Working hard.

I aspire to being a leader in the field of mathematics education. To pursuing excellence and shaping the direction of our future generations of students, teachers, and other educational leaders. In some ways, I struggle in understanding how the greats got to be where they are. I’ve been collecting quotes from movies and songs that help me to better understand how to reach that goal. For example,

  • Harry Potter: [to the D.A. members] Working hard is important, but there’s something that matters even more. Believing in yourself. Think of it this way: Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than we are now. Students. If they can do it, why not us?

Harry inspires his peers to keep practicing magic in the face of resistance and acknowledges the state of being a novice as a temporary place, a starting place, a launching pad, that over time and practice and hard work can (and will) build into something greater.

  • Macklemore (and Ryan Lewis): The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great because they paint a lot.

From rapgenius.com, we learn that this mantra about greatness is based on Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, in which the 10,000-hour rule is key to success in any field.

At one point I believed that by completing my dissertation that I had achieved the 10,000-hours rule, that I had developed some specialty and expertise in a particular area, and had some strengths to share with the field. That idea has been challenged and beaten down to the point that I am just starting to see and understand, that really that training meant something else. My colleagues, Dung Tran, helped me to understand that the dissertation and the graduate school training is more about developing a skill set to ask questions and to search out answers to unknown questions in a methodologically rigorous way.

For me, I’ve been reflecting on the mind-set required to complete the dissertation. It required persistence, determination, the will to aspire, to set my own deadlines. That practice could be viewed as an exercise of, “Does she have what it takes to perform similarly in new and more challenging situations in the future?” “What will she do when confronted with difficult situations? Will she shrink back and retreat? Will she stand up to the challenge and persevere? Will she work hard to find a creative answer?” It all comes back to working hard. If I use the building a house metaphor that Karen King mentioned to a small group at the 2014 NCTM Research Conference, my dissertation might be the outline of a foundation of research, of a career. I am just now laying down (and possibly breaking them along the way), bricks and mortar that can be used to strengthen and stand on in future endeavors.

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