After waiting about 27 days, this week my Committee Chair returned my Thesis Proposal. Here’s how it works in the program I am part of:
- I must submit a Thesis Proposal
- once it’s accepted by my chair, then I must defend it to my committee.
- Then, if it’s accepted by the whole committee, I submit my actual thesis to my chair.
- If that’s accepted by the chair, then I defend that to the committee.
- and if that’s accepted, I just might get this ridiculous degree that seemed so cool back when I signed up for it!
Last year, when I was first laid off from the teaching position I was so passionate about, I entered into an elongated phase of denial. The lay off came on the heels of my 12 year marriage ending, my becoming a single mom, losing my house and having to declare bankruptcy because of the previously mentioned events. Just a minor amount of life trauma – I was sure I could handle it!
I thought, of course, that I might use the time to finish up my thesis research and be done with it. I could be so productive now that I wasn’t working full time! I did not account for the weight of depression, anxiety and overall feelings of constant inadequacy that showed up at my door when the school year started — without me. By mid-November last year, I was at a point where I had to severely barricade myself and give myself set times of research and breaks because I could not concentrate. Then, out of the blue, a temporary position opened up at a very odd time of the year (last day of November) and so I took it. I was plunged into a new job with no prep and faced the huge challenge of rescuing 3 sections of AP US History for students who had just lost a teacher that had basically been phoning it in for the first 3 months of school. In AP US History world, that is like a death sentence. So my focus sharpened and I was back on my game – rock star teacher to the rescue! It was challenging in a lot of ways to work at the school (I’ve written a bit about it before), but for the most part my mind re-engaged with being in the classroom again and I thrived.
What my mind DIDN’T do was focus on my thesis. I thought about it, sure. But I didn’t actually return to authentic work on it until June. But by now it was getting old. The topic that was so engaging, interesting and stimulating when I first thought it up was becoming the bane of my existence. My first Masters (a Masters in Teaching) did not require a thesis, but rather a practicum and proof work. This is new for me and I’ll just share a little secret: I don’t know what the hell I’m doing! BUT, I carry on….
This summer was really productive for me and I got the Proposal submitted at the end of August. Now October is arriving, and I’m looking at my Committee Chair’s suggestions just returned to me and thinking to myself: For all that is holy, will I be able to complete this thing by the time my kid is 20?!
I was grateful, when I finally had the courage to look at it, that she seemed to be satisfied with my lit review and most of my Court and Legislative history. What she did do though, was suggest three other areas I should explore. All three areas, of course, which could each be their own thesis topic. But explore I will!
One thing I am learning about thesis writing is that it is similar to how we end up in a lot of plateaus – both culturally, politically and personally. We’re so used to doing something the same way, we just haven’t found another model we’re really comfortable moving to. Thus, we remain unwilling to try new ways of understanding or improving our status…. And so in grad school this model appears to be the only thing we get to secure our academic cred. We flounder along with the same old mechanism for proving that we deserve a graduate degree in a subject for which we have already written a multitude of papers, gotten all A’s in the coursework, and for which we survived two semesters of Graduate Statistics without slitting our throats. But the floundering is, I’m positive, good for our character.
Well, enough of this. I’m sure there are 40 journal articles just waiting for me to find them…