I told my students I was anxious.

I told them how I was learning to give grace.

I told them I make mistakes.

I told them I am from the south.

I told them “ain’t no” “we ain’t” and “y’all got” on unfiltered occasions.

I told them context and culture shape us.

I told them we are a product of our influences.

I told them to be storytellers with me.

And when my voice quieted..

I heard reflection.

I heard colorblindness corrected

I heard questions worth answering.

I heard silence worth responding to.

I heard virtual strangers connect about a

unnamed cafe on a street in New York.

I heard laughter.

I heard groups from Michigan.

I heard confusion.

I heard groups of connection.

I heard learning.

When it was my turn to share again

I told them how the brain makes shortcuts to make sense of our world.

I told them how it likes to forget.

I told them how it looks to compromise.

I told them how it likes to ignore.

I told them how it likes reduce complexities.

I told them a story about each of our lives and learning processes being different.

I told them a story about a woman.

Black. Beautiful.

I told them her name is Breonna.

I told them her story influences mine.

I told them her story is barely different than mine.

I told them to imagine be an educator today, during:

A viral pandemic

A racial pandemic

An election

In a new environment

With students who’s skin is closer to blue than black.

Today, I told about stories about culture, context and cognitive bias today.

The content taught itself.

*Inspired after facilitating my first synchronous Zoom session of the semester, today.

** Alexis Franklin drew this portrait of Breonna Taylor forOprah magazine. Courtesy ofOprah magazine.

Every time an application or presentation requires a bio, I struggle. Whenever I have to do a quick introduction for an informal meet up, I feel panicked. 

For me, writing a simple bio begs me to be transparent yet dynamic about who I am, what I do and why I do it. For me, a bio, or a “detailed description of a person’s life experiences” is a deeply intricate representation of how I want a person to see me — but a portrait of how I see myself more importantly.

Let’s take the bio I wrote for my SciGirl’s presentation: 

Briana Green is a second year graduate student at Michigan State University, pursuing a PhD in Educational Psychology Educational Technology. Briana's research interests focus on 1) how Black youth are making meaning of their early STEM experiences and 2) supports for students' STEM identity and motivation towards STEM careers. Briana enjoys learning with Black youth and has several experiences designing and implementing engineering activities for students, leading camps and workshops with Black and Latinx youth, and working with teachers, parents and community organizations to support the education and motivation of local youth. Briana is also born and raised in eastern North Carolina and expresses herself through creative writing, supporting others’ goals and socializing with friends. 

Sure this is who I am.. but is it who I really am, or all that I am? 

My issue with this bio and the unconscious way that I have begun to self-define is that it is limited to work and academia and does not represent my LIFE experiences. 

When it came to writing the Artistic Bios section of our poem book, The Playlist, earlier this year, me and my co-author STRUGGLED to write our individual bios. Being that I write academic bios more regularly, I felt disappointed that many of the bios I scrapped focused on being a student or researcher and included tooooooo much formal jargon. 

Frustrated, I called a kindred spirit, someone who knows me as a woman, scholar and friend to help describe myself. Within a few moments she came to:

“A life-long learner and explorer of self. She writes as an act of exploration, safety and creativity. She continues to utilize all of her God-given talents to connect with people and make sense of herself and the world around her."

I absolutely love this bio. I love its simplicity. How it reads like a breath of fresh air. How it allows the mind to wonder all of my God-given gifts. How it portrays that I am constantly seeing the world as the ultimate teacher and me and my experiences as the ultimate student.

In reality writing a bio is equal parts about authenticity as well as knowing your audience. How much do I want them to know? How much is pertinent to know? What can I say clearly and confidently? 

While this post was not intended to help you write your next bio, I hope this inspired you to think about what you put in your next bio. 

3 Tips for Executing Summer Goals

The onerous thing about research (and much of our work) is that it never stops.. The silver lining in that, is you can always improve how to realistically get work done.  

In that light, here I outlined a short post about productivity. I wanted to share how I am planning, managing time and holding myself accountable this summer as I strive towards the goals listed in my The Annual Review post. 

First things first, I am a procrastinator but I love to plan. I ruminate on a task for days when it will only take me 30 minutes in real life. I brainstorm ideas in my head for weeks, then give myself 3 days to write a thesis, book chapter and poetry book lol. I’m exaggerating; but, this isn’t too far fetched.

The first tip is to utilize Google Sheets. 

Here is an example (and screenshot) of how I broke my semester tasks down into weekly, then daily goals. 

For me this was a way to break down projects or assignments with longstanding due dates into realistic, manageable tasks on a daily basis. The 'working date' column served as my daily to-do list and the 'notes' column was handy for specific links, guidelines or instructions or place to simply leave a few comments about the task.

In my opinion, its easy to sit with my syllabus, input due dates and “reverse engineer” how the task will get done. For me, it was a step closer to also outlining ALL the baby tasks that make up writing a literature review. Think about all the smaller tasks:

  • A day in online libraries and databases.

  • A day reading through abstracts. 

  • A couple days actually reading articles. 

  • The time it takes to annotate or write notes on a paper. 

  • Organizing the thoughts. 

In my experience in academia I found it extremely hard to be realistic about how long it takes (minutes, hours) to complete a task. How long does it actually take you to read a journal article? How long does it actually take you to run that SEM model? How long does it actually take you to code that video? The Google Spreadsheet was helpful in helping me prioritize those small tasks.

The second tip is to try a timer system like Toggl

Toggl has been invaluable to my time management and productivity. Toggl is an online timer platform that allows you to create folders for your different projects. For my obligations as a research assistant, I can pinpoint how long it takes to enter data, to pull video excerpts or to code a video. For my tasks as an instructor, I can track, on average, how long it takes to edit teaching slides or grade writing reflections, in addition to keeping time for my own coursework. I can track how long I spend working on In Her Lane or The Write Playlist and use these times as a parameter for scheduling my days.

All in all, it helps me to be realistic about time on a very micro and macro level. 

My final tip is to join or create accountability partnerships or groups.

What I am learning is that a big key to being realistic about executing any goal is to understand the power of connection and accountability supports.

I don’t know if it’s the only child syndrome, the high-achiever syndrome or simply stubbornness, but I struggle with telling people what I have going on and asking for help. On one hand, I don’t like to share my plans or goals because I do not want people inquiring about the progress (especially since I tend to start but not finish things). On the other hand, not sharing feels like a safe way to only half commit to my goals and only let myself down if things don't pan out as anticipated. Yikes! 

In 2020, accountability partners have been my saving grace when it comes to being present and working towards consistent, quality results in both work and non-work related matters. 

In my annual review post, I mentioned quite a few goals that span my academic and personal life. And honestly, I am thanking God for all types of accountability partners and groups to keep me focused and continuing to execute. 

For instance, with certain Sista-scholar friends, I have set working times for collaborative projects which means we are holding each other accountable for progress. With some sista-scholar friends, accountability looks like freedom to brainstorm and theorize about creative and academic passion. On a more personal level, I have joined two groups this summer to realistically support my goals. One is Black Girls Brand Club, a group for Black girls with budding brands. I need that! The other, a summer book club with a group of Black women which supports my goal to read more this summer. 

For me, accountability groups are encouraging me to open up about my goals, ask for help, share my knowledge and execute in a supportive environment.

This summer, being realistic is the name of the game. I am learning that my motivation wanes a lot, but finding ways to self-regulate is extremely important and necessary in this marathon of graduate school and life. 

If you haven’t already, check out my post The Annual Review and do a little self-assessment before these planning and executing stages. 

Until next time, 

"There is no greater agony than bearing the burden of an untold story."
-Maya Angelou

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