For a long time I hoped not to publicly write this. But here it is – I am quitting my PhD. Twenty months into a clear and interesting project I have collected my data, drafted the Methodology chapter and outlined another, sharpened a theoretical lens, held many great meetings with my two helpful supervisors … but I am out. I am divorcing myself from a dream, an ambition I have had since realising, as a mature-age undergrad, that I may not be as academically dumb as I once thought. I will spare you the reasons but they could probably be bunked under ‘personal’. If interested, email or tweet me.
Doing a PhD is unlike anything. I found that I didn’t really know what I was in for until doing it, for all the wonderful, helpful advice around. It has been a deeply personal thing, brutal at times to the body, mind, relationships alike. I have admired people who have done it before, now I understand them better as well. And if you are contemplating doing one – best wishes, go for it.
I am wiser for the experience and the things I learned along the way. Here are some of the key ones. Firstly, I recognise, now even more, the skill and importance of methodologically and theoretically sound research. Put crudely, academic research is one of those few remaining domains where bullshit doesn’t cut it. The expected critical eye, even if always seeing through a particular and arguable lens, is such an antidote to the uncritical, cliche-recycling discourse of most of the media of mainstream and social varieties. What sometimes gets brushed off in these media as academic, theoretical nitpicking is (mostly) a product of incredible, painstaking effort and writing that is carefully crafted, justified and open to, expected, scrutiny. How refreshing but how hard to do!
Secondly, by doing a PhD and working at university (tutor, casual lecturer), I got a first-hand insight into the world of academia. And largely – it isn’t pretty. For all the exalted perks many imagine and covet, the pressures people at universities are under are as increasing as they are common. Efficiency drives, publishing pressures, performativity regimes and re-writing of what it means to be a professional in that field are no different to so many public workplaces.
Thirdly, I have realised that PhD is not for me. Bit tautological there but I am not a ‘lone writer’. I need people to work with and for, interact and engage my senses, raise my heartbeat, raise my voice, laugh aloud and shed a tear if need be in doing so.
Those of you who know me can see where this is heading now … yes, I am back in a classroom. But it is a shaky deal, for all my (supposed) experience in the edu-landscape. After a recent pile of confidence-shaking rejection letters and interviews, I’ve got a short, one term teaching gig at a public metro high-school. Pays better than teaching at uni, I get to work with kids and staff where I believe I do my best work, I do look forward to it but … it ends in three months. So, if you know a school or other educational organisation in Perth looking for a teacher or similar role that roughly fits my description (updated LinkedIn profile here) – please do let me know. Really, please do so.
Lastly, I have thanked my awesome supervisors Dr Lisa Cary and particularly the tireless Dr Greg Thompson (@effectsofNAPLAN) in person but it won’t hurt if I do so publicly too. Thank you Lisa, thank you Greg.
There. I am out.
PS Oh, and as you may have noticed, I have revived the original Human and I am back in the Edublogs fold, happily so and with all posts restored, nothing lost. Please adjust any links if you need to.