"What are you going to school for?" While going to college, a student should prepare him/herself to answer this question at least a hundred times. My response was always "to teach", or "to become a teacher", or even to some, "I've always wanted to teach history". Of the many times that I had been asked that question, there's one particular dialogue I'll never forget.
I was working with a beverage distribution company and had finished up a stop and was in conversation with the owner when he asked me what I was doing in college. In reply I was quick and concise. He enthusiastically offered the following: "I have a friend who teaches. What a great gig! He works from 8 am to 3 pm nine months of the year; his vacations line up with his kids; and he never takes anything home, because the school's textbook gives him everything he needs to teach the class!"??
That conversation left a mark on me. Granted that the dialogue may be misconstrued a word or two, but I retain literary license. Regardless, something kept me from going home and promptly discarding the extensive work I had accumulated to the practice and craft of teaching social studies. Perhaps it was the disdain in the stereotypical reference to the perception of teachers, or maybe that my "profession" was tarnished by the representation and reputation of others before I was even in the classroom. Whatever it was, I became determined to ensure that no one could say those things about me.As I sit in my den and look up at the wall, I see the two diplomas earned. One is a BS in Education earned at Central Michigan University. This diploma marked the beginning of my professional career, transforming me from a student into someone certified to practice the craft of opening students minds to the world in which they live. The second is a MA in Educational Technology, a degree earned from the College of Educational Psychology and Special Education (CEPSE) at Michigan State University that was designed to challenge the personal and social assumptions of the role that technology plays in student learning and achievement.??
These diplomas are symbols of academic achievement, representative of ground gained, progress made, and a shift that has occurred in my role as a professional and/or an academic. This shift has also been accompanied with a change in self-awareness and creates assumptions and expectations regarding the new knowledge. Both of the aforementioned degrees instilled a responsibility to become the greatest teacher I can be and to pursue methods and technologies to design instruction that transforms learning. This has become part of who I am. As a teacher, it is not enough to remain content in the curriculum, textbook, or classroom pedagogy that "worked". Rather I have been informed through the pursuit of the MA, as well as my experiences since then, that contentment in the classroom leads to complacency in the craft of teaching and ultimately the kind of teaching that is plaguing the system of education – the kind described above.
Recently I was accepted into a Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program through CEPSE at MSU (the same department that issued the MA in Ed Tech). This degree program is designed to explore the affordances and constraints of technology and to provide understanding to a field ripe for research given the rapid expansion of technology resources in social environments. Given the nature of the previous two diplomas, and the nature of the work ahead of me through this research degree, this diploma will not be another simple step in the academic ladder. Rather this diploma will place me in a position where I can advance a multitude of educators to see their profession for what it should be by allowing teachers to reach new levels and to take pride in their craft, transcending the constraints placed upon them by social and political pressure to perform.??
This diploma will have a particular symbolic reference, one that is larger in magnitude and in meaning. I hope it's bigger.