The past week was Spring Break and normally during Spring Break, I stay at home, sleep past 9, and take things slowly. However, for the first time in forever, I was still working and in school. The week was a residency for my doctoral degree at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
To explain what residency is about, it is an intensive week for doctoral students to come together with the College of Doctoral Studies faculty and work closely on the beginnings of our dissertation. We were in class from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Yes. You read that right.
I sat in a windowless room with 14 other doctoral students and two professors Monday through Friday. At the beginning of the residency, I had second thoughts about why I was there and, as you know, it is an individual’s choice to move upward on the educational ladder. However, when an individual (me) is going to school on loans, I hate to quit now. But besides that, I heard an inspirational message during my residency.
I am working on obtaining my Ed.D in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in K-12 Leadership. Dr. Wayne Schmidt, the Ed.D program chair at GCU, spoke to us twice, but in his first speech, he asked us a question: “What is the itch that you want to scratch?”
I loved that analogy!
The itch is my passion for this degree: teacher leadership. It is a part of the Watson family business. My parents strongly suggested that we should get educated as much as we could. They reiterated to us: “Education is something no one can take away from you.”
While I’ve been trying to get my doctoral degree since 2008, many obstacles have tripped me and I refused to get up and start over until recently. As a teacher in the American education system, I have seen so many good teachers leave the profession because of the demands and stresses of eductional reforms, and the government blaming and shaming teachers if students do not perform well on assessments. Also, in Arizona specifically, teachers are not compensated well; fat pockets are holding back resources for the classroom. Arizona is struggling to find teachers and it is so bad that good ol’ Governor Ducey declared that anyone who has a Bachelor’s degree can become a teacher.
The topic of my dissertation is creating and retaining teacher leaders through appropriate teacher leadership professional development. Education failure is my itch, and my dissertation is what I am using to scratch that itch.
Being a lifelong learner is a journey. We had people come and give us words of encouragement, professors closely worked with us, and I made a few friends along the way. The camaraderie was wonderful and refreshing; we sat around a fire pit by the pool at the GCU hotel (it is student-run for those who are majoring in business management/hotel management/etc.) and rehearsed our presentations. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner together; shared our knowledge and snacks as we worked diligently on our topics.
I met women who fought against so many sad issues and problems to keep their journey going! I met a woman from South Africa who was a child slave and a woman from the South of France who had hard times too. But, they were in that classroom, asking questions and working hard on what was itching them.
I liken my journey to the Camino de Santiago. I have my poetry and my blog to keep my creative juices flowing; and, my education to keep me grounded. I am learning to organize my research (thanks to a new found friend who showed me easy ways to organize my notes and articles) and with the help of the librarian, I know how to accurately research my topics.
My nephew will be graduating with his doctoral degree in May and I am so proud of him. I know he has worked hard for it and he’s a young man with a promising future. By the time I get my doctorate degree, I will be 55. It is a goal. There is so much I want to do, and I will do it if I keep scratching.
Which reminds me. We received little goodies in a bag when we arrived at the residency and one of the small gifts was a purple rubber bracelet that had white writing: “What progress have you made on your dissertation today?” I can answer that question. Yesterday, Cate, my organized new friend, suggested I buy an accordion file for the research articles; different colored highlighters and tabs to annotate the articles. Fortunately, I had two Amazon gift cards that arrived in my email, and I used them. I received the box today!
So, I’m scratching. I’m scratching the itches that I am passionate about: writing and education. I am excited about my life; and in reality, I will be tired (I am tired now), and frustrated, but it is my choice to continue on the journey because otherwise I will be itching and complain about the itching – so I might as well scratch!
I’m looking at my bracelet right now and I want to pose this question to you:
“What progress have you made on your life today?”
Scratch that itch!