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How are you spending Spring Break?

March 21, 2012

Most of you are probably working folks, so life might not change for you during break. I was a staff person at Virginia Tech for 15 years, so during spring break I kept on working. Now, as an academic person full-time I desperately need Spring Break to do what I call “the real work,” the work I prepared myself for in graduate school.

So, reply to this and tell me what you’re doing next week, personally and professionally.

I’ve always been interested in what people do and how people do the work that matters to them. So, I’m interested in how we get good at what we do. I’m a believer that it takes 10 years to get good at something. However, this notion is like alien-science to the students of today. They want to jump into real work, real life RIGHT NOW. My wife and I are writing a book chapter on this reality, as both of us talk about “Who are our students?” Her students are undergraduates and many of students have been young student teachers.

Right now, I’m working on a separate book chapter on integrating technology in the schools. I’m writing about the 2-year Project-Based Learning units I’ve coordinated in one of my spring courses, and how I’m using those units to integrate a new form of teaching, but also technology use, AND how teachers can study (research) this form of teaching.

So, during my spring break I’m drafting up this book chapter. I tend to go “underground” during these precious days and work feverishly to complete a 20-30 page draft. I’ve been writing academic stuff for about 20 years, so I know how much time/effort to get a writing project done. My next writing period is in May when I work hard at finishing up the semester and try to complete my other academic writing projects. My internal motor is publishing two articles per year, but in recent years my output has increased to 2-5 articles/year. I’d like to up that to 8-12 articles/year in the next 2 years. I like being productive and I’m not a good person to be around when I’m not productive. I would like to write more with graduate students. I’ve only published one conference proceedings article with a graduate student and this is appalling. Partly my fault, as I need to fold in students into my work more often. On the other hand, I’ve been disappointed at the scholarly level of doctoral students. I have to remind myself that everyone can’t be like me, but I hope that people WANT this degree and that people LIKE this work.

Also, during break I’ll be cleaning up my dark basement and continuing to clean up the yard for spring. Getting outside more, what I call porch-time.

This is not a visual posting. But for me Spring Break is a visual metaphor for “getting to the real work.”

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2012 11:15 am

    Hey Neal and all,

    As you guessed, I am a full-time employee at WVU, and will be working mostly. I am taking off a couple days during that time to take some friends out to lunch, take in a long-awaited Van Halen concert with my girlfriend, and hopefully progress on some projects around the house. As we do not have much going in class-wise, this will give me a little more evening down time as well.

    The major project I have is in completing renovations in my recording studio. Around the time I had a wall knocked out to make room for a big (big to me 🙂 recording both, my house suffered a pretty major flood. This was over two months ago, and the house is still not fully restored. Tending to those aspects is part of the reason I have not completed the studio revisions, and the other part is in working up the guts to drill holes in a really expensive new booth to mount things and figure out some remaining issues with it. I think I will be mentally prepared to get into this over break. There has been a level of analysis paralysis there!

    As we have not yet hit mower and screaming kids outside season, I have still been able to record commercials and other things I have needed to in my control room. That will soon change, so their is impetus for completion 🙂

    Beyond that, I have been revising my business website,, a good bit. Still figuring out things visually and functionally to work across most all platforms. It has been up and running for a few years, but it really is a work in progress. A couple of days ago a notice of publication for my international service mark on “Leecast.” This is good news. Always good to protect your brands and ideas. Cheers

  2. March 21, 2012 11:26 am

    Typically, I like to travel during breaks from school. I’m convinced that exposure to other cultures and immersion in other cultures is extremely valuable. Beyond learning about people and places, these experiences increase my awareness of myself, my culture, and the connections we share around the world. Because dental surgery set me back a week this month, sadly, I won’t be going anywhere – It’ll have to wait till May.

    What I will be doing is getting caught up. I’ve arranged to begin filming and interviewing at a school, and the lack of WVU schedule permits me to be there at the best times. In the same vein, I will begin the process of rough editing towards a final mini-documentary project. Also, before this happens, I’ll be constructing some equipment: a device to isolate microphones and tascam recorder, and a camera stabilizer that works like a SteadyCam.

    I will also be working on a qualitative research study that has been begging for attention. I’ll be reading & coding an interview transcript of an interview from February. I’m trying to determine how teachers at “an appalachian alternative school” perceive experiential education. With this study, I’ll be doing an observation to identify specific action and practices that align with the themes found in the interview transcripts.

    Outside of school, I’ll be re-glassing a kayak paddle and finally answering the call of my kayaking buddies to get back on the river! Paddling is surely one of my most therapeutic exercises, and one that I have been missing dearly. A couple of hours on some good whitewater helps bring everything into perspective, and resets my brain.

    It’ll be good to have some self-scheduled time to organize and work – April will be much easier this way.

  3. March 21, 2012 12:10 pm

    I am going to Disney World with my two daughters, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece. We are not leaving until next Friday, the 30th because the kids are still in school (Mon Co. is off April 1-7). We are returning on the Wednesday the 4th. I will work ahead much of next week since I will still be gone when WVU reconvenes.

    In addition to working ahead, I will need to get ready to leave. My girls are growing like weeds and need some summer type clothes and shoes.

    Also, I mentioned earlier this semester that we are getting ready to renovate/remodel my house. Well, I recently learned that work will begin on the outside of the house within the next couple of weeks and that we will need to move out by May 1st. Needless to say, my husband and I have been spending (and will continue to spend) any free time that we find, packing up our house. April is a busy month for me normally with the semester coming to an end and all of my final projects and papers due, our “moving out” will really add to the chaos!

    Disney will be a nice diversion…a little fun in the sun…a break from the whirlwind that April will be!

  4. March 21, 2012 12:38 pm

    I will be spending a few days at my sister’s house in NC, where, in exchange for manual labor on whatever construction project she happens to be involved in, she will assist me in building a database. My teachers are not using data effectively, and it is my pet dream to have an access database where we can pull in data from all of the software programs the students use, as well as teacher created assessments, link their performance to the Common Core Standards, and spit out a report that shows exactly where students are lacking skills. I think my teachers will be more likely to USE data if they don’t have to spend an eternity pulling from half a dozen sources before they can analyze it. A central database will also allow Title I teachers to access the information at their convenience.
    Also on my to-do list is catching up on some research I need to do for Ed Research, and cleaning/organizing my house. Unfortunately, when I have so many irons in the fire (aka full time job, full time grad school, musical obligations, etc. etc.) my house becomes disorganized genius. With any luck I can find my floors once again. (I THINK I remember what color the carpet is =)
    Should there be any free moments after that is accomplished, I hope to hit the spa for a full day package. I’ve earned it! =) Happy Spring Break to all!

  5. March 21, 2012 5:42 pm

    I am taking some “porch time” right now, answering emails and reviewing some student work. Spring Break for West Liberty University was last week, but we had student teachers on campus, and since we have a new director this year (my presentation partner from the PDS conference), I have been assisting him this year as the learning curve when leaving secondary and entering higher education can be a little steep. So, no real break for me this year. Next week will be my normal classes and chair duties along with visits to all of the Curriculum and Methods courses to walk the students through creating charts with their pre and post test data for their Capstone I action research projects.

    My work environment is a productive place, and I find it very intellectually stimulating, so I do not mind that the break past me by this year. The summer will be the same. I am teaching three courses and taking three as well, so I am hoping for a good winter break in December.

    May all of you who have a break find it very relaxing!

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