Catching up with AL/TESOL Instructor Catherine Box

Catherine Box with her children

Catherine Box with her children

Last year we profiled AL/TESOL doctoral student and instructor Catherine Box (you can read it here). We decided to catch up and see what’s new in her life.

How has the last year been?

In a word, ‘busy.’ I would write more, but I’m too busy.

How is your research/dissertation coming?

Surprisingly well, thanks to my advisor, Hansun Waring, who has such a kind way of scaring her students that we would never think of not adhering to her rigorous schedule. Also, my friend (first) and cohort member (second), Lauren Carpenter, has assisted me in collecting data, as has a TESOL treasure, John Balbi. Clearly, I am not doing this alone– that would be impossible.

How has it been juggling life as an instructor and as a student?

There are two unexpected benefits about being a mother. One is that you can multi-task. Another is that you learn to operate on very little sleep. These have both come in handy as I try to teach three courses while writing a dissertation. It also helps that I can’t think of anything I’d like to do more on a Tuesday or Thursday then work with budding ESL/EFL teachers and applied linguists. My doctoral cohort is filled with people so much smarter than I am, so I get to soak up some brilliance on Wednesdays.

Also, since my kids already humble me every day, I don’t worry when I walk out of the house wearing mismatched socks. My daughter just figured out that I am not going to be ‘a real doctor’ when I graduate, so perhaps this juggling is for naught. On the other hand, my son is excited, because maybe, just maybe, I will ‘learn to be a rock star teacher’ like his Kindergarten teacher, Mr. Derek. I doubt I can ever be that good, but it gives me something to shoot for! In all seriousness, having my children in wonderful schools with outstanding teachers has made this easier. I don’t have to worry about them during the day (shout out to Speyer Legacy School and PS 166– thanks for inspiring my kiddos to be lifelong learners and dream-chasers) Also, my better half patiently puts up with me talking about linguistics at 11 o’clock on a Friday night, which is quite helpful. Oh yes, and he is an amazing cook so I eat very well.

What are your hopes/goals for the coming year?

I used to have these fantastic plans, but none of them have ever worked out. If they had, I would be a poet in Paris right now. Yet I’m right where I want to be, even though I’m not quite sure how I got here. Therefore, I have stopped setting goals, other than to work with the contingencies that are sure to come up in my life with as much honesty and integrity as I can muster. I believe, though, that my goal sheet for Hansun promises that I will do my analysis chapters this year, so I better get on that ASAP.

As for hopes, that’s another story– I have lots of those. I hope I can continue to find joy in teaching and learning. I hope that the backlash against the overuse of tests in education continues to grow. I hope that we will begin to value our teachers as the dedicated, smart, capable people they are, deserving of so much more than we give them. As a teacher educator, I hope to continue to build relationships with teachers in the field as we train the next generation of teachers, bridging the gap between theory and practice. I also hope to read James Joyce’s Ulysses again– it’s been too long.

Have you actually read – cover to cover – Joyce’s Ulysses? Is that your favorite book?

yes i say yes i did. And yes it is.

How many times have you read it?

Three times. More if you don’t count cover to cover.

If you had a podcast what would it be called?

Thinking: Inside the Box  (colon is optional)

2016 is an election year. Any early endorsements?

I voted Republican in the first election in which I participated. I have not since, and I doubt I ever will again, but I can’t really say more than that. The only person I consult with on such matters is my Dad, since he is extremely active politically. He gives me the inside track on who is the best candidate to vote for with political strategy in mind. So far, he’s keeping mum.

Given all of your experience – you’ve seen/experienced TC through multiple lenses – what advice would you give prospective doctoral students?

Do not isolate yourself– if you have a cohort, stick with them. Nothing is worse than trying to figure out how the hell to pass statistics alone. When you start your studies, you are going to worry about measuring up to everyone else. The good news is that if you feel like the dumbest person in the room during one of your doctoral seminars or classes, you can get excited about that because you are going to learn a lot. Fortunately, there is room for all of us in education, and you surely have an area of expertise that no one else has.

Finally, if you have any questions at all about TC, ask the security guards. They know everything there is to know about TC and are some of the most insightful and friendly people on campus.

Any words of wisdom of advice for the 2015 grads?

Advice for the grads:  Explore nuance, in both your professional and personal lives. Related to that, be wary of binary oppositions, because I can’t think of anything interesting that can be boiled down to a zero-sum game.

Also, buy comfortable shoes. Memory foam is worth the extra cost, especially if you are standing in front of a class for hours on end or walking around a campus. When you are young, you won’t feel it, but your knees and lower back will pay later.

Any advice for TC?

Advice for TC:  For the love of all things on earth, PLEASE TURN DOWN THE HEAT when the cold hits.