Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm not a real doctor

Not an M.D. anyway.  It is highly likely that I will have a Ph.D. at some point in the near future, as in, 3 years.  What does this have to do with urban restoration?  At first I felt that it didn't connect, but I am getting a little more clarity as to what this might look like.

First, I should explain how I even ended up in a Ph.D. program.  Over the past decade, I have had different people tell me that I should go on to get a doctorate.  I think I may have thought about the possibility of teaching at a university... but then again, at one point I was seriously contemplating going to law school.  I even got accepted to law school, but declined the offer.  In the end, I decided that I did not want tremendous student loans that would inhibit the possibility of having a family.  I did end up getting a master's degree so that I could do something with my B.A.  So for a few years, I taught English as Second Language (ESL) to university undergraduates from China.

My biggest objection to continuing my education, besides the cost, was the idea that I wanted to follow God in my life.  As of yet, God had not made it clear that I was supposed to get a doctoral degree, and I was adamant that I shouldn't just go to school just because it sounded like good idea.  My "deal" with God was that if he made it very, very obvious that I should go back to school AND it was paid for, I would do it.

I was teaching as an adjunct instructor of ESL when my boss came in and said to a few of us in the room that we should get into a Ph.D. program because there was a full-time position opening up and it would help us to be more competitive for the position.  I told her that I was waiting for a sign from God, to which she replied, "This IS your sign from God!"  I don't know that I fully believed that, but in any case, I applied and got in.  I might add that I somehow got in without taking the GRE.  Spooky. 

The next year, I was hired in the full-time position, which meant my tuition was paid by the university.  However, at the same time, I got married and within two months we were expecting our first son.  Needless to say, I was overwhelmed.  I concluded that probably this wasn't what God had intended and I went to drop out of my course I was enrolled in... but met my instructor on the way, who told me she wouldn't let me drop out.  I could take an incomplete and finish the course if it took me a year.  It actually took me a year to finish, but I did finish.  I also was barely convinced by a colleague to apply for a year medical leave in my program so I wouldn't be dropped while I wasn't enrolled.

A year later, I somehow was inspired to take a Spanish class, which kept me in good standing in the Ph.D. program.  My husband and I had been praying about whether to continue, and finally in the Spring of 2011 we felt that we heard clearly that I was to continue school and to quit my job, as well.  I applied for a graduate assistantship, which would provide funding for the program, and I was accepted.  I later found out that there were over 200 applicants for about 30 grad assistant positions.  Crazy.

This is currently the end of my first year as a full-time doctoral student and grad assistant.  I just found out that I have funding for another year... and we feel that we have grace to go another year.  Here's where it starts to connect...

Up until this point (like this week), I had thought I would continue to work in teaching ESL.  However, there is no faculty person who is in that area, which is a big problem.  Also, every time I thought about doing a dissertation on ESL students, I just felt bored.  Not a good way to start a dissertation.

I had an epiphany this week that really I am passionate about urban education and issues of racism.  This came at the time when I was helping with a parent night and a field trip with a local elementary school, which is the partnership school for a local university.  This is a huge shift for me, but I am really excited all of a sudden, which is a good thing!  God knows what this will bring in the future, but I am starting to see some of the pieces fall into place.

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