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.