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Thursday, January 06, 2011

2010 Year in Review

I think this is the kind of thing most people put in their Christmas letters, but I don't write those. It's also something more organized people manage to write and publish in the last few days of the old year, not nearly a week into the new one. But a lot happened for me in 2010 and I'd like to get it in print before a new semester starts and time slips away.

I started 2010 having just applied for the Ph.D program in the School of Education at CU-Boulder. I had already finished a semester of work towards a master's degree, but I knew the opportunity and circumstances were right for me to finally pursue a doctoral degree. I think I was notified of my acceptance in February and in March I participated in the CU's recruiting weekend activities. There I met my new advisor, Finbarr Sloane, a very smart, very hardworking, very enjoyable person who is really helping me develop an interest and expertise in statistics education.

The spring semester finished strong with papers due in all three of my classes (Assessment in Math and Science, Culture and Ethnography in Education, and Policy Issues Seminar) while managing to attend a few days of the AERA conference held in Denver. It was a busy and difficult time, but good preparation for the workload I'd face as a doctoral student.

I relaxed a bit in May before taking 6 credit hours in June. Going to class everyday from 8-3 for four straight weeks was incredibly enjoyable because of the efforts of the instructors to keep things relevant and interesting, as well as the company of many great classmates who seemed to not tire of each other despite the many hours. The two classes, Teaching of Number Sense and Teaching of Algebra, probably won't count towards my doctorate, but they were well worth the time and I hope to find myself on the teaching side of those classes sometime soon.

I got very little climbing and hiking in over the summer, preferring to spend my time in Boulder and getting my exercise running (we'll call it running, lacking a better description for my pace and grace) the nearby Boulder Creek Trail. It's an amazing trail system and I'm sure I put in more miles last year than in any other year of my life. The key to improving my running in the new year won't be about speed or miles, but about scheduling. Even though my runs only last 30-40 minutes, I have a habit of making them take up at least 2-3 hours of my day, including all the prep, recovery, and cleanup. That kind of schedule is fine on a summer day with nothing else on the calendar, but I'll need to get better at squeezing in runs between classes and study sessions when it's easy to make excuses to stay inside. My other major summer accomplishments were reading six books (almost all education-related) and watching all 98 episodes of the A-Team (which is not education-related, trust me).

School started in August. At CU, first-year doctoral students take all their classes (Quantitative Research Methods I and II; Qualitative Research Methods I and II; Perspectives on Classrooms, Teaching, and Learning; and Introduction to Education Research and Policy) as a single cohort. I'd heard students from previous cohorts grumble about being in all the same classes with all the same people, but after a semester I can't say enough nice things about the students in my cohort. They are truly a great group of people, each with their own perspectives and experiences, but always willing to listen and learn from each other. The most telling evidence of how well we get along came on our last class of the semester, where I overheard one say, "I really don't want to have to wait until next semester to see you all again." Our professors were great, too, and they deserve thanks for helping us get the most out of the experience. To Elizabeth Dutro, Gregory Camilli, and Margaret Eisenhart, I'm grateful!

I've taken it pretty easy over my winter break. I think I have 7 days of skiing in so far, matching my total for all of last winter. So that's an accomplishment, right? There were two books I wanted to read, but I may only finish one. That's still better than none, and I'll be reading plenty again within just days.

Lastly, I think I've finally found a web home that ties everything together in a pretty neat bundle. Thanks to flavors.me, I'm now using rcjohnson.me as my "main" site. It was time to have a name-based identity that joined my more academic/professional MathEd.net activities with my more leisure/personal downclimb.com activities. Feel free to follow or friend!

Best to you all in 2011!