Online education has enabled an entirely new group of people to earn their PhDs: mid-professionals like me who continue to work full-time and manage our families while we study for, research, and write this degree.
We also bring different talents and needs to the doctoral experience.
My peers and I are often counseled to write for three hours a day, say at nine a.m., right after morning coffee. Use your most productive hours, they say.
So when I write that I’m stepping away from life for this year, what that really means is I’m still teaching full-time. I still have professional responsibilities, and this year I’m mentoring all faculty who teach our most basic writing course as we implement and assess a complete course redesign. I still am a single parent of two active kids. I still am an aunt, sister, and daughter, with all the responsibilities those roles entail. I still am Recording Clerk for my local Quaker Meeting. I still am Technical Advisor to Help Life Rwanda and a long-distance mom to a teen in Rwanda.
Oh–and I’m still a researcher and doctoral student. And I still want to finish by the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year.
All of this means that, if I don’t take any breaks, I do have three hours of writing time a day, but not all together. And for me, that means more like an hour or hour and a half, because all of that above wears me out.
There’s not a lot of energy for writing, and there’s not a lot of energy for the moral development that (hopefully) comes along with scholarship and research at this level.
Finding my way between anger and grace has lately been taking up a lot of energy, perhaps too much. But this is the problem before me, and there’s no getting around it. I wish I had all day to talk with others who are undoubtedly facing their own quandaries and with others who have already faced down these issues and have come out the other side.
This soul-searching, these stops-and-starts, these particular obstacles are mine, but I’ll bet my online colleagues are facing their own too. We’re not complaining, though. It’s just that there are darned few of us who have earned this type of degree in this particular manner.
And sometimes it feels just a wee bit like inventing new forms of self-doubt.