My apologies for not blogging recently, but I have been on the adventure of a life time. About a year and a half ago I attended a great conference in Copenagen, Denmark. The next conference was to be held in Perth, Australia in January 2012. For a year and half it was my goal to complete some great research and present it at this conference. Now I am here.
The neatest thing about Graduate School is flexibility. I actually left a very successful life as an Occupational Therapist and returned to school to have more flexibility in my life. I appreciate the ability to be a Mom to my 1 year old son and 4 year old daughter, and then work very hard in the evenings while they dream of trucks and unicorns. The flexibility of graduate school has also let me travel.
I used the opportunity to come to Australia to learn from one of the greatest minds (Dr. David Andrich) in my research area and to attend a great conference. I have to admit, it was a bit of a career test for me to see if I could stand strong amongst this research methodology group. The challenge associated with my PhD work sometimes makes me feel like returning back to be a clinician would be a lot easier. However, the very supportive group at this workshop and conference seduced me back into the world of measurement and made me value the potential impact this work could have on social science as a whole.
Here are a few things I learned that I might pass along. First, the work I do is based off a Danish mathematician George Rasch’s work. He completed all of his stats by hand and spent hours of his time using a slide ruler in the 1940-60’s. Dr. Andrich has inherited this ruler. He told us that he bought George Rasch his first calculator in 1972. The calculator was purchased in Singapore. It was a standard calculator with an exponential button (very important for Rasch calculations). The calculator was purchased at a price of $252.00. You can now buy one of these at Staples for 99 cents.
The second thing I learned was what it means to be imperviously kind.
Today, my academic hero David Andrich was described by a colleague as being “imperviously kind”. I thought it to be the nicest compliment anyone could ever be given. He was not described by his unbelievable intelligence or ability to develop modern test theory and apply it to make significant change in the “real” world. He was not described by his proficiency in mathematics, nor was he described by his skills to translate knowledge. He was defined by his impervious kindness.
This made me reflect extensively today about what it is that I want to do in my career and life. This is extremely challenging material I am learning-but I think I have been faced with the learning the material for a reason. On this trip, I have been given the honour of having masters in my presence to guide me in my learning journey here. These individuals are all welcoming and embrace the concept of learning. Today, Dr.Stefan Cano, a young bright leader in the field from Plymouth, England joined our group. He asked if he could help me for my presentation on Tuesday ( I did not ask for help, he asked me if he could help-unheard of in academics). After reviewing my work, he basically pulled my analysis apart question by question. Before I knew it, I had five more “experts” debating my analysis and finding an alternative solution that I could present. They never told me I was blatantly wrong, but they presented me with an optional way of thinking that was much more grounded in theoretical rationale and scholarly thought. Instead of telling me I was completely wrong (which in a way I was), they explained an alternative process and potential solutions for me to consider. They never judged my knowledge and embraced my desire to learn the new topic. They were wonderful teachers and “imperviously nice”.
In a lovely moment this afternoon, I walked out the door of the education building at the University of Western Australia with my new mentors and was greeted by the most beautiful kiddos and supportive husband in the world. These five individuals could have very easily walked off, but they all stopped and introduced themselves to my family. They joked about my son being the reason I was “no fun” in Copenhagen (because I was pregnant at the time and could not keep up with their drinking habits). They were lovely with my daughter and made me feel like I perhaps could pursue an academic career if supported by the right people who understood the importance of family, goal achievement and life balance.
My family (in Montreal) keeps asking me what is so special about Australia. I think it is the balance people have with respecting each other and being nice. They believe that everyone has something to offer and welcome you very easily. In a short time, Perth has felt like home. UWA feels like a place of work, and people we meet are feeling like friends. We look forward to the next exciting few days in beautiful Perth-where being imperviously kind is the norm, not the exception. My challenge before I return home is to work very hard to develop ways of thinking to prepare for a what is often the antithesis of this place. Being tough in the city, battling home in traffic every day, and regularly struggling with having my home province accept my English speaking husband and children seem so superfluous now. I have flat out decided that I am happy to be the exception and will be offering out large mugs of impervious kindness upon my return. If anyone has a problem with that, please present alternative ways of thinking and possible solutions. To me, this solution appears obvious and will surely have many positive associations correlated to them.