…and so I begin my MARA journey

I started teaching at South High School in 1999. I love my job and hate it at the same time. I love sequencing information. I love writing my own curriculum and course material. I am well-liked by students at school and I work well with vulnerable student populations. I hate it because I am impulsive and speak my mind – often inappropriately.

I had finished my student teaching and graduated from the University of MN, Twin Cities with an Art Education degree plus a K-12 Art Teacher license in 1989. There was a long gap between graduating with a degree and becoming a teacher because of a life changing event. The last 6 weeks of my student teaching, I was so sick – like 104° temperature sick all day. It was such a struggle. I was unprepared and very unmotivated. So, the first Monday after finishing my student teaching, I dragged myself downstairs and announced that I was going to see the clinic at the University to see “if I was dying.”

Well, turns out I was. I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was told, it is very curable – 98% survivability. I was still scared – but I followed my doctor’s directions. I went through 6 months of chemotherapy followed by 3 months of radiation and was pronounced “cured”. I started teaching as a substitute teacher. By spring, I was ready to leave teaching for good. I hated it – I was not even an adequate substitute teacher. I quit my job and fell back on my trade: Tailoring.

Then, I lost my voice. And I couldn’t swallow. And I knew something was wrong, but like a lot of people, I tried to pretend there was nothing to worry about. But I knew there was a tumor in my neck. I felt it at night as I fell asleep. I could *see* it when I looked in the mirror. Eventually, the inability to read books out loud to my children made me act. We were four chapters into Watership Down. I put the book down gently on my lap and told them that I couldn’t read anymore – it was too hard to speak.

I went to see the doctor again – and of course – the cancer had come back. A tumor grew in my neck through my esophagus, paralyzing a vocal chord. The outlook was grim. Hodgkin’s Disease that recurs has a 30% survival rate. My doctors suggested a Bone Marrow Transplant would improve my odds of survival to 50%. Since the cancer was not in my marrow, I could be my own donor.

Three months of chemotherapy to prepare me for the procedure shrinking my body from 120 to 95 pounds. They scheduled my transplant date for my birthday – I begged them to put it off for one day – they accommodated my request. I was only 30 years old. I was a single parent (divorced) with 3 children, ages 6, 10 and 11. It was hard to say goodbye to each of them – I knew that I might not survive the procedure.

Well, you know how this ends – I survived – or else I wouldn’t be here.

After my brush with death, I moved into the printing industry, because my immune system was not up to being a teacher. I kept renewing my teaching license and eventually was accepted into the candidate pool for Minneapolis Public Schools. I was hired as an Art Teacher for a position that required a vocational license – so I quickly qualified myself for the position, using my experience in the printing industry.

Why MARA? Good question! I have a great answer, I am sure anyone who is drawn to the field of archival record management must have an interesting story. I cannot wait to hear those stories.

My story starts with my Asperger’s Diagnosis. I have been blogging about how Asperger’s is me at The Aspergian. After learning about Asperger’s and how it explains all my discomfort with social situations I realized teaching was not the best profession for me. I am a great teacher – I just suffer from oppressive anxiety. Asperger’s made sense as to why I was a great on-line teacher – even though I sit in the room with the students that take my classes! I had found a coping strategy years before my diagnosis. There are many other successful adults with undiagnosed Asperger’s – but knowing makes it easier for to be a better fellow human.

MARA stemmed from my diagnosis with Asperger’s and discussions with my therapist. I talked about what I did best, and what I enjoy the most. I wrote about this in my forum post.

My Asperger’s diagnosis compelled me to think of what my ideal job would look like. It would be related to Best Practices in Immersive Education. It would involve repetitive tasks involving raw data and data analysis. It would require creative organizational skills to construct relational database schema for archiving digital-born student data/records/activity created in a virtual classroom setting (as opposed to a CMS). Oh – and I could sit alone, in a dark quiet room!

I researched lots of ideas relating to data and teaching. I even interviewed at a few schools, only to reject them as not what I was looking for. I found San Jose State University in the spring of 2010. I waited anxiously until I could apply in the fall. Then waited the year until I could begin.

Here I am! So happy! So happy to meet you all!

-Susan

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About Susan Wolfe

In the midst of a career change, moving from educator to codifier of knowledge. I desire to be a technical writer - transferring knowledge through the written word. I received my Master's of Archives & Records Administration from San Jose State University. My research focus was developing strategies enabling effective the capture of tacit and implicit knowledge from Communities of Practice (Professional Learning Communities) so that it can be can be collected and codified. I exist in the real world and online soaking up Best Practices for Knowledge Management and Immersive Education. Specialties Knowledge Management [KM]: Communities of Practice, Digital Asset Management [DAM], Project Management. Content Management Systems [CMS]: Moodle, WordPress, Drupal, Blogger, Open Wonderland, MOOCs STEM Education [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math]: Career and Technical Education [CTE], Instructional Design, Immersive Education, Graphic Design, Digital Photography
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