holly's timeline

Holly was a full-time teacher in a religious-affiliated school and single mother with pre-school age children. She began her PhD in a local university in North America to get her ‘brain back,’ while continuing to work full-time to make ends meet. In 2006 when she began to participate in the Canadian research program, she was working on her dissertation. She hoped for a teaching-only university position afterwards. She graduated when she was in her mid-to-late-30s. By the study’s end her probationary appointment had become permanent and she was confident about her identity as an academic.

What struck us about Holly’s story was: 

Being a single parent and re-locating with family. 

Financial issues during the degree and managing teaching responsibilities in her post. 

Choosing a teaching career during degree and dealing with lack of career development structure in her position. 

 

PhD

Year 4

PhD

Year 5

Post-PhD

 

Year 1

Post-PhD

 

Year 2

Post-PhD

 

Year 3

Post-PhD

Year 4

Post-PhD

Year 5

 

PhD

Year 4

A working, single parent with 3 children plus PhD study was ‘just too much;’ overwhelmed and anxious much of the time.

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Teaching to make ends meet; but being a mother took priority.

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Writing at 11 pm whilst falling asleep.

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Supervisor very supportive and writing rewarding, when she had time.

Hard to write dissertation due to time given to teaching.

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Job hunting near end of PhD; putting together job applications incredibly time consuming.

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Got job interview; it meant someone thought her work worthwhile.

 

PhD

Year 5

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Writing thesis changed how she understood the world; shift from religious upbringing (i.e. truth as absolute) to values of scholarly community (i.e. truth relative).

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No longer influenced by religious upbringing; did not want children to grow up the way she had.

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Completed degree.

Offered three-year teaching contract in other higher education jurisdiction.

 

Post-PhD

Year 1

Sold house and moved with children; was it the right choice? All went well, but it could have been hard.

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Worked to fit  in with new colleagues.

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Teaching frustrating;  1st year students had little engagement in learning.

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Saw teaching at a non-research institution as a lifestyle choice; wondered ‘Am I doing the right thing?’.

Re-married.

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Post-PhD

Year 2

New partner and children settled; left work at 5pm every day to be with them.

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Enjoyed her position; felt comfortable and respected.

Comfortable in a position with no research expectations; might feel different in the future.

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Initiated research with colleagues around teaching and learning; but hard to sustain alongside teaching.

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Decided not to push herself so hard;  had a sense of having ‘arrived finally’.

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Took 2nd year students to Latin America;  student experience went viral; students lined up to go next year.

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Post-PhD

Year 3

Moved house in same city; more settled in personal life, which carried over to workplace.

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Teaching 1st year classes left her in tears of frustration at students’ lack of motivation; felt like giving up.

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Published PhD dissertation: very validating.

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Completed 3-year probation period; thereafter contract renewed yearly.

 

Post-PhD

Year 4

Very much enjoyed small town atmosphere; happy that children had adjusted so well.

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Had epiphany; accepted students as they were; dramatically improved her teaching evaluations.

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No room for advancement or career development or doing new and different things  .

 

Post-PhD

Year 5

More balanced at home; sense of wellbeing increased and carried over into workplace.

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Stopped doing so many ‘extra’ things – devoted her time to teaching.

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A bit ‘stuck’ but not willing to move family;  to stay motivated, invested in what she enjoyed, like Latin American project.

 

What struck us

Single parent.

Re-locating with family.

Financial responsibility during degree.

Managing teaching responsibilities.

Clear teaching career intentions during degree.

Dealing with lack of career advancement.

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Researcher Identity Development (2017). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License