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Posts tagged ‘cohort 6’

On Muppets, Community, and the magic that is Together Again

September 9, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

Disclaimer: This post was written initially as a reflection piece for Athabasca University 806: Doctoral Research Seminar. 

Growing up as a child of the 1980’s, I was a massive fan of The Muppets. The Muppet movies from that era (in good old VHS complete with fuzzy bits) were on repeat and I could (and actually still can) recite almost verbatim most of the dialogue. Though this personal eccentricity seems like it has no relevance to Lisa-of-2016-as-a Doctoral-Student, tonight during our bi-weekly 806 check-in, the Muppets were very much on my mind and I think might still have much to teach us about life in general and this doctoral process in particular.

As a bit of quick background, in the third movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, the Muppet troupe endeavors to “take Manhattan”, break into Broadway and become rich and famous. They quickly realize Manhattan is a tough city and are forced to split up and go their own ways.

But (as shown in a very creative 1980s montage) each individual never quite makes it on his or her own without the wider community.  When all seems lost, through a series of miraculous events, Kermit finds a way to fund the show and everyone comes from far and near to help out. Together they finally create the Broadway blockbuster they had always hoped for. The show opens with the song Together Again and each character takes their turn singing about how amazing it is to in fact be “together again,” reunited once more because, “no feeling feels like the feeling of…together again.”

Tonight as each person was checking in and sharing their summer story I realized afresh how thankful I am that I get to go on this journey with a small group of fellow misfits and how amazing it feels to indeed be “together again” in 806.

I think my supervisor’s great but…there’s just something about getting back into a routine (however loose) with others that are familiar-like-family that feels refreshing because I can let the community carry part of the load that is being a doctoral student. It feels a bit like the exhale of a breadth I’ve been holding for way too long.

During our meeting, each person shared some variation of “I wanted my summer to be about ________ but then life happened and I discovered ________. But now that I’m back I am ready to get serious again about _________.”

I get it.

Me too.

I wanted my summer to be about me writing the perfect proposal (complete with my supervisor weeping) and then getting unconditionally passed by my committee. But then life happened and I discovered the world of art and design education is exponentially more complex than I realized and I will not change an entire system with 200 parsimonious pages…my research will just create a space where people can connect—where fear can be diffused and this is enough. Now that I’m back I am ready to get serious again about doing the work that is mine alone.

When I was a kid, I always wondered how the Muppets felt living in a world that was largely populated with humans. They certainly seemed to know what to do to get by and yet…I wondered how it felt to live in the tension of being just a little bit different.

In many ways I think we as students on this doctoral journey are all a bit like Muppets because we all must know what to do to survive in the day-to-day world of work and family and neighborhood and yet…under it all we also have a constant awareness that there are things that are ours to do that are decidedly unlike most of the people we meet. We’re a little bit different. I know in my life that’s been an underlying tension I’ve felt since starting the program three years ago.

While I have no doubt we could all be solo superheroes, I think there may actually be something to the power of “together” and particularly…“together again.”

And indeed…no feeling feels like the feeling of…together again (in 806).

See an abbreviated clip of the Muppets here:

being brave. being open. 67 days.

June 4, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Back in late winter, I heard about an event that was happening in far distant August called Digital Pedagogy Lab. From what I gathered it was going to be a summer camp of sorts where participants would spend days swimming in critical digital pedagogy, doing networked learning arts and crafts, and sitting around a campfire telling stories about digital identities. In addition, it would be held together loosely by counselors who—from my perspective as a still very young academic—are pretty much the coolest kids in the lunchroom.

Camp DPL sounded like an amazing opportunity and so on a brave moment, I applied for one of the fellowships feeling equal parts giddy at the potential of being accepted and realistic that my minuscule amount of academic experience would most likely lead to a “We regret to inform you…” tiny envelope.

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on leadership and letting go…

January 30, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Today I am so glad it’s almost Friday, almost the weekend, almost the time when I can be safely ensconced in two non-working days and not have a pavlovian reaction to my email alert tone. It’s been one of “those” weeks where you almost become conditioned to the fact that the sky will fall and you will completely shatter at least once per day (and indeed just once per day becomes grace.) I’m sure I’m being overly dramatic and in the long view of things this week will resolve but legit in this moment I’m pretty confident I’ve had more energy shortly after completing a marathon than I currently have now.

In an effort to model good reflective practice (and also with the hope that if I can write a significant portion of this out it means I will actually free up my racing mind and I will get to sleep a full night…finally) I’ll embrace objective academic and just list and annotate what I’ve observed in this week’s ethnography of lisa.

1. saying goodbye to people when they leave roles in your life that have been pillars in who you are is hard. always. even if you know it’s the right thing and you know they’re not leaving you and you know all the nice sounding stuff is true. it’s still a gut wrenching feeling of loss because there’s now this part of you that’s raw and missing. i’m old enough to know that it fills in and it resolves but yeah…this kind of somewhat internal ache is so hard and I’ve spent the week with what feels like a bruise on my soul that won’t heal anytime soon.

2. being humbled because you’ve been called on your own tendency to live in shades of gray rather than be black and white rule abiding is hard. always. My key strengths are my ability to take risks, try out things with confidence, and have a free thinking non-linear explorative spirit…except when I have to explain myself to a system based on rigid check and balance process and then the above become my key weaknesses. while I’m no longer actively in trouble, I’m glad that I know the boundaries of the play ground and have adjusted my scope of experimentation accordingly. “I’m sorry” has become the script of my week.

3. being completely vulnerable and transparent with those you lead is hard….but always the best way. When the above situation happened I was very open about my struggles and what was going on with my closest team members. It literally felt like i was about 12, I was going to vomit, and they were finally going to see me for the sham that the darker voices in my head talk about on a daily basis. Yet after I’d gotten it out, totally cliche but, it was freedom because they saw new parts of me and even more were allowed to speak into me rather than the usual me-to-them transaction.

4. the hardest thing about being a leader is opening your own grabby little fists and trusting your team. (indeed, the hardest part of being a person might be opening up your grabby little fists and trusting others, time, and process.) when I accepted this job almost a year ago, I was so concerned that I wouldn’t be able to give presentations because I was such a poor public speaker…I was petrified that I wouldn’t know how to balance my time and I’d burn out…I was convinced that no one would follow my lead and all my ideas were too crazy or bizarre to ever inspire others. Turns out, presentations (or at least distance-mediated ones) are cake. Balancing time is tricky but luckily I do have a pretty good “stop or I will stop for you” balance on my body itself. Ideas? Position and passion pretty much ensure that people will jump on the bandwagon…keeping them is anyone’s guess but getting them isn’t so hard.

But yeah…letting go is something so completely different. For whatever reason (and I’m taking the Leadership Theory course right now so you’d think if anyone knew the answer it would be me) it feels natural for me to say that I’d be willing to sacrifice myself for my team as I am their leader but to give them stuff to do….eek! I’m not weak! I’m not needy!! I’m all powerful and in charge!!! Or at least I like to tell myself these things.

In truth, I am strong and courageous but so is every person on my team. By virtue of timing and choosing and who knows what…I ended up as the “leader” but with that title I didn’t suddenly also get superpowers.

Then things like this week happen and you end up messy and human and anything but a superhero in front of your team and turns out…just where you end is the perfect place for all of them to begin. It turns out that you’ve been feeling noble as you shelter them but really they’re more than willing for the relationship to be reciprocal…more than capable of holding you when you need it, if you will only let them.

I didn’t have many proud moments this week but I did have a proud moment realizing that the culture I’ve been hoping for for oh the last year is actually a reality. We can be open. We can be real people with each other.  We can open our grabby hands because it is safe. I can (and have) opened my hands to them because it is safe and in a act of grace and beauty…they’ve opened theirs in return.

So, what’s next? Hopefully lots of sleep and some quiet. Though I’m finding resolution more and more, this week scarred me pretty deep and I want to grow and not gloss over these new places in me that have opened up.

Ahh life….What a fun and frustrating challenge you often turn into.

on the benefits of lurking and looking back…

January 26, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

This term in addition to my 804 course I am a “lurker” in the 802 course that is also running concurrently. I took 802 officially last year (as a refresher, it was the course where I was pretty sure would either lead me to thesis nirvana or make me drop out of the program because my brain would explode. Turns out, neither happened but I did finish up with way more confidence about the research process and way more humility about myself as an academic.)

Because 802 is run not in the closed LMS of Moodle but in the semi-open platform of The Landing (the Athabasca social network site…immortalized in such techno remixes as this one) once you’ve survived 802, you remain a member of the group permanently. This permanent membership means you can watch what’s going on (provided you weren’t so scarred from your own experience that you turned off all notifications) and even participate in the group again if you so choose. Though I’ve had neither the courage nor inclination to do the later, I’ve been very actively engaging in the former, watching a whole new crop of eager students tentatively define their epistemology and ontology as their first discussion assignment and generally begin wrestling with some pretty hefty content.

As I’m the youngest child by many years I don’t know if it’s quite the correct analogy but as I read responses from cohort 7 I can’t help but feel like an older sister to them all…charmed by their earnestness, a little worried for them regarding the “growing up” challenges I know they will face in the next few months, and overall so proud to see who they are becoming. I didn’t think it would be feasible to build cross-cohort relationships that had any meaning or depth but through the looking glass that The Landing has become, I’m beginning to become a believer that it might actually be possible. We all have shared experiences now and there’s no reason this open space can’t be the catalyst to connect us. Granted, cohort 7 will never be the somewhat blood-family that cohort 6 is to me but still…I love that we can all build community and enrich each other through this doctoral process. If we were all at a brick and mortar school for sure we’d be checking each other out and swapping resources and secretly envying/admiring/being inspired by each others work. In the absence of physical hallways and chance coffee shop encounters, The Landing seems to be a more than decent substitution.

In addition, as I’ve been watching their engagement it is taking me back to my own thoughts and ideas when I was in 802. I remember first being asked about my own ontology and my own epistemology and being pretty sure that defining those two things was equivalent to asking me to speak Chinese. But after some research, lots of trial and error, and a healthy dose of rye, I did manage to pin down my own views, namely that truth is contextual, dynamic and changes based on experience, narrative, and environment. Knowledge is personal and subjective assembled through connections and worked out through social interactions. In 802, I called myself an anti-positivist who embraced nominalism and pragmatism with a twist of critical theory for good measure…a year later, those definitions, with a few subtle nuances, still remain core pillars of who I am. As cohort 7 goes through each discussion and project, I’m eager to see how the lisa-of-last year compares to the lisa-of-today.

I am sure there have been articles written delving more into the research, reasons, cautions, and benefits of cohort cross pollination and as I am now beginning to have some good first person qualitative experience…I’m curious to explore.

But…all that scholarship can wait for another day. For now all I have to say is…you go cohort 7! Jump into discussions, wrestle with these gnarly brain-bending ideas, and truly give it your all knowing that you’re not alone in your struggles. In addition to fabulous supervisors and a rock star instructor, you’ve got eight cheerleaders from cohort 6 ready to shout encouragements if you ever appear to be slowing down. It sounds quite cliche but your learning really is all of our learning and your courage to do something so vulnerable in an open space helps us all be courageous and open too. Persist even when it gets overwhelming. This will test you in ways that feel like they are far beyond your breaking point but in the end…this experience will change you for so much the better…just as it did for us.

and so it begins once more….

January 13, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

…then the first day of the new term comes and all the bravado I had about getting pre-reading done for the first two weeks and thinking all this will come easily since I already am in a position of leadership fades quickly into a churning sea of deep uncertainty and…if I’m totally honest…deep insecurity. It turns out day dreaming about something that’s surrounded by the safe buffer of “future” is one thing but jumping headlong into it when it becomes “present” is something entirely different.

804 has officially begun. 804. Which means 801, 802, and 803 are all in the books, complete. Which means I’m so fully a second year, have committed so much of myself to this both mentally and financially and…there’s pretty much no going back. On the positive side, 804 means I’ve had enough classes in my experience that I am a bit more mentally prepared. I know that the feels of nausea and being an impostor and nearly reflex reaction of wanting to curl up into the fetal position until summer won’t kill me (and indeed it is possibly to type while in a posture that almost approximates the fetal position.) In addition I know that the truth is I do have what it takes and over the past 18 months there have been some pretty hefty deposits from much more sage academics into the bank of my own budding self-image as an academic.

So, off I go once more….into the unknown of 804 with my own little metaphorical knapsack of encouraging notes, ideas in tiny sprout form, and brimming flask of whiskey. And so to my my sister and brother in the cohort 6 community this term: May the road be scenic. May our fellow travelers be friendly. May the places along the way be hospitable. May the words be ever in our favor.

Nanowrimo: Day 15

November 16, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Halfway complete! I do not even know what my total and very rambling word count is on this whole business but I am proud that I have (mostly) stuck it out and written and proved good on my desire to pound out the words no matter how half baked or unresolved or just plain casual they manage to be. Writing really has seemed to beget writing and when I needed the words for the big stuff (or rather the big stuff that is graded and academic) I do think the words came a bit easier than in the past when I have not been quite so writing prolific and reflective.

Does writing a lot of nothing help you in writing a specific something? I am sure there are studies and research and lots of many syllable words to illuminate the subject from an official manner but from my own view, I would say it does indeed. From my own view, I would say that as in almost anything there is brilliance and there is inspiration and there are all those romantic and life affirming flashes but even more there is lots of mundane work and daily decidedly non romantic stuff that makes the bulk of life….that makes the foundation of what might be genius. And so I am glad I stumbled into this very real way to turn my good intentions into a rhythm and into an every few days habit because I think it will indeed pay dividends. This feels like exercise to me and like all good exercise, I am hoping that the phase when you first realize how totally out of shape you managed to get is passing and the phase when you realize you are not going to die and you may even be getting stronger is beginning.

And in the words of the great academics words of Monty Python….for something completely different.

This week we lost another cohort member. Well, we did not actually lose a member which would be particularly hard to do given that we are geographically dispersed and do not in fact really know where anyone ever is at any given time but rather we had a member decide to withdraw and defer course work until a later date, essentially leaving the cohort.

We have had this happen three times in the past year (and even before we had our first official orientation another person decided to leave) so the concept of losing a member is not new to me but…this member was one of my original small group orientation team members and thus felt a bit like one of the pillars of my own doctoral journey. She was an always positive, always professional, always freakishly organized force of good in my life and also in the whole way the cohort functioned. With the others who left, I was sad because in my head I knew that it was appropriate to be sad at the idea that someone was leaving but for this latest loss…my head knew enough to get out of the way because my heart was having all the feels from anger to sadness to betrayal to finally a somewhat shaky acceptance and resolution.

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Nanowrimo: Day 6

November 8, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

aka….Assignment 2 for 803.

So, I’ve been writing like a banshee for the past few days  and while I’ve got nothing clever to put into this little blog entry if you follow this link: Hammershaimb_EDDE803 Assignment 2 Discovery-Based Instruction you will find an almost finished version of the paper in handy PDF format.

It’s clocking in at about 12-ish pages and 3,000-ish words. We shall see what happens and how or if it changes in the near future but I think it’s almost good to go. That said, I am still having title issues so that needs to get commented on and cleaned up. And APA issues. And maybe flow issues. And most likely confidence issues. : )

 

one year ago…

August 19, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

night_one

So, one year ago this happened. It was August, and I was wearing my lucky gold dress, and I had super short hair, and for the first time I met the cohort which marked my life in such profound ways this past year. When this photo was taken my heart was racing and I was repeating to myself over and over that this whole thing was a good idea and legit I was about three steps away from bursting into tears or turning right back around and driving back to Chicago because I was so scared of what was next and all the unknown about this journey. And then in a act of courage that still amazes me, I did none of that and instead walked like an extrovert into a room of strangers with quaint accents and…the rest is history. Read more

here is nirvana…

July 8, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

…creating a space that allows learners to feel fine about not knowing something, feel energized/self-motivated to start the exploration of discovery and explore their resources, feel at peace to reflect as much as they need to on the process, and feel empowered to share their own unique voice with the world.

(Musings inspired post-cohort chat and built upon things spoken about with the awesome members of Cohort 6 who remind me yet again how community, through connection, sparks ideas like glorious fireworks in my own head. If I could figure this recipe out with my students and profs…ahh….it would be golden. I hope it’s on the horizon.)

DAY 1: being in a muddle…

January 20, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

…back to Monday and back to work. I was gone this weekend, celebrating my birthday by eating & drinking way too much, and generally forgetting that big decisions are looming on my vocational horizon and, doctorally speaking, my large research questions are as yet undefined. That said, I regret none of it because working and thinking hard must be balanced by times totally off otherwise your creative well runs dry and that’s not good for anyone involved.

So… here I am again, trying to get back into the 500 words and clear my head a bit…Did I mention I had an interview last week? : )

I did in fact mention it to my cohort last week to get their input and wisdom regarding if I should or should not take the job if it was offered. The cohort, as always, dazzled me as they poured out stories from the past and gave me their own bits of wisdom. The offering was a gift and made me realize yet again that community is quite profound…I cannot say enough how glad I am to have them as yet another barometer in my life.

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