Photo by Pensive glanceFor the past week I’ve been working hard at my Ph.D. residency and I will have spent a total of 9 days here in Cincinnati by the end. As you can imagine, it’s been both an amazing and exhausting experience. I am still glad I decided to do this at this point in my life, with 3/4 of my life and an entire career still in front of me. Although I know this to be true in my heart, I have had a hard time articulating the ‘why’ to my peers. Why do I feel this way? Why did I decide to do this?
It’s never easy to explain feelings; “just because” just doesn’t suffice when we are discussing the deep roots of what brought us all here. Yes, I believe this degree is necessary to maximize my chances of having a great impact later in my life. I certainly won’t be able to be a player in as many circles or have a seat at as many tables without ‘those three letters’. But, more authority, more flexibility with my time, and a little extra income can’t be the only reasons I plan on investing 5 years to this project.
Why do this? Why me? Why now? There is some level of urgency- “to get the coursework done before we discuss starting a family”. There is a level of need- “if not me, then who”. There is also a level of personal ambition and stubbornness- “I was never the smartest or the strongest, but I am smart and I have strengths that I am determined to make the most of”. It’s this last point that may really answer the question “why?” I was never the best student in the generic system, but I’ve always loved to learn. I was never presented options, but I created my own because I possessed the confidence and skills to do so. I once was looked at as someone who probably wouldn’t get this far academically because of my low test scores and now I’m the first in my family to go for a degree at this level. I believe there are many others who don’t believe they can create their own options and I want to make those options more apparent in the generic system.
I want to be part of the inevitable movement in education- to help create an open and equal playing field for all who want to learn. This inevitability is not meant as a certainty, but as a necessity. We can’t just go along with it, we need to take action to encourage it. There are many ways this movement can play out. Options will be a driving force behind this movement. These options include access to open and free learning resources, open teaching and learning, and the issuing and acceptance of alternative forms of credit (go open badges!). Yes, there is money to be made here, but we have to be careful about how we allow this factor to be involved- we shouldn’t allow this money to come out of people’s pockets who can’t afford it or who work in education; this movement needs to be kept free and open. We must have a commitment to this movement and I feel I have a role to play here.
I am not at a crossroads, so to speak, in my life. I didn’t have to give up much more than time and money to participate in this. I’ve known for a long time that this was the next step and I decided to take it. I believe this opportunity will help me to build a chair that can be pulled up to many tables so that I may help brainstorm options, provide alternative choices, and be a constant reminder of the voices who aren’t present. This all matters to me because I was once one of those unheard voices who wanted to learn.
Do you find it equally as challenging to explain your choices as I do? Leave me a comment and let me know.