In 2013, I embarked on a journey. I began working on my EdD degree in educational leadership. There are many reasons why one would take on such a monumental task. Some do so for career advancement, and others do so for career changes. My reasons for doing so have been a bit more complex, often including many of these, but they have actually changed over time. Personally, I have treasured the intellectual challenge it has brought me. Many would perhaps argue that doctoral degrees should have an immediate practical application, but I would disagree; it should disturb us profoundly. I would argue that my experience of doctoral education has forced me to re-examine everything I believed to be true about myself as an educator and human being. It has in many ways placed everything I held to be true about the educational field in question. To me that is the practical application of my doctoral education.I now savor more than ever the intellectual side of our enterprise as public educators. I enjoy questioning myself and the entire discipline of education, and I have had some of my beliefs about education reinforced. I’ve had many of my beliefs placed in doubt, and I have formulated some new beliefs based on all that I’ve learned and read. But even these new beliefs are subject to change as experience, reading, and thought changes. That’s where my disturbance lies: everything for me is tentative.
Ultimately, doctoral education has changed my work. Principals can get into “automatic-pilot-mode” where they simply make decisions and deal with issues, hardly ever taking time to examine deeper issues and problems. Obviously, when crisis decisions arise, there’s little time to analyze and engage in deeper thinking, but those everyday decisions we make, such as how to address a disciplinary issue, or how to make suggested improvements to a colleague, do allow for time to think and analyze rather than following a script. That’s the practical application of much of my reading, writing and intellectual thought fostered by my doctoral work. I practically every day find myself looking to the deeper side of what I do and that makes for some amazing reflection.
Doctoral work is rewarding. It becomes particularly rewarding if it disturbs your own beliefs and thoughts about education and life, as mine has done. I became an English teacher years ago because I treasured the engagement of my own intellect with reading and writing. Literature that is worth its weight does that: it engages the intellect and leaves you disturbed. Just reading and writing inside your comfort zone hardly leads to intellectual growth. I that is one big practical application of my doctoral program studies. I am disturbed (not mentally mind you, though some would perhaps disagree) and will probably remain so for the rest of my life. The disturbance I feel is simply the realization that perhaps I did not have all this figured out after all, nor will I ever. Those who realize this, I contend, are perhaps better educators. There are far too many education reformers, educators, policymakers, politicians, corporate leaders who think they have figured it out. They haven’t.
Knowledge is liberating in many ways, and it can liberate you as well from thinking you know for sure how to teach, or how to lead, which means you’re more free and open to creativity and innovation. Pursuit of education is perhaps liberation in more ways than we think.