What are you going to do with a doctorate?
Even when the question isn’t spoken aloud, I can see it written on other people’s faces. Colleagues, parents, even a few friends and family members. Sometimes the question is asked with curiosity; other times with judgment.
Almost three years ago, my babies only 1 and 3 at the time, I started feeling a certain restlessness that only means one thing in my life: the need to immerse myself in learning. At the time, I was out of the classroom serving as a mentor to new teachers and a PD leader in my district and building. I was learning a lot from others, but it was time for me to look outside and beyond my school and district.
When I found out that the university where I earned my Master’s degree and reading certification offered a doctoral path in Teacher Leadership (not administration!), I knew immediately where my path should lead. By January of 2016, I was part of Cohort 4 of the program–and I haven’t looked back since.
In four weeks, I will graduate from this program. Many still wonder just why I decided to pursue a doctorate in the first place. For a raise? A title? A different position? A promotion? To become an administrator?
After all: What will I get from having a doctorate in education?
The answer is so simple it sounds too good to be true: It’s not about what I will get, but about what I’ve already gotten.
Because I chose this path, I have met and worked with and become friends with 12 of the most incredibly passionate and intelligent educators I have ever met. We’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together, and we’ve grown together. Some teach high school, some teach elementary, some are instructional coaches and curriculum leaders. Some have many years of teaching experience, while a few have only been teaching a handful of years. Some of us are quiet; others outgoing. In spite of our differences, we have become a family of educators, united by this journey we’ve taken together.
Because I chose this path, I have an understanding of education that is deeper and richer than I ever could have imagined. I approach teaching differently now than I ever did before, and I know what an intricate system education truly is.
Because I chose this path, I truly know myself. I know my strengths, I know my areas for growth, and I know I have become a better person and teacher for taking on this challenge.
Because I chose this path, I have learned to say Why not? Why not apply to present at NCTE? Why not apply for that grant? Why not try to have an article published? Why not share my knowledge and ideas with others? And why not have a deeper appreciation for their knowledge and ideas, too?
Because I chose this path, I truly know what it means to depend on other people and work together. I couldn’t have accomplished this without my amazing husband and parents and in laws helping out with our kids. I couldn’t have accomplished this without other educators in my district cheering me on. I couldn’t have completed a million group projects without collaborating with others.
Because I chose this path, I am content. Whatever challenges and adventures may come my way in the future, I now know I can grow and learn from each of them, too. And I will have some pretty amazing people cheering me on and lifting me up the whole way.