Sara M. Childers is the Assistant Director for The Women’s Place, which is in the Office of Culture Change and Gender at The Ohio State University. Also an adjunct professor for the Department of Educational Studies at OSU, Sara has an extensive background in qualitative methodologies, particularly in sociocultural policy analysis, feminist and poststructural methodologies, and grounded theory. Sara won the O.L. Davis Jr. Outstanding Book Award (2017) for her book, Urban Educational Identity: Seeing Students on Their Own Terms. I came to know Sara and her husband, Mark, at the 2017 AATC Awards Dinner in Denver, CO, and we have kept contact ever since. Sara and I even organized a collaborative discussion about her book with our graduate classes. I chose to interview Sara for the AATC Interview Series because of her inspiring optimism that seems perfect to start the new year with.
Interviewed by Dr. Dan Conn, AATC Executive Council Member
Dan: What was the best thing you read in 2018?
Sara: (Laughs) What have I read? I’m looking at my bookshelf. The best thing read was Hunger by Roxane Gay.
Dan: What was that about?
Sara: Her memoir. It’s kind of a depressing book, but she is the survivor of sexual assault, as a child, and then she has had issues with her weight her whole life. It’s called Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, so she writes about the connection between her trauma and her body. It’s a very visceral, deep, emotional book. I don’t think anyone has written about those things in the way she has. It’s really good, but you have to be in the mood for it.
Dan: Were you reading that more for pleasure? Or professionally? Or a mixture?
Sara: I have some friends, and we meet online for a book group, and this is one of the books we read. We started reading old, well not that old, but feminist works that were foundational. And we made our way up to Roxane Gay’s book over the summer.
Dan: So you are in a book club?
Sara: Yeah, it’s a book club. We read a mix of books, but it is all academic.
Dan: Cool. Well, do you have any new projects for 2019?
Sara: (Laughs) I don’t really have any new projects. I designed an online research course for Ohio State, and I’m teaching it for the first time next semester. That was a big thing for Ohio State because they have never put a qualitative research course online. They don’t have much online to begin with, so this is a new arena for them. Then, I am consulting on a couple projects. I’m consulting on a project that is focused on first-responders, that respond to an opioid overdose. Then, I am consulting on a program here in Columbus (Ohio) called “Mom’s to Be”, and they are looking at the impact of the program on infant mortality and maternal outcomes.
Dan: It sounds like you are going to have a busy year.
Sara: Yeah, and then I have my regular fulltime job as an administrator for a women’s policy office (The Woman’s Place). That’s like my real gig, and then I teach two courses for Ohio State as an adjunct (professor). I guess I am going to be busy…you’re right. (Laughs).
Dan: Where do you get your inspiration?
Sara: I gravitate toward teaching and when I am asked to do research. So, I try to keep those things in my life even though I’m in an administrative position right now. Those things that bring me joy and make me happy…that is when I am my best self. Those are things I keep in my life.
Dan: In reading your work, a question that has continuously popped in my mind regarding K-12 education is do you think we need more reform or is it time for a revolution?
Sara: (Laughs) I think we are all ready for a revolution. (Laughs) I think we need to start listening to teachers.
Dan: That would be revolutionary!
Sara: (Laughs) Yeah, it is so simple, but that would be the most revolutionary. You know, getting away from testing and accountability…people have been pushing for privatization for a very long time, and we all know, I think all of us know, it doesn’t work. Teachers know it doesn’t work. Maybe if the (Trump) Administration changes and (Education Secretary) DeVos is out, we’ll see some revolution. (Laughs)
Dan: Who would you appoint or who would you recommend be our Secretary of Education?
Sara: (Laughs) I don’t know…that’s a good question. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a teacher there? Like a real teacher? Someone who has teaching experience. (Laughs)
Dan: Any New Year’s Resolutions?
Sara: (Laughs) We are taking a trip to Rome in March. I don’t know if it is a resolution (laughs), but I am going to learn some Italian before we go.
Dan: That’s a good one. What are you going to Rome for?
Sara: Well, my son is going to China over spring break, and I happened upon a very economical trip to Rome. And I was like, “We’re going to go!” (Laughs) While Vincent (Sara and Mark’s son) is in China, Mark and I are going to take Maizie (Sara and Mark’s daughter) to Rome…and actually my mother-n-law is going to join us. We are going to do six days in Rome. My family came to the U.S. from Italy, so I’m really looking forward to my first trip to Italy…and hopefully not my last.
As our conversation ends, Sara wishes me fun with my family in 2019. Though Sara certainly deals with serious matters and is quite serious about her work, her laughter and light-heartedness have a way of providing perspective. We live and teach in trying times, but, like Sara, may we always find space to laugh. Happy New Year!