I have the best job in the world (for me). I get to read, write, mentor young people, and contribute to science each day. I get to do this for the most part with the freedom to read and write when I want and where I want, and to travel to conferences and research sites throughout the year. I visited Austria, China, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Taiwan, Turkey, and the US this year. I presented my research to international audiences who asked thought-provoking questions. I published papers in high-impact journals. I won research funding; and I learned a great deal from my colleagues, students, and those who participated in my research. I am tremendously lucky.
When I accepted my tenure-track (TT) job in December 2017 it was in part the culmination of five years of doctoral and postdoctoral work, and 10 years of publishing. I had completed my PhD (which I began with a TT job in mind), finished my postdoc, and published relentlessly. Yet I still knew that such jobs are increasingly rare.
As a school maths teacher, one of my favourite topics is the Venn diagram. Imagine a Venn diagram with one circle representing the set of Cambridge University Doctorate students, another circle of the viewers of the BBC quiz show University Challenge and a final circle for fans of my new BBC TV programme Monkman & Seagull’s Genius Guide To Britain.
With my dissertation officially submitted and my graduation ceremony approaching in a few short weeks, now is an opportune moment for me to step back and reflect on my past year at Cambridge, during which I pursued a Master of Philosophy in Education,
Relationships matter. This mantra guided my work as a secondary classroom teacher in the United States. I entered my classroom each day knowing that quality teaching and learning only happens when quality relationships exist between teachers and students.
Walking yourself to physical and mental health has become a thing, but like the Knight in Alice in Wonderland, I claim: “It’s my own invention!” At least when it comes to walking supervisions. Some of my former students, as far back as seven-eight years, may remember moments when, after a long and frustrating session in my hot, dark office I suggested going for a walk.
As my country, the United Arab Emirates, celebrates its second-ever Emirati Women’s Day (August 28 2018), I wanted to share some personal reflections about being a single mother navigating the PhD experience here at Cambridge.