By Raschelle Theoharis
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. George Bernard Shaw
The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship. Senator J. William Fulbright
On April 8, I boarded a plane headed to Dublin, Ireland and left for six weeks as a Fulbright Specialist. As I boarded the plane, I felt prepared and ready to take on all of the challenges and adventures that lay ahead. I would be working with another university to develop academic curricula and education materials for a new deaf education program that would be delivered at the undergraduate level. The modules were being developed to be used with the new specialist program for sensory disabilities and for the first pilot cohort of Deaf students. Up until this time, deaf individuals could not study to become elementary teachers. I was thrilled at the opportunity and could not wait to embark on this journey. Having taught deaf and hard of hearing students K-12 in a variety of settings, holding a terminal degree in Special Education, and having taught the past six years at Gallaudet University (and during that that time co-developed the certificate program for teaching deaf learners with disabilities), I was feeling confident in my abilities to complete the tasks at hand, as well as that I might have a few things to bring to the table that others could learn from. Then, on April 9th, the plane landed….
Over the course of the next six weeks, I contributed, collaborated, problem-solved, and worked diligently to develop a program that would produce the best deaf education teachers, maintain high standards, and incorporate critical components of deaf education. Hoping that I offered a great deal to the experience, what I left with is far greater than any of my contributions. Life is just as much about the journey as it is the destination. It is important to take time to enjoy the little things along the way—and life is not about checking off a to-do list. Mobi Ho, in The Miracle of Mindfulness, references this point with the example of washing the dishes. “While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes” (p. 6). He goes on to point out there are two ways to wash the dishes. Wash the dishes to have a clean dish or wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes. If we are washing dishes and we are only thinking about the cup of tea we will have after the dishes are clean, then we hurry to get through washing the dishes as if the dishes are a nuisance. Thus, one is not washing the dishes to wash the dishes. Chances are the cup of tea will not be enjoyed either as your mind will be filled with other things barely aware of the cup of tea in your hands. We allow ourselves to get sucked away into the future and we are incapable of actually living. How often do we do this with our professional and personal life? When I finish this course, there will be more time. When we make it to summer, we can enjoy our time with friends. Dr. Mathews (the primary faculty I worked with) and I would often remind each other of the question: are we washing the dishes to wash the dishes or are we trying to get to the cup of tea?
Dr. Mathews and I took a large sheet of roll paper and used it to do our planning. We mapped out the program, by starting with what knowledge was expected from the graduate. We worked backwards from there and asked: if these are the skills, knowledge and information they should have, and this is what they should be able to do, how and where do they get that information? Dr. Mathew’s office has the same type of paper hanging on her wall. There are post-its and things written in different colors. Her plan for making a difference in deaf education is mapped out on this piece of paper (it included my visit). It made me realize we often do not know where we are headed or the steps to get there, because so many other things get in the way. Keller and Papasan (2013) talk about focusing on the one thing until it’s complete, because anything else is a distraction. “When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business” (Keller & Papasan, 2013, p. 32). It’s important to stop and decide what my one thing is right now. I received an email from Dr. Mathew’s the other day, and in it stated, “I am working on a grant. It’s my one thing.”
Dr. Mathews, having been a Fulbright Scholar herself, shared the challenges of going home after such an experience (because once the toothpaste is out of the tube—why would you ever attempt the struggle of trying to get it back in. However, your family, friends, and colleagues will have a difficult time adjusting to the new person you have become). From this knowledge, we came up with an IEP that has helped tremendously since I have been back. Recognizing, I do not need to move somewhere new, but can import the things I have learned. Taking time for myself, focusing on the things I am doing right now and making the most of each moment, knowing what I want the journey and destination to be, so I can best select my one thing at the right time.
Keller, G. W., & Papasan, J. (2013). The one thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. Austin, TX: Bard Press.
Ho, M. (1992). The miracle of mindfulness: An introduction to the practice of meditation. Boston, MA; Beacon Press.
After completing her Bachelor’s degree, Raschelle began working for the Head Start preschool program in Kansas City, Missouri. That experience gave her an opportunity to provide educational and community resources and supports to children and families with socioeconomic needs. Raschelle left Head Start to teach 1st grade in a neighboring school district. While teaching, she completed her Master’s degree in Deaf Education and began working on her Ph.D. Towards the final months of her doctoral program, Raschelle accepted a position as assistant professor at Barton College in Wilson, NC. There, she taught both Deaf and Special Education courses. Currently, Raschelle is the Master’s Program Director and an Associate Professor at Gallaudet University. She has taught at Gallaudet for six years. She has taught courses in the teaching deaf students with disabilities on-line certificate program, assessment courses, and curriculum.
In her free time, Raschelle enjoys spending time with her family and cheering at her children’s basketball games and swim meets.
“The mission of the doctoral program in special education at KU is to prepare civically-committed scholars who, through rigorous and relevant research and transformational interventions, address significant educational and social problems in ways that advance education, social policy, research, care giving and public service to enhance the quality of life of persons of all ages with (dis)abilities and their families.”
The doctoral program poses new challenges, experiences, and opportunities for students. The editors of Hawk Hopes asked the 2014-2015 cohort members to reflect on their first year in the program. Cohort members provided five words that described their experience as well as a short reflection of something memorable about the first year. Enjoy this inside look at the KU Special Education Doctoral Program. Good luck to the 2014-2015 Cohort as they enter their second year!
I would like to say how appreciative I am for the fantastic cohort that I was placed with. In an ever-more connected world, our challenge as a society is to recognize the meeting of difference as a rich opportunity to embrace rather than a barrier to overcome. I feel we’ve accomplished that as a cohort, with individuals of diverse culture, experience, knowledge and interest growing into something more than we otherwise would have had access to becoming on our own.
Challenging, delightful and eye-opening conversations, hanging out with cohort to discuss particular pieces for classes to raise diverse voices on that piece, broadening my horizons for the seeing the big picture of SPED, collaborating with not just with other students, but also with other professors in/outside of the field/country, and increasing the span of my challenge with myself everyday to make my current dreams my future reality. Everyday with this amazing cohort is a new adventure for new learning.
One of the most memorable experiences during my first year was the first dinner we had as a cohort. We were a very large group at the otherwise fairly empty Red Pepper Restaurant. Those who are from China ordered authentic dishes for us, and it was a delicious reminder of how many countries and cultures our cohort represents. However, more importantly, it was a night filled with laughter and bonding, and it was the first time I felt like I was a part of a community here. It was incredibly reassuring to realize that I had new friends to lean on and learn from, especially new friends from all over the world who could tell me and show me their unique backgrounds and perspectives. It was a great night, and the first of many times that I’ve felt the strong support our cohort has for each other, which has been particularly meaningful as we’ve all felt challenged and have grown this year. I am excited for more cohort gatherings and opportunities to learn and grow with each other!
The program has been so fulfilling and at the same time a challenge, in many senses. In this rollercoaster of emotions and knowledge, our cohort aimed to gain the necessary knowledge to be able to be the motivator of changes for a better inclusive and fair world. In this journey, we learn from each other, from all interactions and experiences. We teach, we cry, learn and we are reborn from it.
We are different, but we are alike in many ways. We are from different background while we hold a similar professional goal full of passion and ambition. We love what we have achieved and what we are pursuing in our career path. We believe we can take the lead in transforming the educational system worldwide.
My life in this past year has changed in so many ways that I don’t even recognize the girl who did not know what a conceptual framework was and now I cant talk to my mother without one! I also realized that this Ph.D. journey looks and feels different to many of us, in many ways we’ve made it our own walk toward the places we’ll go. And oh the places we’ll go! Finally, I recognize that the Ph.D. is only another beginning, not an end.
Gigi Zhe An
The first year experience is definitely unforgettable. I remembered re-reading my teaching statement at the end of the spring semester and wondering what I wrote several months ago! That was when I realized how much I have learned and what “positive reinforcement” means. Thank you very much to every faculty and every colleague, for giving me the “third space” to grow and keeping me motivated!
I greatly enjoy being part of this “Classroom of the World,” thanks in part to the United States, but primarily to the expansive and globally inclusive thinking of the KU Department of Special Education.
My first year experience definitely makes me not want to sleep, so much that I foraged the web for “what not to eat to stay awake”… and I learned that dark chocolate, which I thought would make a night owl out of me, in fact sets me off to my Zzzzz mode. Now, I know better, both about the dark chocolate and the need for a good sleep!
Reading widely is the key to quality and insightful thinking. Writing mmmmhhh, has just began…