Now that the semester is over, I can figuratively catch my breath and reflect upon the past 15 weeks. It was a tough semester; working full time and taking PhD classes at night is hard. Yet, the past term was particularly difficult because I began to take care of 77 year old cancer stricken father. As if having cancer were not enough, in July he fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury. As a result of the fall he was forced to endure 4 brain surgeries as doctors fought to save his life and restore his health. My family members and I were afraid we were going to lose him, but remarkably he fought back and survived.
Dad currently lives in a senior citizens housing complex, and during the semester I tended to him three times a day. Before work I went over to feed him breakfast, at lunch time I went over again to make him lunch. In the evening I prepared dinner for him, gave him his meds and made sure everything was in place for the next day. I wanted to look into Meals on Wheels and other forms of assistance, but I really didn’t have much time to look into such programs. However, now that the semester is over I will do my best to see what is out there.
Despite the challenges I faced, I was able to do well in my courses. Last semester I took Into to Qualitative Research. Like all courses there were chapters to be read and papers to be written. However, unlike my previous coursework this was largely an online class. Initially, I struggled to keep up with the discussion board posts. I simply wasn’t used to the class format. Yet, early on the professor introduced me to a genre of qualitative research called phenomenology. Broadly speaking this term refers to the “study of the lived experiences of people.” I began to learn as much as a could about phenomenology. How and when do scholars use this framework? How do they collect data? Which journals support this approach? I became enthralled with this form of qualitative research.
In addition to Into to Qualitative Research, I also took Intro to Statistics. Now that was a hard course! About 10 years ago I took a similar course when I was working on my Master of Social Work degree. But this course was much more intense in part because it covered roughly twice the amount of information. Fortunately, the professor taught the course in such a way that I was able to grasp the material. We looked at data from educational dissertations and learned how data can be used to predict things (e.g. a student’s first semester GPA). Additionally, we learned how, by using Pearson’s correlations, we can determine if there is a relationship between a student’s socioeconomic status and his or her academic performance.
There were times when I walked into my Stats class and I just felt like I was about to lose it. I was worried about my father, concerned about obligations at work, and stressed out over the financial burdens of being a student. But after class got started I found a way to relax, my problems went away when I was learning something new, and sitting in Stats became the most peaceful part of my week.