April 6, 2015

What will you put your mind to?

For the last four years I have put my mind to a thing (urban education) so intently that I forgot how to operate a motorcycle. I don't mean I forgot to go out on the bike, I mean that I got on the bike last summer and could not remember how it worked. My brain was too full of every possible thing I could stuff in there about my chosen subject.

Stuffed in there too were all the rules and confines of academic study and research rigor, and all the subtle cues one picks up in graduate school, those constant small pushes toward conformity in thought and process. Which was painful, as conforming has never resulted in anything fruitful, or connected to joy or possibility, for me. But I think I was as free as I was allowed to be in my research approach, and the result is a completed and defended dissertation about the experiences of a group of urban charter school teachers navigating compromise, constraint, and the mental juxtaposition of their student-centered pedagogical training against the market forces that now define their profession.

I will graduate in May, as a PhD in Urban Education. And as someone who knows perhaps much more than I ever wanted to about the forces at work in the contemporary "school reform" movement; I have now to turn the burden of that sad knowledge into good work. And maybe remember how to twist the throttle again.