ABD – and why

It came out of nowhere and hit me hard. I realized why I never finished my dissertation and thus will have spent four plus years in grad school to earn the label ABD (all but dissertation). It turns out that I never really cared about my topic. It was not mine. It was something my advisor thought I should write, and since I did not have a better idea, I gave it a shot.

Throughout school I had muscled through papers I did not enjoy. This time, however, it was just too much time and work for me to push through. My advisor had a vision for what he wanted me to write, and It did not come easily to me. I enjoyed the background reading somewhat and I really did like the archival work, but I could not write the dissertation.

I was teaching part-time and writing, but I found any reason to work on my teaching and not my writing. I thought I needed the proverbial bucket of glue to keep myself at my desk. What I really lacked was passion.

Through the avoidance of writing, I discovered what I truly love. My passion is teaching. And by teaching I mean working with students to help them learn and grow – not standing in front of them showing them what I know. I never was great at the college lecture model. I love history; reading the stories of people and their choices is endlessly interesting to me. But I am passionate about teaching. I gravitate to articles about teaching and learning. I try new techniques. I think about my teaching a lot. This blog is evidence of that. I am able to get into the zone where I lose track of time and just feel so alive and full of purpose. I never really felt that way when I was attempting to be a scholar.

My dissertation was my advisor’s passion, not mine. I have followed my mother’s advice from when I was growing up when she told me to do what I loved and I would end up loving what I do. It took me a little while to sort it out, but now I have. My new challenge is to take the next step and empower my students to learn through their passions and do their work, not mine.

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2 thoughts on “ABD – and why

  1. This is one of my greatest joys in teaching…showing them that they can be academic and write about or work with ANY subject and it is valid if they have a solid thought process and back it up. My grad advisor, Bob Cvornyek, wrote about baseball, chain gangs, social justice, workers’ rights…anything is fair game. Best lesson I learned and the best I have passed on. My passion counts for zero–it’s their passion that matters:)

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