Count Your Hearts & Remember to Say Thank You by Timara McCollum

Timara McCollum
Timara McCollum

Hello, my name is Timara McCollum, and I am a first-year PhD student in Educational Psychology & Counseling, with a concentration in Evaluation, Statistics, & Measurement at the University of TN Knoxville.  I am also heading towards my 4th year in motherhood academy. My eldest daughter will be four soon, and we will welcome our baby boy this summer!

I wanted to take a moment from balancing my daily intake of tweets, webinars, data-vizzing, meal planning, doll-playing…napping/fighting napping… (thanking goodness she’s potty-trained) …to write a few lessons learned from a first year to fellow parents pursuing PhDs and/or emerging evaluators.

Lessons learned:

  1. Say thank you. Say thank you to your child(ren). They are also making a sacrifice and contribution to your doctorate degree.  Just this morning, our daughter helped me count the hearts in my data visualization that I was creating for Stephanie Evergreen’s #heartchart challenge. The tradeoff was a game of Feed the Woozle. The trade was worth it to see her smile and light up with affirmation. It also gave her a first glimpse of statistics before she can tie her shoes.
Top 2 Chocolate Box favorites spectrum diagram
  • Say thank you. Say thank you to your support network.  Whether it is your spouse, significant other, your parent(s), your cohort, your boss, your small group, your drinking buddies, your fur-babies, your neighbor, whoever it may be that is now reminding you of your purpose or helping take the trash down to the curb.  Saying, “thank you,” is so much more meaningful than saying “I’m sorry,” or, “Not right now.”  It doesn’t mean you say yes to everything, but it does acknowledge the significant role they play as you make adjustments to your increasingly crunched schedule and stretched mind-space.
  • Say thank you. Say thank you to the new mentors you recruit to inspire you along the way. They don’t fall from trees or suddenly appear out of nowhere to provide you with glass slippers to wear to the ball. But they do make adjustments to their own schedules, miss time with their families, and share research agendas with you to help you become the best evaluator you can be. 
  • Say thank you. Say thank you to the people that motivated you (with all the good, bad, and ugly) to take a step out of your usual and pursue your doctorate.  It’s also a little more than slightly satisfying to imagine meeting them at the grocery store and remind them of that time when they knew you when _______.
  • Say thank you. Say thank you to yourself for making this amazingly intimidating, but utterly necessary commitment against all odds to attain your dream and pursue your life’s work.  You did it.  You took the first step, and you can keep taking one step at a time for the next 2…3…4 years until you cross that stage.

And all those people you took the time to say, “thank you,” they will be there too.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “Count Your Hearts & Remember to Say Thank You by Timara McCollum”

  1. Hi Timara,
    Your post was “just what the doctor ordered,” meaning you (almost). I’m just hoping it also fits my professor’s prescription as well.
    My name is Kevin. I’m an elementary school teacher and a Master’s student at Queen’s University. I am married and we have two seniors in high school. Life is busy, but we’re long past the “napping/fighting/napping” stage.
    My current course on Program Evaluation is winding down. One smaller assignment was to respond to an article of our choosing from AEA. Word on the street was this assignment was easy-peasy! The thing is, my colleague and I are committed to avoid “hoop jumping” as much as possible through completion of our degree. That is, we commit to working with integrity to value each assignment (even the easy peasies) to get the most out of this program.
    After attempting a dozen or so searches using the most relevant keywords I could think of…roadblock. But I persevered. Your article was buried deep on the hit list, and normally a title like yours amidst a sea of more “academic-sounding” bits would not jump out…but I clicked…

    It’s Sunday and the whole fam’s home. I will say thank you to our kids. Amidst their own busy online-school schedules and jobs, they’re finding the time to help me with a music project and ensure peace and quiet (what’s that, I hear you ask) when I need to work on my courses.
    I will thank my wife for prioritizing my need for “mind-space” during this program. With every phase of life, adjustments need to happen to schedules and priorities. It’s sure a lot easier when your spouse is on the same page as you!
    Your section on mentors made me pause to consider who (outside my family) has adjusted their own schedule to accommodate my needs? I started a list and I’m sure it will grow over the next few days. I will thank them.
    I will thank the main two people who have encouraged me to commit to starting my Master’s.
    Yes, I will thank myself for continuing to “get ‘er done.”
    Finally, thank you, Timara, for posting this article. Your message has been received and you were the spark for the many conversations of appreciation that are about to happen. All the best with your own studies, with motherhood, and with the plethora of tweets, webinars, data-vizzing, meal prep, and doll playing.
    And here’s to hoping my professor will approve of my choice of articles. As long as he remembers telling us all to “please make sure you are eating properly, getting some exercise in, and taking time to be with your families. These are very important but are oftentimes overlooked”, I should be fine!
    -Kevin

  2. Timara,

    Your post resonated with me on a spiritual level. I am a first time parent with an almost 3 year old son. I am currently working towards completing my undergraduate degree, however I do have hopes of soon after pursuing my masters and it has been hard juggling the two worlds. I do try to mind myself to thank my son daily for being patient with me, while I delay lunch, miss out on outdoor play time, and lock myself in to bedroom so I can finish an assignment without loosing my place. Both of these entities (motherhood and academics) require lots of attention and juggling the two has pushed me to plan ahead. I do not mean to equate the work you are doing on your PhD to my bachelors however, motherhood is demanding regardless of the other roles you take on. With universities and workplaces closed for business during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all adjusting to working from home and for that we should say thank you to your significant others and other family members supporting you through this time. I think remembering to thank yourself for going on this journey is something most tend to forget but it is important to remember to be kind to yourself during this period as well.
    Wishing you well.

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