So I am going back to school

Jul 15, 2020 by

I abandoned my previous attempt almost 20 years ago with a dissertation almost half written for a variety of reasons I choose not to revisit now.  In the meantime, my interests had changed greatly and I was no longer excited by the topic on which I had been working.

I had explored picking things up, but most of what I explored would have required me to retake all the courses I had already completed.

But then I found a program where I could, over two years, simply write my dissertation, if they were willing to accept my now very dated course work,

So I decided to apply.

I wrote in my application the following:

I am now still teaching having just passed my 74th birthday. I have  committed to teach full time for another 3 years. I will have few commitments outside my classroom and thus have the time and energy to write a dissertation.  But I would have to start the dissertation over, because my interests have changed. I am now interested in exploring the way teachers are involved in the making of educational policy at all levels, from individual schools all the way through the Federal government.  There are many examples of which I am already aware, and I have had some personal experience in doing that. It is my belief that a thorough examination of the approaches that have been done can assist in guiding officials at all levels of government as we consider the governance of our public schools.

I now teach in a Catholic high school, but most of my career has been in public schools. I have personally experienced the ability as a teacher to participate in the process of policy to some degree at all of the levels, in large part because of my writing on education. Along the way I have become aware of others who have done so either through personal connections, as has been my own experience, or as a result of formal structures intended include the voices and experiences of teachers in the making of policy.

On Tuesday I received the following in an email:

Dear Kenneth,

Congratulations! You have been accepted into the A.B.D., Concentration in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education program at Alverno College for the Fall 2020 semester. As an Alverno student, you will experience our unique approach to teaching and learning that has earned Alverno an international reputation for academic excellence. We look forward to assisting you in a graduate experience designed to challenge you and to help you reach your career goals.

In reviewing your application materials, we were particularly impressed by the length and breadth of your career as a social studies educator. As you commence your doctoral studies, we envision you contributing powerfully to the Ed.D. cohort through your investigations of teachers’ roles in policy-making at multiple levels.

So I have put down my deposit, joined the Facebook group for my cohort, am in the process of gathering official copies of transcripts from the TEN institutions of higher education from which I have credits.

It probably did not hurt that the two recommendations I submitted were from a nationally known figure in education and from my principal who wrote me a very strong recommendation.

Let me explain a bit more below the fold.

Alverno College is located in  Milwaukee.  It is Catholic. It is a woman’s college at the undergraduate level, but coeducational for its graduate programs.  They have a strong reputation for their preparation of teachers, where the students in the education track begin to spend time in classrooms from their very first year.  They are more than a little non-traditional in their approach, which given how out of the box I tend to be seemed to be a good fit.  And what I considered might be a barrier — my age (now 74) — was less of a stumbling block at Alverno because one of the two deans did not earn her doctorate until she was past her own 60th birthday.  On that point, at this point I still expect to be in the classroom for at least another 3 years, and and it was very much in my favor that my principal, having supervised me for the past year, wrote me such a strong recommendation.

Also worth noting is that I can do all I have to remotely. As I remember it, I am only required to be on campus two times, although with a sister-in-law and her husband living in Madison I MIGHT go a few more times, once there is some control over the pandemic.

So why do I want to do it?  I really don’t need a doctorate to get my voice heard on educational matters —  I have been able to do that for more than a decade and a half, not just with running a total of 4 panels on education at Yearly Kos / Netroots Nation, but in reviewing books, serving as a peer reviewer for journals, direct input to politicians, and writing for print publications and posting here.  I have a strong interest in my topic. I really thing it is important to have those still in the classroom being given agency and empowering their voices as educational policy decisions are made. There is some of this that goes on.  I can note that I have had experience on this not only in my contact with candidates and political figures, but in serving on a key district-wide panel as one of only two teachers helping craft teacher evaluation policies in one of the largest public school systems in the country.  Many schools have some element of this —  having teachers help make policy decisions within the school, having teachers sit in on hiring decisions (including sometimes of administrators, and yes, that means principals). There are always teacher advisory panels functioning on lots of issues, but far too often their roles are merely advisory: others can totally ignore what they have to offer.  I know of at least one state which use to take its state teacher of the year partially out of the classroom to function in an advisory capacity to the state board of education and state superintendent.

There are multiple models of this.  Within schools, you may have situations where just about every administrator also is a classroom teacher, for at least one class. That is true where I currently teach (except for the Religious who is our President) — the deans, the counselors, the Vice Principal and the Principal all teach.

As far as I know there has been no systematic study of this and of the lessons learned. I know of many examples such as those I have offered. I am going to want to find out as much as I  can, and if you think you know of examples, feel free to connect with me through KosMail.

I never stop learning. This summer I am completing 5 different professional development opportunities on a variety of topics, three related directly to my teaching and two more which I expect to find ways to use. In that I model what I ask of my students, which is to take the idea of lifelong learning seriously.

I will be stepping away from other things to some degree to both be able to provide my students the level of instruction and feedback to which they are entitled, and to have the time and energy to do what I need to for my dissertation. Thus no coaching soccer (although it is not clear we will have a season at this point).

My wife is of mixed feelings.  It is not a lot of money, but it is some. It is a time commitment. Given I am in my mid-70s and have had health issues of my own (including a stroke last November) and I have a major responsibility to make her life easier, she does not want me burning myself out.

So that’s the news from teacherken.  Don’t know of what value it is, but there it is.


Source: So I am going back to school

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