Stepping in front of a classroom for the first time nine years ago didn’t frighten me. My teacher training at Illinois State prepared me for that.
Stepping foot on the Harvard Ed School campus as a student this year didn’t worry me. Learning as a teacher and student at Science Leadership for four years prepared me for that.
Next year is a bit different.
I’m going west (young man) to Boulder, CO where I’ll be one of the newest doctoral students at the University of Colorado – Boulder in their Educational Foundations Policy and Practice Ph.D. program.
While everything up to this point prepared me to complete the application and ostensibly to complete the program, joining the program also means stepping out of my depth.
Under the G.I. Bill, my grandfather completed his master’s degree when he left the army decades ago, and my mom completed hers a couple years ago. Making the move to complete my M.Ed. this year meant following in their footsteps. It was learning from the lead of two of the most impactful role models I’ve ever had. I wasn’t encouraged by the fact teachers around me had completed their master’s. It was that this was something my family has done. We do this.
The doctorate lives in a different space in my head. While I’ve encountered and befriended countless Ph.D’s, it’s not something my family has done. I didn’t realize, until I received my admission notice and was faced with the decision, how much my family and lineage weigh on my perception of what I can (and should) do.
In the end, it came down the chance to study a topic about which I’m passionate at a world-class institution dedicated to interdisciplinary studies with a social justice bent versus moving safely in the spaces I know.
Part of me is scared.
I could fail. I’ve no family history toward which I can nod and say, “This is something we do.”
I’m moving halfway across the country. I’m committing to the formal life of a student. I’m saying this is the work to which I am dedicating my life for the next few years. Pieces of it feel more selfish than teaching. Most of it is much less immediate than the daily workings of the classroom. But it’s something about which I’m curious and something I know to be important. It’s a chance to make a difference in a different way.
Because of this – and because it’s important to lean in to the things that scare us – I’m going.
And, I guess, if you keep reading, you’re going too.