Category Archives: Grad School

Things I Hear in the Gym Sauna

I’ve added sitting in the sauna as part of my gym activities. The purpose is threefold:

  1. I take a book in there to read and leave my phone in the locker. Leaving the phone is mostly because my phone can’t handle that much heat for that long, but I also appreciate the break from all electronic devices.
  2. It helps with my break from mama-hood. I get 2 hours of childcare each time I go in, and you better believe I use all 120 minutes.
  3. It’s supposed to help with hormone blah blah blah and workout recovery.


There were several things I did not know before I started this practice:

  1. The majority of sauna users are men.
  2. I feel very vulnerable and unsafe when I’m in there with multiple men and no other women.
  3. When you read a physical book, older people tend to engage you in conversation about it, but not younger people
  4. People (mainly the men, but some women too) talk about things in there as if they are in the privacy of their own homes or participating in private phone calls and this is so bizarre to me.


I’ve decided to start collecting sauna stories and sharing them here because they must be shared.

  1. I heard a man talk about how he lied to his wife about the benefits of some food supplement because she wasn’t going to believe the real benefit
  2. I heard another man tell his buddy that sometimes daughters just need to be told that they aren’t smart enough to do something
  3. I heard a man who was probably in his 40s trash talk the young guys for not stretching in the sauna prior to working out IN FRONT OF some said young guys
  4. I watched a young man try to hit on a young woman awkwardly in front of about 8 other people in the sauna
  5. I overheard that same woman talk about her modeling photo shoot with her friend in that same sauna with 8 or so strangers

So…do what you will with all of that. You can imagine how I felt at times.

In a more positive report, I had a lovely conversation with a colleague of Shirley Brice Heath whose book I read in graduate school. He chatted me up because he saw me reading Anne of Green Gables. He first complimented my use of a “real” book rather than a device, and then told me about his work with a Taiwanese linguist and Anne of Green Gables and how it related to Shirley Brice Heath’s work. Let’s just say I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation as opposed to things I was thinking when listening particularly to #2 above.


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Posted by on April 5, 2016 in Grad School, Uncategorized


Dissertation Update

I’ve had access to my dissertation data for about six weeks now. So far, I’ve done the following:

Stressed out about how much data there is
Calmed down and started swimming through the hundreds of files each with hundreds of variables
Looked at the distributions of a whole lot of teacher observation scores
Watched some videos of math classrooms
Attempted to do some statistics stuff in the language I normally use
Attempted to do some statistics stuff in a language I have little experience with
Compared my estimates to the ones the important research people already created
Discovered that my initial estimates have a correlation of .08 with important research peoples’
Made a plan for trying the estimates again
In short, I’ve written nothing, but I’ve done a whole lot of data exploration and statistics. That’s good, right?
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Posted by on July 20, 2015 in Dissertation


Grad School: Year 4

Time to put another one down in the books. Grad school year 4 has come to a close. I’m now a 5th year. What?!

This year started off with me finding out I won a dissertation grant competition about three weeks before I was scheduled to have our baby. This was exciting news but also meant that I had to start over on the dissertation work I had done all summer. We had assumed I wouldn’t win the competition and had moved on with another dissertation project. The great news of winning the competition meant that I needed to get started on the other project STAT. I threw together the worst draft of a prospectus ever and submitted it right before going into the hospital. I also participated on my research team for about three weeks before that time. My advisor was so incredibly gracious about the whole thing and was immensely kind in his feedback on the piece of garbage writing I handed to him.

Once I went into the hospital on the morning of September 15, I took 3 months off. The transition to being a parent was HARD for me, and I’m thankful that my life was in a place where I could take that time to figure out my new life. As a result, the fall semester consisted of about 6 split weeks of participating in research meetings and working on my dissertation.

Once January rolled around, parenting was getting the teensiest bit easier, and going to campus gave me some much needed escape. Over this semester I took a class, wrote my dissertation proposal, and yesterday, I successfully defended it. I am now ABD! The prospectus defense process was really positive and wonderful for me. I felt encouraged, validated, and supported. My committee members were all very complimentary of my writing and ideas and I felt like were truly there to give helpful guidance. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Grad school continues to be just wonderful. A friend today told me about evocative genes. Wikipedia says this relates to “when an individual’s (heritable) behavior evokes an environmental response”. Meaning perhaps I have some heritable characteristics that the grad school environment caused to flourish. It seems to be true. This environment has been so great for me. I’m very thankful.

Plans for the summer include teaching online classes, making a quilt (or maybe two!), teaching our little housemate how to sew, some leisure reading, figuring out a new regular exercise plan, working for my advisor, potentially picking up one or two other limited side jobs, exploring my dissertation data, and, you know, starting to write my dissertation!

My kid is very clearly going to start crawling soon. I’m wondering how working is going to go with a mobile little child. I’ve been “sleeping in” until 6 or 7 for two years now, but I think my time of getting up to work around 5 is going to return very quickly as quiet work time when I’m not distracted by an adorable child who could injure herself if left to her own devices is going to become very valuable. We shall see what new practices arise as I find out what works for our family. I started today by setting up my standing desk again. I’ve spent far too much time on the couch since little AB was born, plus there’s a nice big empty area near my desk where a little girl could play. I will perhaps look for a more suitable stand for my mouse and mouse pad as my Chronicles of Narnia box set is a little wonky, but it will work for now.

2015-05-06 16.36.50

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Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Grad School


A New Semester

A new semester starts tomorrow. In this semester, I will do the following professionally:

  • Take the last class required for my PhD,
  • Hopefully finish and defend the proposal for my dissertation,
  • Continue work on my research team providing professional development workshops for elementary and high school teachers,
  • Teach an online class in composition (which means grading about 20 essays every week), and
  • Prepare for and present at a professional conference in April

Along with the required professional above, I’m hoping to keep up with the following personal things:

  • Intentionally pursue relationships with girlfriends,
  • Get back to church and small group with some regularity,
  • Get back to spending regular time with the Lord,
  • Cook Whole 30 Paleo meals for my family and also eat enough food to be able to feed my daughter,
  • Manage to keep up with dishes and laundry,
  • Do some form of body weight and flexibility exercise at home since I decided to temporarily cancel my crossfit membership,
  • Write one post a month for a social justice blog,
  • Keep up with monthly baby and parenting blogs,
  • Everything that goes along with feeding and caring for my four-month-old daughter who hasn’t yet figured out consistently sleeping through  the night, and
  • Go on some form of monthly date with the Husband.

This is…a lot and not completely exhaustive, but when I list it out like this, I feel very overwhelmed. However, I know plenty of people have more demanding lists that have no end in sight. I only have to keep this up for four months, and pretty much all of this, whether personal or professional, brings me some sense of joy. I have friends facing much sorrow and loss right now, and there are plenty of people out there living in such dire circumstances that I have no place to even start to complain. I’m lucky to have multiple sources of help if I need it, and most things required of me are there because of my privilege. I’m mindful of that and need to remember I need to be responsible with that privilege. My ultimate focus is to remember that I do not need to be perfect because Christ is perfect for me and that in light of eternity, almost everything on this list doesn’t matter. What matters is how I pursue Christ and live missionally. I need to remember that more often. It’s slipped my mind far too much the past few months.

So on the eve of this new semester, as husband and I watch a movie and get ready to give AB a bath, I am thankful for this list. Though it makes me feel overwhelmed and spread thinly, each of these is an opportunity for refinement. When I feel overwhelmed, or when I feel like I’ve got it all together, I need to remember the Gospel and the One who sustains me.

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Posted by on January 11, 2015 in Christ-follower, Grad School


Grad School: Year 3

I’m apparently now a 4th-year graduate student. The time seems to have passed much faster than expected, yet at the same time my first and second years seem so very far away. I went back and reread my reflections after Year 1 and Year 2 before writing this post. It was weird to read those because life seems so very different now. During my second year, I talked about working over 70 hours a week on many occasions. My how year 3 was different. I struggled with feeling guilty quite a few times this year because I would only work 20-30 hours a week. Some very different choices were made with course load this year because of taking comprehensive exams in the fall and being pregnant in the spring. As a result, I did not get up at 4:30 or 5 am this year, but worked on sleeping and growing a baby until 6 or 7. I took two classes and comps in the fall and just had one course this spring. That has been nice, but it does leave me in a situation in which I’m taking a class this summer and will have to take a final class next spring. It’s a bit of a bummer because many of the people in my cohort are all done with coursework and now just get to focus on their dissertations. Oh well. It is what it is.

I’ve really appreciated focusing more on myself in a lot of ways this year. That was grossly ignored during Year 2 because of the intense workload. This year I’ve spent much more time exercising, building intentional relationships with gals from school and church, reading, and resting. Rather than being in an almost constant state of stress, everything seemed rather manageable. I’m thankful for all of that as I’ll be having a baby in the fall and things will be very different once again. This summer I will work for my advisor, teach the online class, take a class, and work on my dissertation. I’m hoping to get a lot done before the baby so I can feel free to take some time off once he or she is born.

We continue to go to the small church plant we started at last year. I adore it. It’s exactly the Gospel community we need right now. I’ve grown so much in many ways because of that body. I look forward to how we’ll continue to grow in that place in the coming years and how our little one will build friendships with the other 6 babies due within 6-8 months of him/her.

After two years of living with two single men, we’ll be moving to a new house this summer. I’m excited because it has a yard and is much closer to campus. I’m also excited because a very near and dear friend and her sweet child will move in with us. Not only will that help us all with finances, but we will get to live in community with one another. It will be such a blessing to help one another with our kids, share meals, and just run a house as two ladies would run it. Husband and I have had roommates on multiple occasions, but they have always been single men. Looking forward for the community with another lady and mama.

All in all, it was a good year. It was definitely not a year without tears. Comps was not an entirely positive experience for me. That and the miscarriage in the fall made for a very rough close to the year. The spring has been much easier though. I’m so thankful for the friendships I’ve developed and maintained over these three years. Leaning on those folks and offering support to them when I could made things much better. Here’s to Year 4 and all the adventures it will bring.

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Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Grad School


Dissertation Update

It’s been a bit of time since I’ve mentioned anything on this front. In short, I think I’m going to be going with the three article model. The overarching title will be something like “Methodological Issues in Teacher Evaluation.” The gist of the three articles will be something like this:

1) How we define student socio-economic status in teacher evaluation programs might have an impact on teacher rankings/ratings. If we compare two methods, do teacher ratings change?

2) Teachers do not always receive similar effectiveness ratings across evaluation tools. Are there salient, identifiable characteristics of teachers whose classifications change versus those whose stay the same across these tools?

3) Measures of student growth do not have to be based on standardized test scores. What are potential challenges and advantages to a particular system that allows teachers to design the model of student learning and assessment to identify growth in that learning?

These aren’t yet set in stone as I’m waiting to hear about a few things, but in the meantime, I think I’m moving forward with #1 as it’s a project I really kind of care about and am really interested in what, if any, findings I may come up with.

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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Dissertation, Grad School


Dissertation: Days 2-4

Don’t worry. You won’t get a single post each and every time I work on the dissertation. That will get quite old, quite fast. I’m thinking maybe once a week summaries, if that. Reflecting on the process is really more for me. I’m clearly titling so you can just skip if you have absolutely no interest.

Anyway, had my first meeting with my advisor about all of this. Also exchanged some emails and have developed a very broad and general idea of direction–teacher evaluation. Currently I feel excited, overwhelmed, ready, and inadequate. My hunch is it’s a roller coaster of emotion through the whole process.

I have a deadline to submit a proposal in the next two months for a funding competition. That is not enough time, my chances are low even if I had more time, I’m going in without a clear idea, and I have no idea what I’m doing. However, attempting to put together this proposal gives me some form of direction and deadline to guide my work over the next two months. Even if I have a very small chance at winning, doing the work will force me to think about ideas and synthesize them, and, why not try?

A distinct problem with this plan is that I’m still taking two classes this semester. I’d feel a bit better if I wasn’t carrying that load while trying to get this thing done, but whatever. It’s what I have to work with.

In the next two weeks, I’m hoping to watch about 9 hours of video and read 10 articles. I’m hoping that after all of that, I have an idea. We shall see what comes of it.

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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Dissertation, Grad School