If you follow me regularly, you’ll know that I’ve recently been conflicted about whether to focus my non-school related energy on pursuing an Ed.D. or focusing on my writing. You may also remember, I’ve got all the Ph.D. courses necessary for a Ph.D. in Education or Library and Information Science, but I left the path to the ivory tower because of a lack of support.
The little voice in me finally started to speak; actually, she screamed during this #BoycottToSiri saga that’s been going on lately.
The little voice that is me had already been complaining considerably while I was writing my paper to end the semester. I knocked the thing out pretty quickly and it’s fine; it answered my questions, and I did okay. But I hated every minute of writing that academic paper.
Here’s what I learned about myself.
Being Authentically Catholic
I enjoyed reading the Catholic schools history textbook, and would have enjoyed reading at least one other that I had around here already that talked about the decline of urban Catholic schools. The reading wasn’t the issue. I found myself dialoguing with academics in my head, as I’d always done. So, if the reading was okay, why was I hating doing this? The writing? Well, the writing is easy, too. I mean, it’s tedious to lay pathways for neurotypicals who can’t make cognitive leaps like we Autistics can, but it’s doable. So, if I didn’t hate writing or reading, what was the issue?
I think it was the content of what I read that was the problem.
If you know anything about the history of Catholic education in the United States, it goes roughly like this: public schools are a great idea, but if you could kindly stop telling us to take our religion and turn it into a “generic Protestant” faith, we’d love it. Oh, and if you could also stop telling us to stop being too (German, Irish, Italian, Czech, Polish, Mexican, etc.), we’d love that, too. The whole purpose of Catholic education has always been to invite the establishment to, well, shove it. We do this not because education is bad, but because teaching a child to hate him or herself because of his or her identity is bad. As I was reading school history again, it was dawning on me that my ancestors in Catholic education were regularly inviting the powers that be in this nation to go eff themselves by simply being themselves.
So, why exactly, do I have to get the “real degree” of Ed.D. or Ph.D. to find value in myself?
Why do I need a superintendent license? What’s exactly the point of that when, as a Catholic school principal, I’m already a principal-superintendent hybrid. Why do I need to learn again about the values of public education when I’ve turned my back on that whole enterprise not because I believe public schools are inherently bad, but because I know they can so often teach us to hate ourselves. And sometimes the “us” is Catholics, but in my school, the “us” is also Autistics and other Disabled students. I know public schools can get better; strike that, I hope they can get better. But for now, I’m working on improving things for the kids right in front of me and their families. They cannot wait for things to get better. If I use all of my energy working on academic stuff like papers and talking about public education, I’m not focusing on Catholic education, specifically, the Catholic education in my very own school.
Why do I need paperwork or a credential from the very people who run public education in my state to say I’m good enough?
I do not recognize their authority except for the very limited provisions found in law in my state.
I stand in solidarity with those rebellious teaching sisters who came before me to teach poor immigrants often in their native languages to keep their languages, cultures, and religion alive. In my case, I hope to keep Autistic culture alive, now that we’re discovering what that might be, as well.
Called to Write Another Way
And beyond all this, of course, I realized that I am called to write, but not stodgy academic-ese that no one important really reads anyway.
I write for myself and my fellow Autistics (and those interested in hearing about Autism in lived experiences) on this blog, and I want to start work on the second novel. If there’s anything this #BoycottToSiri thing taught us, it’s that my voice needs to be out there more and more and I need to improve my craft until I can represent Autistics in the world through my fiction and blogging voice. Maybe I’ll write non-fiction, too, but it’ll definitely be in a voice that everyday people can access.
To do this, I need time, and I can’t afford to be distracted by playing at someone else’s game about how to be successful in academia. Further, I can’t pretend my calling is in academia anyway. I may have to give up ever being “Dr. Nicole,” but that’s okay, because that title isn’t meant for me. I take as much honor in my parish community, where my name is just as often “maestra” or “directora”(Have I mentioned my parish is bilingual?) as it is anything else.
Nearly two years completed as living my life Autistically, and I think I’ve finally burned through the rule that higher education is inherently important and that I’ve failed if I haven’t earned the ultimate prize. I have all of you other Autistics out there to thank for this moment, because you’ve been teaching me that I can be me, and I don’t have to play by anyone else’s rules.
Becoming authentically me I hope will make me a better teacher, administrator, writer, mother, wife, and all the other things that I am.
Goodbye forever, ivory tower.