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2013-52 Week 11

Okay, these aren’t supposed to be getting later in the week. I swear I start these things earlier with the best intentions and they slip later and later. I think I might have to switch back to a daily blog next year just to have the firm deadline. Okay, maybe not . . .

I do have somewhat of an excuse though, as Jess and I came home Wednesday to a puddle in our garage, only to close the door and find water was still running from the ceiling, the door had just halted the flow for a minute. We informed our downstairs neighbor, who said she was running her tub, called the HOA, left a message, and waited for what to do. After several go rounds, the water stopping, a karate class (and missing the call from the HOA at 8:45), and Jess just missing the plumber, I finally called and told them to leave it for the next day. I had already scheduled the day off to get some rest after all of the Doctoral program goings-on and needed to use a bit of the day to grade some papers and the midterm for my class on Friday. The plumbers called at 8:15 and said they’d be out between 10 and 12, and to their credit they were there by 10:10. I showed them where the problem was, and told them that it was probably from our downstairs neighbor. Now our neighbor keeps . . . interesting . . . hours, and, from what I can tell with later interactions with the poor guy, really laid into him for waking her up. After running water in her place and checking things out, it was determined that the problem was with the seal on her tub and not with the pipes. We’ll see how that works out, but it certainly took a bite out of my week. So there’s my excuse for the week, take it or leave it.

I feel like I’ve crossed a finish line of sorts, but have to wait an indeterminate amount of time to actually find out the results. Those of you that are friends with me on Facebook already got the short version of some of what I’ll be covering today (and, face it, that’s pretty much all of you), but, as usual, this is where I can go into more (potentially unnecessary) detail. Here’s the even shorter than Facebook version if you have some place to be in the next ten minutes or just want the highlights: I got my GRE scores Tuesday morning and did quite well in the verbal (168/170 – 98th percentile) and analytical writing (5.0/6.0 – 92nd percentile) while doing okay on the quantitative/math (157/170 – 71st percentile), and I then had an interview with the admissions committee of the Education Doctoral program late Tuesday morning.

A quick aside, I promise that I’ve been trying to quit parenthetical asides, but I love them too much and replacing them with commas makes everything too comma-heavy (even this sentence with the word comma . . . dang it, did it again!) since I tend to err on the side off too many commas, rather than too few. Scoreboard check for the last sentence: written word “comma” – 4, actual commas – 4, number of times comma stopped looking like a word: eleventy billion.

Anyhow, on to the life events and the wrap up of the GRE story started two weeks ago. Turns out I did remember the scores correctly the first time and just had to wait for the writing scores. Five out of six seems about right, especially if it’s up in the ninetieth percentile, as I was sort of happy with my first essay and exceedingly pleased with my second one. Somewhat disappointed in my math score, but I suppose it isn’t too bad since I haven’t had a math class that dealt with those topics in over ten years. One of Jess’ students who works for Kaplan as a GRE prep person said she hates me, so I guess I did well enough.

I had, however, managed to secure an interview with the Doctoral admissions committee before I even received those GRE scores on the basis of my application and letters of recommendation (although seeing as half the application was writing in response to various prompts and a personal statement, the GRE results probably point out where I might have had an advantage). Of course, since I am loudmouthed . . . no, not really . . . cocky . . . well, sort of . . . arrogant . . . sometimes . . . conceited . . . that’s not really it either . . . over-confident . . . I guess that’s as close as I’m going to get right now . . . I had assured everyone that as long as I got to the interview stage I stood a good shot at getting in. Now to be honest, I did not anticipate making it that far because, again, the program was aimed at Community College teachers and administrators, and I am neither of those. But I felt that if I made it to the interview round I could talk my way in, mostly because I am naturally skilled in ways that are beneficial to the interview setting. Hows that? I’m glad you asked.

1) I am comfortable talking to small and large groups of people. – Of course you kind of need this ability to teach, but sometimes people can have difficulty relating to a small group of people. I was surprised when it turned out that the interview panel was only two people, but I was not intimidated and quickly adapted my game plan. The best advice in this area I can give is to make sure that you split your response time between all of the panel members equally when giving a response, with a slight increase to the person asking the question. I mean that when you respond, you should look initially at the person who asked the question but then shift your focus to the other panel members and back to the original person who asked the question over the course of your response. This keeps everyone engaged in your answer and makes sure you don’t appear to be robotic in your answers. With two people it occasionally looked like I was watching a tennis match, but that is simply resolved by settling on each person for a longer time period before switching back.

2) Improvise. – Really, isn’t this what interviews are all about, especially if you don’t know the questions ahead of time? I have been told several times that my impromptu speeches are better than my prepared ones (although I’m pretty sure my last prepared speech was also over a decade ago). I’m also pretty good with my mouth on autopilot, so I can start answering a question while my brain is still constructing the back end of the answer, allowing for the elimination of those pauses that can make you seem indecisive. It helps to practice these situations, which is why I’ll never turn down the chance to interview even if I don’t think anything will come of it. The only way to get better is by exposure, even if it is just having a friend or three asking you sample questions. It doesn’t hurt to be comfortable in these situations in the first place, however, so whether I was answering questions about my past research, what problems are facing community colleges today and what would I do about them, or even how I would find the time to study, I was able to approach them calmly and in sufficient detail.

3) Be prepared. – Just because the interview itself is an impromptu experience doesn’t mean that you can’t do any preparation for it, especially since you know certain areas will be covered during the conversation. In my case I knew that there would likely be some discussion of my plans and goals, so I made sure to get everything in order and brush up on the finer points about which I would be talking. As a result, I was able to use my ideas for my project to address how I would solve the problems facing community college, and it really seemed to strike a chord. By having material previously reviewed, it makes it easier to call it to mind when you’re on the spot in the interview.

4) Dress to impress. – Jess and I went out and picked out a new suit the weekend before since we only had five days notice to begin with and my old suit is . . . how do you say . . . no longer proportioned in such a way as to determine my body shape under it (I suppose I could just go with the plain English way: it was really baggy on me). We picked out a nice slim fit suit and I felt extremely confident in it. Even though the two people on the panel we dressed a little more casually than me, I felt good and new I looked very professional. I doubt they had a “well-dressed” check box on their interview sheets, but I know that my clothes didn’t leave a negative impression, which dressing too casually might have done.

5) Be blessed. – Of course I mean in general, but there was a very specific point in the questions where a decision I made on a whim a little over a year and three months ago paid off in spades. When asked how I planned to budget my time to accomplish my Doctoral work I was able to demonstrate that I had already committed to regular time writing and reading through my New Year’s resolutions, mentioning that I had blogged everyday for 2012 to practice my writing and that I had dialed back in 2013 to add a book a month to read. It also helped that two of the books so far have ideas related to what I plan on studying (The Signal and the Noise and Outliers). The interviewers were very happy with this response and had some follow up questions which I was able to gladly answer. I hadn’t even planned on applying to the program when I made that decision to write, but it certainly came in handy in this interview.

That’s probably enough on that for now. I don’t have a timetable on when they will make their selections, but I can be happy knowing that I put my best foot forward and gave it my best effort. If this doesn’t go through, it’s truly not meant to be. Of course if it does go through, the next step is figuring out how to pay for it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there (that reminds me I have to go update my FAFSA application with the new tax info). That has also helped with the pressure of the situation, knowing that this isn’t a make or break point in my life, but something that will add value if I am successful.

Well, it’s late, both in the week and in the day, and I have to save something for early next week when I need to get back on track. Hopefully I’ll have some news by then.

Weight: 228 Loss: 2 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 169.2 miles (+15 miles) Last year-to-date: 72.2 miles – Words-to-date: 22029 (+1834)

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