Crafting my own storytelling in the story of developing my story

Still in infancy… but worth telling

Caroline Kuhn H

Part 1:

Inspired by the idea of storytelling I read here

Dad, why do the circus’ roof has this strange shape? Dad, why are there different numbers of stars each night in the sky or sometimes none of them? Dad…and so it went over and over. He -my dad- was very patient, he tried always to find an answer that would satisfy my endless curiosity. And he did very often.

Being at my other house -with my mother- I had a homework to do: An illustration and some questions to answer about the circulatory system of our body. I was in 5th grade. I worked so hard! I was so excited to find out so many things that I had question myself sometimes. Of course, not in such a biological way; but I had put some questions -again to my daddy- about whys and hows of the body behaviour. I won a price at school and my work was showed all over the place. I was proud! And so my parents! And so my school years went on very smooth and exciting. I always was wondering myself about so many things and I felt very much satisfied in school because I found some interesting answers. Until I was 16 and you become some kind of a stranger for your self.

…in the meantime: -And what are you going to study when you get bigger Caroline? Medicine, I said. I was so convinced that I never changed my mind in my entire school time. So I did the proper to study it. It took me 2 attempts to get into the university (the details don’t make any difference and would made the story to long) The short version I was stubborn and rebel. After getting into the uni I got pregnant and left my studies; I could not afford two such important endeavours at the same time. I was also always eager about having family and kids, so I took this side of life and developed it intensely as I do all my stuff. In the mean time I decided to so some tutoring in math and chemistry which then just was math and enlarged the family until we became 5. Beautiful and wonderful kids with whom I had so much fun and joy! A very enriching period in my life.

But my mind never stopped to pop up like a popcorn and asked me questions over and over, so I started to think about going back into university. My father said: I new this moment would come. He said something similar at my wedding☺

I decided to enroll in the university to become a proper math teacher, and I did, not where I wanted, but where I could. Where the system was flexible enough for a mother of 3 children (4, 9 and 11) and a wife. I continue my studies at a higher level. I always wondered about how technology mediates cognitive processes. I did a good master thesis (honors) and left teaching in schools to enter in the university as a math teacher in a bridge course for disadvantage students (disadvantage because of the low quality of schools). In the mean time I was tinkering with technology in an online master program of the University of Barcelona. I wanted to experiment at first hand what it meant to learn through technology. I finished this master program also and I thought I was the happiest person in the world! I new almost everything ☺

But suddenly I was wanting to know even more about learning and technology. More than learning more I was willing to do more. I was driven by my desire to help disadvantage students in the learning of mathematics. Those same students that I taught in the bridge course where my students in the first level of math(which was not the first year of their careers but, a levelling course after the bridge one. Imagine how deficient their knowledge was!). My idea was to develop a virtual course to help them prepare for the next step, for the first math course as formal undergraduate. I understood my idea was almost impossible in a country as mine where no money is invested in research. The university was struggling to pay the subscription to online journals and much more. So I started to think in going abroad. Some opportunities came across but for one reason or another -mainly the kids- I couldn’t take them. But the idea never left my mind nor my soul.

Once while in bed, late at night, staring at myself, I felt profoundly frustrated and unhappy with my almost undoable desire to become a researcher -good qualified I mean- and develop a solution for those who where struggling so hard to become professional in order to move on from poverty to something a bit better. So I start to move my mind seriously to find my way somewhere else. I new my idea was good and that I had many more bubbling inside my head. And so I did. My 2 boys -19 and 21- where fine with their life, my daughter then 15, was still in the growing process. She was invited in my journey. So my first choice was Spain (because of the Spanish language). Three month before we where suppose to leave, she said to me: mom I am staying with my dad! I felt as if I would die. I was so desperate and unsure. I thought about my decision 20 years ago -of quitting my medicine studies- and realised that giving up was not a choice again neither then nor now. So I told her: I am going although you are staying. So with my heart broken in pieces but my inner voice saying to me that I must go for something better, I left.

3 month in Madrid. I was devastated. I just tried to survive and my research work was really pissed off, worth nothing. I was ashamed of the results and I even tried to hide them, not to show them. I new failure was the only possible result. I tried to escape this failure but it only brought me more failure. I had really a bad moment in life, not only with my intent to learn how to do research, also how to live with so much pain and longing for many things I left behind. I went through a storm but survived, with a broken canoe no paddles, completely wet and exhausted. But I was determined to keep on going. Slowly and with ache, but towards “something better”. Then I went to the Netherlands to a summer school I came across in the University in Madrid. It was in the Freudenthal Institute of Science and Math Education, there I felt like at home. I decided to speak to the director to see if he could offer me an opportunity after the summer school. He did. I had to write some ideas down which were still somehow faithful to the original ones I had in Caracas; he liked them very much and so he offered me a guest position with no salary but with a working place, which was for me at this time more than enough. I could not believe that this was happening to me: the director of the Freudenthal Institute gave me this opportunity. Believed in me and in my ideas. He said to me that there where powerful ideas as well as my conviction of willing to learn how to do research. So my journey began and I looked for research fundings as a PhD student. I had no experience in writing english, nor writing a formal research proposal at that level. I looked for help -a very nice colleague did- and lots of digital resources, so I made my self more proficient in reading and writing in the academic world.

I applied to 3 different opportunities and none of them worked out. In the mean time I had millions of ideas, read millions of papers and while reading the work of others I saw my own ideas written there. I slowly discovered that my ideas where good ones and that others had made it through with them. So I continued determined in my pursue of a place to learn how to become a researcher. I had again difficult times. I know see that I did not dare to open my ideas to the world. I was to shy and to inexpert also. I was scared about being criticised and that they weren’t good enough. I was scared of -I know it sounds wearied- perfect!! Yes! and that fear kept me inside the cave. Not all inside the cave. I needed to expose myself a bit in order to become a position in a university, but I always was scared of not having THE IDEA!!

I wrote a fairly good initial proposal where I had to put all the skills I had learned at the Freudenthal and something worthy the attention of my actual supervisors (I am lucky to have them) came to birth. So now I am in Bath Spa University, writing my final proposal, a more formal one and where the originality of my idea is showed in order that the panel is convinced that my idea is viable for a PhD study.

I am still struggling with my fears. I am having such a hard time with writing it. I can’t believe it. It is being so different than the first one…pufff!! Today while confronting myself with the struggle, urged because I have to bring this in this week, I was reading two things that made me realised that it is really the fear of failure that is blocking me. One was a twit of Prof. Keith Devlin about a commencement talk J.K. Rowling gave in 2008, where she said that FAILURE was one of the most important things in her life. And hearing her talk it became clear to me that I reject failure and it blocks me. It is very strange because I do devote my first 2 weeks of what ever course I am teaching, to build a safe place for students where they have the feeling that it is ok to make mistakes and that there is where we learn from. But you see…easier said than done. And the other piece of writing that striked me more was a text in Medium.com -yes here!- about product design, namely a working definition of product design.

It was in this text where I again saw my ideas written by a persona who I think is good in what he does -Keenan Cummings. And the difference maybe is that Keenan dares to puts his ideas in to the light. He maybe does it as deliberate exercise and he is an expert at it now?

I am still struggling with that!

Part 2…Coming soon.

I will talk about the idea that I am designing. There is a story behind almost every thing, we should tell it so later on time, when the product is ready, it becomes more than just a “useful thing”
There is a value in storytelling as Damian Madray says in his post

I have to finish my piece of writing for my proposal ☹

    ✿Caroline Kuhn H✿

    Written by

    Math teacher. PhD researcher @ Bath Spa University looking at student's agency in digital spaces. Committed to open education and open research (∞.∞)