A year ago today, my Ph.D in General Psychology was conferred by Capella University. I am celebrating with a little fun.
by Sheila Pope, PhD
This month, I was determined to introduce my students to various apps. They have worked so hard on STAAR and they needed a break. Well, I needed one too! Using technology is relaxing to me.
I decided I wanted my students to go outside and enjoy Worthing’s beautiful landscape. Believe it or not, my students had not taken the time to “smell the roses.” Many of them asked, “Do we really have roses on campus?” We used ThingLink application to make our photos interactive and engaging. The kids were everywhere and they really enjoyed using the app. I wanted them to share their experiences using ThingLink. Therefore, I introduced them to WordPress.com to create a blog.
Next, we used Screencastomatic. I used my webcam and my recorder to record my actions on the screen. My students wanted to know if they could record themselves playing videos. Being an old school Centipede game player, I recorded myself playing the game. Most of my students downloaded the software immediately. They will use the software next week to record a video for class.
We used Khan Academy’s grammar application for the first time this year. When I think of Khan Academy, I think of their math tutorials but they have added a new focus- writing My students needed to review basic grammar and this program was just the help I needed. My students loved the fact they could compete with each other too. I also gave my students with the highest scores treats too. Everyone earned participation point regardless of their scores. It was a win-win situation!
My students needed to improve their vocabulary skills, so I created classes on vocabulary.com. I had planned to use Vocabulary.com last year but did not do it. This year, my classes are on fire! The application feeds their need for competition and it helps them learn at a rapid pace. We have a common goal to become the top school on the Vocabulary Leader Board
Moreover, I played a very exciting game of Kahoot with my students. We read “Animal Farm” and we watched the movie. I felt a quiz was the perfect ending to the unit. All of my classes played and each of my classes loved it. The Assistant Principal came in during the game and she was so happy to see all of the students engaged. My students were loud but they were thinking too! Next, my students will are going use Kahoot to create reviews and quizzes for their peers.
The last app I introduced to my students was Educreation.com. It allows students to annotate, to record and to create videos in a short amount of time. Today, my students used the app to demonstrate how to solve STAAR edit and revise questions. I was so happy to have some of my students share some of their work with Jennifer Gingerich, the Discovery Ed Consultant. My students worked as a team to create their projects.
I started this process on April 4th and we have been moving rapidly. Next year, since our school is fully a PowerUp school, I will integrate the apps into my classes earlier with very specific activities. I think my students will stay engaged more and I will have more fun too.
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After years of struggle, I finally finished my doctorate degree. In the photo, I am standing in front of tiny pieces of paper that represent huge chunks of my life. I am standing in front of teaching certificates, state licenses and four degrees that I have willingly sacrificed my love life, happy hours with the girls, and family time with my children. I do not regret one missed event. I have become a Capella PhDiva! I rock that shirt and all that it implies.
However, I find myself in a new tricky spot. I am at peace with my journey to become Dr. Pope, but I am not sure what to do next. You see, I set goals constantly and I never have too much free time. I have tons of things that I want to do, but I question the timing of each goal. I do not have a clear direction and that is scary for me. It is easier to stay in my bubble of education. I control the outcome in education. I going to disclose a secret: I have five degrees and multiple certificates. I excel in academics! Real life cannot be controlled by me. I do not control the outcomes of relationships.
I purchased Shonda Rhimes’ audio book, Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. I have been too tired to read anything and my eyes are always jumping which is my signal to let me know my eyes are strained. I loved listening to her book; it made me think about writing, being a single mom and my self imposed limits. It motivated me to say yes to my next challenge.
As I enter 2016, I am thinking about what I want to accomplish personally and professionally. I have things that I talk about with friends and I have dreams that I do not share with anyone. My next challenge will not include school. I am clear that I want to take a break from “going to school”.
Capella’s PhD program was an online program, but I spent hours every day for three months with tunnel vision focused on completing my dissertation. From July to September 2015, I breathed and ate my dissertation. I worked with my mentor from Capella consistently. I never saw his face, but I looked at his words daily. I feared his editorial comments. It is amazing how energy I put into becoming Dr. Pope. I was left depleted after I submitted my last edits. I am still unsure, if there were errors that I missed. I was left with one clear thought: There is no desire burning within me to complete another degree!
My career and personal life are my next challenges. My family life needs a fresh perspective. My body need to be cared for in many ways. My business needed a new direction and my mind needs rest. My desire to write for fun has been tugging at my heart. Shonda Rhimes says, “If you are a writer, you should write.” I am going to write more and share more while not sharing too much. I am getting ready for my next challenge. I am ready to leave my comfort zone and stretch myself more.
I finally did it; I finally went on a couple of dating websites. For a couple of years, I have said to friends I was going to go on one when I thought I was ready to date. I am ready to date, but my opportunities have been limited. I am a workaholic, single mother and completing my PhD. Where does a man fit into my world?
I listened to a couple of my friends talk about their experiences with Plenty of Fish. I figured I should start there. I also decided that I should not limit myself to only African-American men. Therefore, I wanted a dating website with men open to dating African-American women. I found Interracial Match.com. It was pretty easy to join.
However, I found it a little difficult to find a picture that represents me at this moment in my life. I solved that by asking my 16-year-old son to help me select a photo for my profile. My stylist fixed my hair and I immediately updated my profile shots.Then, I pressed my luck and asked him to help me find a username, headline and provide words to describe me. He asked, “Shouldn’t you ask a girlfriend to help you with this?”
I laughed and said, “Lets make it happen!” I like the fact that he knows what I am doing. I do not have anything to hide. More important, I am getting a little tired of his jokes about my inability to get date and he has not had one himself. I want my children to know that I can try something new. I hope they are never afraid to face their fears.
I wondered why they required my income range. I hated that I had to decide to describe myself as either full-figured or had extra pounds. However, it was not long after I figured out why there was a need to share your income range. Once I went on the site and reviewed my potential matches, I laughed until I cried. Some of the photos on Plenty of Fish, Delightful and Interracial Match.com were insane. Men without shirts, some that looked homeless, some I think I saw on Wanted posters, others looked like pedophiles and some screamed FREAK and not 50 Shades of Grey kind! I ran across the profile of a 61-year-old white guy that liked African-American women in my age range with my body type, but he made less than 25,000 a year. Instead of looking for match, he needed to focus on generating extra income. I clearly understood the income requirement at that moment! There were men that said they preferred not to say if they had a car! I think it was appropriate to infer they did not have one. Again, more laughter!! I have had tears of joy since I decided to enter the online dating world.
At this time, I have my profile on several sites and I have chatted with several men on Plenty of Fish. I liked the freedom that the format allows me to have. I like the control that I have via online. More important, I like the fact that I have had to address some of my own issues. I finally admitted that I do not want to get married at this time. I only want to date! I want a relationship if it works for me. That was a big reality check for me. I am happy with my life at this time. Yes, I want to go out on a date. I do not care if a man wants children because I am not looking to marry him, I just want to talk and go out sometimes. I am not looking for sex at this time. The more time you spend with one person the greater the odds are one of you will eventually bring up sex.
It feels good to chat. I chatted for three hours yesterday. I realize online dating is time-consuming, but going through the profiles shots makes me howl with laughter each time! The profiles, headlines and bios are hilarious. More important, I am laughing at myself too. Eventually, I am going to pay for Match.com. I believe you get what you pay for in this world. Until then, I will try a few more free websites. Delightful, Steve Harvey’s website, does not let me respond without paying. So far on the Interracial Match.com, only a scary white guy as winked at me. Again, he had one picture with only his neck and hairy chest displayed. I did not know what to do with that wink. I have no regrets so far. I look forward to laughing and finding someone new to date.
I have been quiet for a couple of months. I finished my draft of chapters 3-5 of my dissertation. They almost finished me too! I started July with tons of energy and hope. I stopped any activities that would distract me from completing my goal of submitting my chapters by August 15, 2014. I stopped posting on my blog too!
I planned to submit my first draft on August 15. Well, I had to quickly adjust that date. I started typing chapter 4 and began to question everything I thought I wanted to write. Then, I committed to finishing by August 18. I went to my office at my job and worked until 11:00pm week nights; I worked all day on Saturday and Sundays. My oldest son held down the fort at home. I went without fun and money. More important, I went without support. I met with my academic advisor from Capella on August 18. After our meeting, I knew I had to finish on time. He motivated me to keep my eyes on the prize. I was exhausted and frightened. I did not know if I had organized the information correctly. I questioned if I wrote too much. I questioned how to end chapter 5 with a bang. More important, I feared I would not honor my participants’ experiences.
Ending a Relationship
I submitted my chapters on August 19. I knew my mentor was going out-of-town. We communicated via the phone and some in the courseroom. I knew I needed to make major adjustments to the Chapters 4 & 5, but I need his feedback. I was lost; I needed his guidance. I did not receive what I needed in a timely manner. In the end, there was a break in our communication. I felt devastated because I knew ending my relationship with my mentor was necessary to move ahead. I realized something as a professor from a student’s perspective. Online education requires feedback from all parties. Online education cost too much to flounder in the dark. Students have to ask for help and professors have to provide quality feedback in a timely manner. I waited until the end of the quarter before I made my final decision. Changing a mentor is a serious and scary task. I waited until I was thinking clearly before I made my request. I feel changing a mentor should be the last resort, but I believe sometimes it is necessary for survival. My dissertation advisor quickly responded to my request for a new mentor. I still like and respect my former mentor; however, I need someone who sees the finish line and can help get me there.
I did not expect to feel so mentally exhausted after submitting my chapters. I literally needed two weeks to get my energy level back. I taught five classes in person, and I coached two online. I am guilty of teaching with too much passion. Often, I do not realize how busy I really am until my body stops. I took on too much. I was in the middle of designing an online education course. I stopped when I tackled chapters 4 & 5. I have four children and a dog. Everyone ate hot dogs and cheap fast food during July and August. I had the nerve to enroll in the Adobe Train the Trainer (8 weeks) program. I finished the chapters, completed my Adobe Training, and I taught my classes.
I fought with two of my employers this summer over money. There was a change in the way I expected to be paid this summer. No one bothered to tell the employees that they would be paid in three payments for summer. I paid my tuition and got a new car based on money that did not come when I expected it. Child support was MIA too. I spent most of my time praying to have ENOUGH to pay my bills and feed my children. I was mentally tired from trying to collect a check from my consulting work and my other employer. There is nothing worse than dealing with financial issues and writing your dissertation. By August 1st, I was so drained from begging people to cut a check that I wanted to give up. Luckily, I have good friends that prayed and encouraged me. God stretched my faith this summer.
By the end of September, I had enough. I quite trying to get feedback from my mentor. I accepted my employer did not see the value of communicating with their employees when a major change was going to occur with their pay. I knew I could not continue to work as a consultant for that company that never sent my check until two faxes and multiple phone calls. I do not beg for money. That defeats the purpose of working. I realized I would not finish my PhD before December 2014. I also realized that I hated hot dogs! I am still digging myself out of the financial destruction caused by the miscommunication with my employer.
The Turn Around
I realized I was blessed during all of the craziness. I submitted my chapters as a draft. I became an Adobe Education Trainer. I have a safe vehicle that works for a mom that drops off and picks up her children. My wonderful boss did not give me a raise, but she gave me a great schedule that allowed me to pick-up my children everyday and cut down my daycare by $1000.00 a month. She provided an office with a window. I love it. She gave me a promotion and a wonderful TA to assist with the eight classes this fall. It is an honor to help him grow as a professional. Yes, I am still hurt over the way we were paid this summer, but I love my boss and the team I work with. My students are so supportive; therefore, I will continue to teach with passion. Teaching is my lifeline! After this summer, I have more stories to share with my students. I have new reasons to empathize with them.
My Writing Process Blog Tour I’ve been invited to join the #mywritingprocess blog tour by Dr. Allana Todman-Da Graca, the author of Tomorrow Can’t Wait and Temple: Self Discovery Through Truth. I met Dr. Todman-Da Graca as a PhD candidate at Capella University. Today, Dr. Todman-Da Graca is an artist and a professor. My instructions are to answer three questions for you: 1.
What am I working on? Writing: I am currently completing my dissertation. I have published an e-book, Writing Essentials: Strategies to Master Freshmen English and Writing Placement Exams. I plan to submit an article for a journal submission this month. Well, I blog frequently too. However, for the next two months my dissertation is my primary focus. Therefore, I will post my thoughts about the process.
Recordings: I am creating videos for my On-demand Lecture Series too. This is a complicated process. I love the challenge of creating and using technology. My writing process encompasses using technology and my experiences to create little snippets for my audience to “see” into my world.
2. How does my work differ from others in that genre? My e-textbook is different from other books because it has been written for English language learners, veterans and an urban audience. The book provides strategies for learners with special needs such as dyslexia and post stress disorders. Most books with an emphasis on placement exams do not address learners with special needs.
3. Why do I write what I do? My Publication The first reason I wrote my e-book was to incorporate my love of technology and the English language. I also needed a textbook for my non-course based WRIT 101 course that would incorporate all of my teaching needs. I wanted to show students how to conduct research, how to develop strong sentences, and I wanted my students to be able to access their material from any electronic device. Moreover, I understood students needed to know where to focus their time when preparing for placement exams. More important, I understood how important it was for students of different races to see themselves in a textbook. Finally, this book was created to address learners with different learning needs.This content of this book addresses various learners and their learning styles.
My Blog My blog focuses on various topics. I talk about everything from gardening to politics. My struggle to complete my PhD will take center stage for the next couple of months. I think my blog is different from other blogs because I share my experiences from a female middle class point of view. Although I am an instructor, I am a student too. My views on education varies depending on which set of lens I use. In my posts, I share my honest personal opinions. I use my blog as a place to express my views, my fears, and my faults. Moreover, the blog questions other people’s position on sex, socioeconomic standings, education, and politics.
I met Deirdre through Capella University. We met in Dallas, Tx during a colloquia. We bonded instantly. Dee is attractive, ambitious, a leader, smart, funny, and determined to obtain her PhD. We share the same characteristics and determination. We met almost six years ago.
Along the way, I became seriously ill, divorced, and ran out of student loan money. Dee was promoted on two jobs, dated, and traveled around the US. However, we managed to speak to each other regularly. Our friendship grew because we needed each other.
We found the journey to complete our doctorates from Capella University required support and understanding from true friends/supporters. We learned we needed to surround ourselves with people who understood our plight. We have heard horror stories along the way. Some of our Capella Sisters graduated and some quit their programs to complete other goals. As a matter of fact, Dee quit for one year. I had to stop for a year due to health issues and financial setbacks. Yet we came back to Capella and decided we would complete what we started.
I went to Dallas as a delegate for the Democratic State Convention. However, I wanted to see my family and my Capella Sisters. I met with Deborah W., Wanda M., and Deirdre Hill. The four of us share a special bond: we are single African-American females completing a PhD online. All of us enrolled in Capella University with the goal of earning a PhD in psychology.
Deirdre was about to complete her dissertation before me this summer. However, she realized she needed to make some serious changes before she submitted her dissertation to her committee. So, we met on a Sunday morning on June 29, 2014 to edit her draft.
Luckily, I was able to obtain some participants for my study. Therefore, I could write-up my cases and finish this summer too. I knew how I wanted the format of my dissertation to look. Dee gave me vital information to help me write my dissertation. I gave her my two cents on edits. I had not planned to stay another day in Fort Worth, but my friendship with Dee is a true sisterhood. I knew we could help each other finish what we started six years ago.
Looking at our photo tells the story. I did not comb my hair; Deirdre was doing the natural look. We were a hot mess! We were in Starbucks inside of Tom Thumb Grocery completing the journey. It has taken me almost 10 years to complete my doctorate. Dee has been my friend for six of those years. We have searched the literature, shared our frustrations about collecting data. We have shared our ah moments. We see ourselves in the literature. We call each other Dr. Hill and Dr. Pope.
We are currently writing chapter four and five of our dissertations. We will complete our journey by the end of this quarter. We are both single, determined and grateful for our journey through Capella University. She will walk across the stage ahead of me at our graduation (Hill before Pope). Yet we will both stand by each other after graduation and throughout our lives. #Capellaproud
Thanks to Ms. V, my 70-year-old neighbor, I got my front yard back into shape quickly on Independence Day (July 4th). Yes, I spent my holiday cutting the yard. I love the idea of cutting my own grass and maintaining my yard. Ms. V loves to take care of her yard too. There are three single women on my street; however, only one of us pays to have our yard maintained. Maintaining the lawn and flowerbeds is fun and relaxing.
When I work on my yard, I can really “see” what the bugs are doing around the house. Ants are resilient little monsters that invade my house and build empires around my trees and fences. I can also detect if water is leaking from the A.C. I can spot the weeds taking over my flower beds. I can feel how thick and healthy my grass has grown. I also keep an eye on my neighbors’ yard too. I am competitive; I enjoy watching the men on the street watch me cutting the grass. Sometimes, they make a few comments when they see me outside. Immediately when I finish my yard, one of my male neighbors will start on their yards too.
I really felt honored to have the ability to take care of my yard on the 4th of July. I am an independent woman, and I love my freedom; I am a home owner with a beautiful yard, and it takes a great deal of time to maintain the lawn.
I was happy to receive help from Ms. V. Ms. V is in great shape and she loves to care for her yard. I told her she could start a lawn service on the block. I hate to admit it, but Ms. V looks younger than me! She still wears short shorts. I hope I am as active and sexy as she is at 70!
She brought her wisdom and cutting skills over to trim the hedges. I would have been a fool to not accept her help. After all, she has the best yard on the block. I told her if they started a “Yard of the Month Contest” I would have to work extremely hard to beat her efforts. I was glad to share gardening ideas and lawn care tips with one of the coolest 70 year olds in the neighborhood on my July 4th.
Today, my five-year old daughter pointed out that our grapes were growing. I immediately rushed to see the growth. I was shocked at how much the grapes had grown. Last year, I planted the grape plant in a different location. I could tell my plant was not flourishing; so, I moved it to its own corner of the yard. My son found a YouTube video on how to grow grapes. After watching the video, we attached the vines to the fence and waited to see growth. It took an entire year, but I actually have grapes growing in my back yard.
I also have a lemon tree that was transplanted last year. The tree had one lemon on it when I purchased it. Yet, the lemon never grew. It stayed hard and turned a dark green color. Eventually, I moved the lemon tree too; there are two lemons on the tree this year. I am so proud of my small beginnings in learning how to grow produce. Actually, my son is the one with the green thumb. I have a gift of making money, but my 15-year-old son has the talent to grow produce. I love the fact that we can share in the process of watching fruit and vegetables grow in the yard.
It is good to teach my son that he can eat the fruits of his labor. More important, I have the opportunity to share stories of how everything starts out small and grows. I am growing everyday as a mother, business woman, and writer. I am learning to enjoy the small things in life-like watching plants grow. My ambition takes a back seat when I am out in the yard. My focus is only on family when I am digging holes and planning my flower beds for next year. When I touch the plants, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I watch my children faces glow with excitement. I listen to their discussion on how to stop the birds from eating all of our peaches. My children are problem solving. My son talks about his produce business. My children thinking about their finances. I see science at its best when I inspect the plants. I feel God’s touch when my entire family is laughing, sharing and exploring the plants in our small part of the world.