How I’m Spending My Fall, 2017

Autumn is coming

I’ll be spending my fall, in short, doing even more work.

In my previous post, I wrote about my non-summer.

That is to say, about how, despite having spent all of August away in Nova Scotia, the province of my birth, I passed the duration of it performing three different forms of work in what made for a month’s worth of gruelling 18-hour-days.

And now fall, which is already a busy time for most people – myself included – is upon us.

And I’ve even more work to do.

I don’t really mind this, despite the fact that I’ve essentially had no vacation at all this year.  I actually quite like working, like being busy.

Indeed, an old manager once called me “task-focused”.

Admittedly, she meant this this as code for “not overly sociable”, at least in part.

Still, I identify with the sentiment in its literal interpretation.  I enjoy having things to do – having tasks on my plate – especially those that are simultaneously ongoing, with lots of interim steps, yet are still discrete undertakings with a clear start, middle, and conclusion.

Here are the three big tasks I’ll be tackling this fall, all of which share a common theme of “evaluation”:

1) Volunteer evaluation initiative

I’ve written before about my interest in the field of program evaluation, an area I stumbled into unsuspectingly seven years ago when I started my current job and inherited the evaluation portfolio from my predecessor.

Since I knew little about this field at the time, I made a point of doing what I could to remedy this: books, webinars, consulting with experts in the field who are connected to my organization, even taking a four-day continuing education course back in 2014.

Last year, taking my lead from my old manager’s tacit criticism, I joined a professional networking group for new and emerging evaluators.  This group was open to current evaluation students, prospective evaluation students, and neophytes who do any kind of evaluation as part of their job.  I went out to a few of their events and surprised myself at I how much I enjoyed them.

This past spring, the group leaders announced they were launching a new pro-D initiative in partnership with a number of community organizations interested in developing their evaluation capacity.

Each organization would be matched with a team of new/emerging evaluators who would do volunteer evaluation for them.  In turn, the novice evaluators would be matched with a evaluation professional to serve as their mentor and point of reference.

When this initiative was announced, I jumped at the chance to participate.  Not only will it give me the chance to gain hands-on experience in this growing field; not only will it grant me unlimited access to a pro evaluator for the duration of the project and perhaps beyond; not only will it allow me to make a contribution to the community through the initiative being cost free for the organization in question.

It will also look great on my resume, the updating of which is related to another task I’ll be working on this fall.

2) Applying for an evaluation degree

I’ve always enjoyed learning new things and studying subjects in depth to gain a deeper understanding.  What, after all, could be more task-focused than that?

Of the few courses and self-study I’ve done in program evaluation, rather than satisfy me in my ability to now adequately perform the associated duties of my job, they’ve made me aware of how very little I still know about this discipline.

And they’ve made me want to know more.

There is a Master’s program at one of the local universities called Measurement, Evaluation, and Research Methods that sounds appealing.  This program is within the Faculty of Education, which, since I currently work in an education-related field, further seems like a good fit.

Surprisingly, the application process for this program is not particularly involved.  No essay and no GRE required.

For those who have been out of school for some time (as I have), they want only your resume or CV, and three professional references (which I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to manage, despite my being “task-focused”).  No doubt there is some form of application fee as well.

The application period actually starts today and ends at the beginning of December, so fingers crossed and I’ll be sure to report back on the outcome.

3) Evaluation of my WIP by my nascent critique group

Sticky notes of chapter numbers for draft 2 (completed) and draft 3 (almost there!)

I’ve mentioned a few times the group of other writers I’ve assembled/am still in the process of assembling in order to work through the final draft(s) of my WIP and get it ready for submission.

The formation of this group (which I’ll write about in more detail in a future post, as promised) has proven more involved than I originally anticipated.

Much of this is owing to my own idiosyncrasies about collaboration and accommodation in groups rather than mainstream hierarchical power structures.

I took more time than was strictly necessary waiting out long communication delays.  Also, instead of unilaterally populating the group with the people I personally liked best, I wanted each prospective group members to meet each other one-on-one and sample each other’s writing before confirming the group roster.

Which likewise took frickin’ forever.

Another reason for my indulgence in all this was because I had time for it.  I was still wanting to complete a whole other draft of my WIP, and I hadn’t even started it yet.

But then the summer of never-ending work happened.  I powered through much of this new draft over the month of August.

Now, with only three chapters left to complete and September well upon us, I’m ready to get this group going now.  I will be the bossypants leader this group needs if that’s what it takes to actually get this thing off the ground.

My first decree: our first meeting, which will be during either the last week of this month or the first week of October.

What projects do you have lined up for the fall?  Are you “task-focused”?  Let me know in the comments.

(Image source #2; #1 and #3 – J.G. Noelle)

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