (or ever).

This class will be technology-heavy. I am a technology addict. Ask anyone. I love learning new tools and experimenting with them in my classes. If you do not feel comfortable exploring and using new technology (using a variety of Blackboard tools as well as social media, presentation tools, research tools, and more) then this is definitely not the class for you.

Is this instructor right for you?

The first and most challenging thing you need to know about me (well after the reflection and technology points I’ve already made) is that I believe learning is rhizomatic (read more about rhizomatic learning) which means essentially that I see learning more like a root-tree system than something that is linear or systematic. I also believe it is highly personal and individual. This means that while I have created a series of experiences for you that what you take away from this class will be up to you and what you bring to and invest in those experiences.  Some students, after a period of adjustment, find this attitude invigorating and an exciting change from traditional classes, but others do not feel comfortable in this type of environment. I understand. It is not for everyone. Some chaos is guaranteed to result.

You should also be warned that laziness makes me snarly and snarky. I know life happens. Work, family, school sometimes collide in a perfect storm and heaven forbid if you (or anyone close to you) has health problems and then there are the wonderful weather complications we get in winter and spring in Eastern Kentucky. When things get rough let me know. If you are up front about your issues and propose a plan to deal with those and still address your course work then I am happy to work with you. I am less happy when you disappear for weeks and are too lazy to contact me then expect me to devise a make-up plan. What really  makes me crazy though are people who ask questions because they are too lazy to do some thinking and/or research on their own. I will happily confirm or check your answers if you take some initiative, but I will not be happy if the answer to your question was easily available and you did not even check. Don’t be that person!

I am not a robot. I am online and available a lot. I am also on campus a couple of days a week. I check Blackboard and my email daily (usually) but that does not mean I always have time to respond to you immediately. Sometimes I have limited time and have to make a judgment call about which email to respond to and yours is not the most urgent. Sometimes I cannot work in a face-to-face meeting as quickly as you would like. This is because you are not my only class and, in fact, teaching is only about 1/3 of my professional responsibilities. And, as I already mentioned, I am not a robot. I am also a wife, mother, homeowner, dog mother, friend, church member, youth leader, and PTO officer. I have a life and responsibilities outside of MSU and Murphy’s Law happens to me, too. So, while I will do my best to provide all the support you need in a timely fashion don’t expect instant response or speedy grading all the time. I strive to be faster than molasses in January and usually, but don’t always, succeed.

Thanks for sticking this out, it ended up much longer than I expected, sorry about that. I hope you will carefully consider the questions of whether or not this online class taught in this way by this instructor is really a good fit for you this semester. If so then I will see you in Blackboard!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Community Building With Badges

I've been thinking about community a lot lately - specifically class community or rather creating a learning community in my online classes. I know from both my experience and research that learning communities have many benefits for students (my recent reading includes Dawson, Kearns and Frey, Sadera et al). They foster learning and lead to high-impact educational experiences. Just a quick review of my blog shows that I have written about community a lot (too much? you be the judge) so I won’t get into all the reasons why I consider it important in this post and will instead focus on my current pedagogical thinking regarding community building.

While I consider community important, I also know from personal experience that creating a learning community in your class - especially an online required general education class - is no easy task. I've created successful online learning communities at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, but those successes have been in classes of willing, motivated students. So the real question is: how do you create a successful learning community with students who aren't so much?

I have been thinking about this question for weeks - before the fall semester was even over. I knew that the community in my online general education class was not as strong as I wanted and it seemed to weaken as the semester progressed. I've been struggling to find a way to do better this semester.

My solution is to put my money where my mouth is - or rather to give class credit for community building. I usually give credit for participation activities such as class discussion (in the form of blogs and journals etc), but now I am going to try breaking these out so it is clear that I value community building and participating on the blog posts of others.

I am only adding one new class activity to my usual introductory activities. I traditionally open the class with ice breaker activities such as six-word memoirs and me museums (oops, is that my writing project showing?) and I expect to do the same this semester. I have also used social media to give us a more informal space to connect and share. This spring I will again use Google+ for that purpose. However, I hope that by making “community building” an actual assignment with points assigned that students will get the message that this is important (I tell them but I think the fact that the points will underscore the idea). 

I am also going to steal/borrow/adapt Cathy Davidson’s draft badging system to support the community building assignment. This is a new activity that I’m adding to the first few class sessions. My idea is to have students create badges for their community building work (frequent flier, cheerleader, class clown, social butterfly etc.) and then strive to earn as many badges as possible. I think it could be fun and spark a lot more activity and involvement. If it works I’ve already got plans to use a similar system for discussion feedback and writing workshop. Stay tuned!

How do you use badges in your classes? What community building activities do you use? Do you think my idea of community-building badges is a good idea or a disaster-in-the-making?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ringing in the New Year - pedagogically

I have often reflected at the end of the semester, in true Profhacker fashion, by giving a 3x3 course evaluation. This means sharing what worked, what didn’t, and what I plan to change.  This was easy to do when I was essentially teaching the same class in multiple sections. However, now that I am teaching composition and professional writing it is hard to make such comparisons so this evaluation and reflection will likely not fall into such neat categories.

Overall, I feel pretty good about how my professional writing class turned out. I taught this class for the first time in the Spring and that was OK but as I had barely a week to plan the class (for the first time) and I inherited a book it was a bit rough. This time around I had the benefit of experience and time to plan so it was much more thought out and I do not plan to make any major changes for the new Spring Semester. Students report that they learned a lot and had fun. I feel the same way so what’s not to like?

My Writing II class continues to be a work in progress and I plan to revamp it yet again for the Spring Semester. I have high hopes for the new version as it is an idea that excites me (see The Walking Dead in my writing classroom) and I had an additional brainstorm about how to marry my new idea to my old practice of focusing more on writing in the disciplines so it will be a course about walking/writing dead in the disciplines.  I have spent a lot of my gym time thinking about this class and can’t wait to see what comes of it!

What worked

I borrowed/adapted a Group Learning assignment from Cathy Davidson for my professional writing class and this turned out to be a great assignment. Students really did an amazing job with it and we all learned something from the process as well as the results. For this assignment students had to teach the class about some technology/tool that could be used to produce their final projects. Throughout the rest of the semester students referred back to these tips/tools and used them for their PW project as well as work in other classes and their professional lives.

Another success for the Fall Semester was the use of Google Chat to support virtual office hours. While overall my use of Google was a bit hit-and-miss (see Google vs. Blackboard) in terms of success, I can unequivocally say that Google Chat gave my students quick and easy access to my help and advice. Although it was not always convenient for me (having to interrupt my work or break a chain of thought), it definitely helped create a connection with my online students that is always difficult to forge in an online class.

Finally, the use of interactive journals was something that worked well and I will continue to use. Side discussions, support, and practical advice were all a part of the peer comments on student journals and I think contributed to a sense of class community. I was pleased with this activity/assignment and will definitely use it again. 

What didn’t work

My attempt at a peer leader assignment, during which students would take turns leading discussions and track participation, was a dismal failure. They were supposed to work in teams and that was always a problem as most of the teams did not work well together at all. The evaluation part of the assignment was also problematic even though it was really a matter of noting who had participated and who had not. I wonder if this type of assignment is simply more problematic in an online class as I’ve done similar things with traditional classes. I’m not going to use this assignment until I’ve thought it through again so probably not for the Spring Semester as I’m at a loss right now.

Similarly, my class reporter assignment was terrible. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of students creating a wiki, blog, or some other record of the lessons they learned in a class. However, the actual execution in both classes fell far short of my hope. I think the idea is still a good one but it may not work for a writing class as well as it does for a content-driven class and it may also be a problem for an online vs. traditional class. Either way, it is going back on the shelf for now while I mull it over.

My last failure is the scaffolding I prepared for my Writing II students as they worked on their final papers. I thought it would help them to chunk the paper but most were resistant to the idea and the final papers of those who did participate were often too chunky. I have some ideas for working the scaffolding into our discussion and reflection assignments that will make the support more subtle and allow students more room to grow. I read a blog post a few weeks ago (Intrusive Scaffolding) about how too much scaffolding is actually a disservice for students and I think this process assignment is a good example.

What will change

While I will still have students create Google accounts at the beginning of the semester, our early use of Google will be for interaction (Google chat) and social media (Google+). As I already noted (see Google vs. Blackboard), I used Google for journals, discussion, and writing workshop in the Fall Semester but this met with mixed results and I think sometimes the technology got in the way of the pedagogy which is never a good thing. I plan to use Blackboard’s blog tool for interactive journals and discussion but am reserving the option for using Google for writing workshop at the end of the semester.

As noted above (and in The Walking Dead in my writing classroom), we will discuss the big ideas found in our literary readings with those found in popular culture (specifically comic books and their related media). We will then explore (in discussion and in writing) the ways that those big ideas play out in the disciplines. Stay tuned for more on this idea!

This semester I am going to try out a journal assignment focused on self-assessment and self-regulation. One of the reasons I tried the peer leader assignment is that keeping track of all the posting/discussion activities is a logistical nightmare for me. It is a constant battle to find the right balance (not to mention the time) between teaching and evaluating. My hope is that by making a place/time for students to record (weekly) what they did to further their learning and meet the course goals will make them more aware of their own responsibility for their growth and grades. Plus, this will give me a private place to comment on their activities as a student separate from their writing and thinking. I hope that separating these enforcer activities from the writing coach/mentor activities (made in comments on class reflection and discussion) will allow me to focus my efforts as well.  Or maybe I have just devised another way to make my head spin. We’ll see!

How did your Fall Semester turn out? What are your plans for the Spring Semester? I always love to study (steal/copy/adapt/adopt) the assignments and class activities of other teachers.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I have found balance and you can too

Those who spend time with me enough to know how extremely uncoordinated I am are probably laughing out loud, but it is true. I have found balance – or at least more balance than I may have ever had before in my adult life – and it is awesome. I am still not physically coordinated and I am often extremely busy but I have worked very hard this semester to achieve some balance in my life and I am pretty happy with what I have accomplished. Believe me, if I can do it then there is hope for you as well. This is my hope that you will make finding balance one of your resolutions for the new year.

This time last year my job was killing me. I was bone-tired and stressed to the limits of human endurance. Then in May my body sent me an urgent message to change or else! In May and June I wrote about the need to find more balance and my initial struggles with it (see Rising From the Ashes and Have You Got Balance). Six months later I can report that I am doing great physically and emotionally. I must say that the life changes I enacted this summer were the best decisions I ever made. Of course it is one thing to make changes during the summer, but another to keep them once the school year gets underway. The simple fact that I can report that I am happy and healthy now tells me that I have kept on my path and that is good news.

Drawing lines

Perhaps the most important part of this new life plan was changing the way that I work. In the past my flexible work schedule meant in reality that I was working seven days a week, morning, noon, and night.  Now I rarely work in the evening and while I still do some weekend work I try to restrict it to a few hours. It isn’t always easy but I accomplish this by following two strict rules:

·         You can’t and shouldn’t do everything
·         Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

That first rule is a tough one. It is so often easier (or so we think) to simply do something ourselves rather than to let someone else do it. Worse, it is often easier to do something ourselves than to find and convince someone else to take on a task (and then to provide the support they need to do it without micromanaging). However, I have delegated and divided a number of tasks that have made my life easier. Other jobs I eliminated altogether by reasoning that if no one else was interested in taking on that program then it was time to let it go. Quite simply it was about not doing anything just because I had always done it. I reevaluate regularly before putting a job on my list. Is this something that needs to be done? Really? If so then am I really the best, the only, person to do it?

I have always been the Queen of the To Do List, but I have learned to readjust my thinking there as well. I still use them to plan and manage my time, but now I make sure to spend time not just writing down the millions of things I need to do but also sifting and sorting. If this is a job that I need to do then I ask myself when it needs to be done. Does it need to be done today? What happens it if doesn’t get done until next week? Next month? Similarly, the tasks that don’t get done are not simply moved from one day to the next without asking the question – why didn’t this get done? It is about prioritizing every day and every week. The first week of classes means that course planning and management are top priorities just as last week was mostly about grading. However, there are other weeks when program planning or report writing might be the priority and my students drop to second place. Not everything can or should be top priority all the time. A hard lesson but I think I have it now!

Putting Me First

Changing my life has meant making a lot of hard decisions, and even more difficult, sticking with them. Now my priority list includes doing things for myself. Every week I make time to write because this is something I need and want to do. I make time to exercise regularly not because I want to (still waiting for that promised energy boost) but because it is important for my health and I have found I can get some good thinking time in on the elliptical so that is a plus. I make time to spend with my friends (although I still need to do better with this) because I need to laugh and vent and celebrate life. These are things I need to do for my mind, body, and soul. Carving time out of a busy schedule and putting off my real work to attend to my writing, my health, and my relationships is not selfish. OK, maybe it is, but being selfish is OK and even necessary when it comes to a balanced life. After all, if I don’t look out for me then who will?

Another difficult decision, especially after the fact that my job nearly killed me, was taking myself off the market this fall. I knew that I could not afford to devote the time and energy to an academic job search plus I knew from past experience how time-consuming, stressful, and soul-destroying such a search can be. I wanted to devote my time and energy to maintaining my new-found balance as well as the development of new projects and possibilities. I knew I was sacrificing opportunities and I still torture myself by reading the job ads and wondering “what if” but as I end the semester tired but not empty I know that I made the right decision. I am looking forward to the work currently on my list and I am satisfied with the work I completed this fall. My current job is not perfect. I am underpaid and under-recognized and under-appreciated. But I am doing important work that makes a difference. I am teaching, I am supporting practicing teachers on my campus as well as in my region, I am mentoring pre-service teachers and new teachers, and I have the opportunity to influence educational policy on my campus. That’s a pretty good gig so I’m not dwelling on the “what ifs” too much. Instead, I am focusing on celebrating and focusing on the positives.

My life and career path choices are not for everyone, but now I can look back over the past semester and know that I made the right ones for me. I am excited about the changes that 2013 can bring and happy that 2012 is wrapping up much better than I could have forseen back in May. If there is one gift that I would give to you (well after world peace) it would be for you to find more balance in your life. Happiness will follow I promise. Now ask yourself: What can you do to find more balance and happiness in your life?