My Name is Heather Joy
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Personal Perceptions of a NY Doctoral Student’s Online Education Journey with a For-Profit Institution: A Narrative Response to a Goal Delayed
May these words of my mouth and
this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
In the early history of education, in the vastly Christian land of the United States of America, the philosophy of listening to a child was in direct contrast to the Bible with 15th-century proverbs such as children should be seen and not heard. According to Andrews and Gutwein (2017), "the more we allow youth to share their schooling narratives with us and work with us to design their schooling experiences, the more heightened our awareness becomes to strategies for more fully humanizing their learning processes and diligently countering our own biases” (pg. 13). What follows here is the personal perceptions of a New York State doctoral student's education journey: a narrative response to a goal not reached. This is my personal statement, my personal perceptions including internal and external challenges that have been faced, of my journey from a tiny farm girl in rural New York State through my journey as a doctoral student at a for-profit so-called Christian University.
The K-Dr Journey
We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.
The expectations, when one contemplates a doctoral learner’s pre-doctoral journey; the life of a k-12, college, and early career path may be one with rose-colored glasses. The happy kindergartener, the bright elementary child, the top of the class high school graduate, the strong college graduate. Then perhaps a promising young worker bee rising through the ranks of education, business, or their respective industry. That’s so normal, it is almost cute! Of course, there are many pathways to journey on and many stars to shoot for!
25 Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.
26 Make a level path for your feet, and all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your feet away from evil.
There is little to say about my early developmental years, I simply have a few memories. Kindergarten through fifth grade was an egocentric blur of pain, hating school, Walter Pinteresque moments, and escaping life with Walter Mitty-esque moments that were only the beginning of my struggle to focus on how very dull the amazing, complex, and sparkling world of education can be made. Elementary school is a terrible place, not as bad as middle and high school, but sufferable at best. Third grade, not only myself but nearly half of the class, I did so well the first time, that we were afforded a second chance! I remember sleeping in the teacher’s room, as I often did and overhearing, “Gazelle testing did not work well with that class.”
According to Cohen (1989), Gesell Institute was clearly falling into decline due to a lack of innovation. Assets were being sold off to secure the future of the institute which had been facing public eye-rolling for years. The only memory from the first year of third grade was constantly being touched by a classmate. My parents complained, nothing stopped him. They bought me my first pair of cowgirl boots. Mom said, “One kick. Then you will walk to the principal’s office, tell her what you did and why.”
At the time, I honestly didn’t know what she meant. The next day, the little pervert ran his hand straight up my skirt except for this time, before he could touch the hem of my skirt, my enchanted cowgirl boots seemed to spring into action on their own. After years of ballet to help strengthen the congenital hip I was born with, I had never performed a more perfect ballet turn before. My pirouette was solid and the magic boot kicked out at the exact right moment to drop that boy right to the ground. The teacher yelled at me, I stuck my tongue out at him as he struggled to not cry but laugh and point at me as I was scolded. I walked out the door to the office and asked to see the principal. I felt the sharp smack from the teacher on my backside from my behavior as I walked past her. I would like to remember leaving her office feeling empowered, but years of pain and several concussions later, I can only hope I did.
In the second year of third grade, desks in lines, we would recite multiplication facts one student at a time daily. Each time the teacher started, I turned green, numbers are horrid little monsters with great red eyes and fangs. I would hear the number train approaching one student at a time and prepare to die as each day it flattened me, the penny left on the track.
“Nine times one is nine.” The first student would excitedly state, of course, life is easy!
“Nine times two is eighteen.”
“Nine times three is twenty-one.”
Two more students until my turn- I will have, nine times umm, fidget, fidget, drop my pencil. I stretch to see if I can reach my pencil, I don’t know what I was thinking, I could not even reach the floor! I slip down under my desk, like Alice and the hole, I was gone.
“Nine times four is thirty-six.” the student before me states, but I would not have to know if the world had blown up at this point.
“Heather, Heather! Pay attention!” Oh! This teacher’s eyes were so mean! They turned green when she was angry. I always found this maddening, why would I be interrupted from such a pleasant place with such a terrible face that dared to use my favorite colour for her eyes?!
“What, sorry ma’am?”
“You are next!” She growled at me.
“My mother made me a new dress, isn’t it lovely?!”
“HEATHER! PAY ATTENTION! WHAT IS NINE TIMES FIVE?”
Rubbing my braided head of hair after accidentally giving it a good smack on the bottom of my desk as I climbed back into my chair, I continued to the snickers of the class, “Nine times five is fifty-four.”
“Just go to the hall and wait for the principal, Heather.”
“Why? What did I do? Yes, Ma’am.”
The year continued in the same fashion. Except I realized I could clearly predict the third-grade teacher’s patterns, where she started in the room and what my problem would be for the next day’s round of mean math rounds. When she started, I would turn green, but eventually, I would carefully, I would wait my turn and blurt out whatever problem I had memorized the night before or that morning. Knowing I am next, I would state my problem a student too soon, or in most typical fashion,
“Eight times three is forty-two.”
They never said, ‘no, that’s backward,’ just “No, you are wrong.”
The fourth grade was no more memorable academically. I was still going to the reading teacher, still giving the science teacher verbal answers to get by. I made the teacher mad because he made us line up, girls in one line, boys in the other. The girls had to curtsy and have the boys kiss the back of their hands and learn to ask permission to sit, go to the hallway, the girls had to go get the boys’ lunches, etc. The girls were told to wear dresses and while the boys read, the girls had to walk with their books on their heads around the classroom, standing tall, as to not drop the book. That did not work for me. I walked out of class and sat outside of the principal’s office until she heard me and allowed me to go home. The difference in fourth grade, I was writing, quietly in a journal at home and had found biographies. I had found my giants, Clara Barton, Louis Pasteur, Jackie Robinson, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Mr. Rogers, Martin Luther King Jr. For years, these people became the guests at my tea parties, the names of my dolls, my inspiration, my giants, my heroes, and my most understanding and accepting teachers and spiritual advisors.
Since those days of elementary school, I learned about patterns. Patterns are an amazing thing. They are seen in nature, in music and art both accidentally and intentionally. Year after year in k-12 I sat for special education testing, no one could figure out what was “wrong” with me in our little rural community. Year after year I missed great amounts of school due to pain. I wrote numbers, letters, and words backward. I practiced speaking eloquent sentences and spoke with unwelcomed gibberish words, found pockets of air where words just failed to appear, or words would dance around in the incorrect order. But, I was the daughter of a farmer and a seamstress, I would graduate, marry a farmer and then I would be no one’s problem except my husband’s!
Three Years and Out: Undergraduate, Marriage, Masters, Children, Teaching
Guidance counselors are paid, for one aspect of their job, to assist high school students in finding the appropriate college or career paths. Mine did not help me find a college or career path. It was known that I was to marry a farmer, have babies, and well, I guess that was my life. A decade after finding heroes and giants and adding more and more of these great humans, I was alone in an apartment, with a full-time job at a clothing store and attending a community college with a music program. I did not want to be a musician or a music teacher, I was just good at it and I hoped someone would help me point me in the right direction. I had played piano since I was six. I could play and sing any Cole Porter, Gershwin, Spiritual, Sacred, or old jazz that was in front of me. Suddenly I was faced with all of the classical music I was not interested in. I could sing Bach, I did fall in love with Brahms, but leaned toward the Brazilian sounds of Heitor Villa-Lobos. The vocal, rhythmic, indigenous sounds are still like no other. The piano solos are the intense Brazilian Dances performed on the keyboard as if the fingers are a hundred dancing lovers of an amazing moment.
I signed up for ‘writing 099’ and the professor gave us a writing exam in the first class. I was determined to finish it. Silent tears ran down my face as I wrote. Half of the class left, I read what I wrote, I knew it was unacceptable, penned an apology and note that I would work hard to catch up, wiped away the tears, handed in my exam and left. That was Friday. Going to work helped, it was distracting. My typical week class from 8 am until 3 pm, work from 3:30 pm until midnight, practice at the music studio until 3 am, a nap, homework breakfast and do it all again. Then working all weekend. By Monday afternoon, I was so tired, I had no idea what to expect. I just did not want to be thrown out of college. Instead of composition class on Monday, there were appointment times scheduled. Alphabetical, I was first, my heart sank. I remembered the words of the late Ms. Annette Smith, my year two, third-grade principal. “Hold your head up young lady, bite your lip if you have to, and keep being strong.” I did.
I walked into a giant lecture hall, the much older professor stood and invited me to sit. He thanked me for my note but said he was confused by it. He told me I could not be in “writing 099” and asked why I signed up for it in the first place. I sat up and fought tears, this could not be the end already. I told him about high school, about being ‘different,’ that I was told I was not ‘college material,’ and my complete love and fear of writing. He was angry and I apologized for making him such, but he shook his head and explained I was not the object nor reason for his anger. He mumbled about the “system” and the “damn pendulum, the sexist, racist system” that was angering and he wiped the spit from the corners of his mouth with his yellowed handkerchief before refolding it and dabbing his red forehead. I was seventeen, I really did not know what he was talking about yet, I was intrigued. He moved me to writing 201. It was the most amazing difficult, positive, critical experience I have ever had. When I finished, Dr. B looked at me and said, “Someday day Miss. Heather Joy, you will be Dr. Heather Joy. I just hope the system doesn’t jerk you around. If it does, stand up and fight it, okay?”
I never saw Dr. B. again. He holds an incredible more and more special place in my heart. I no longer fight the system for me. Had I accomplished the goal of becoming Dr. Heather Joy, my dedication would have been in part to him.
Dear Dr. B.,
Wherever you are you are flying, please know, you have given me wings to fly, to not only learn how this “damn pendulum, the sexist, racist system” looks and works, but to fight it. To join forces with the men and women who are willing to take an anti-sexist and anti-racist stance and fight to educate each and every child.
I saw your frustration and did not understand it when I met you as a child. But, you saw that I had lived it, you believed in me, you challenged me and I add you to my list of giants. I continue to work in your honour and dedicate this work to you and all you taught me. I thank God for you.
At the end of my first year of college, pre-FERPA, my parents, moved my enrollment closer to home, if I was going to continue, it could be an AS in Liberal Arts. The following spring, I graduated, the first ever to attend college. A family bbq to discuss my “situation” was held.
My late grandmother looked at me and stated, “You are finished with this nonsense, yes? It is time to settle down.”
“No. I am attending SUNY Oneonta in the fall as a Music Industry Major.” Oh! I was such a disappointment! With little support, I worked part-time, took out student loans, completed twenty-seven credits in the fall semester, twenty-nine in the spring semester, and hightailed it to Washington, D.C. for an unpaid internship, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in less than a year later.
College is a place to learn, grow, make mistakes, party, and find out who you are. These thoughts are cliché when college students are working full time to make ends meet and do not have the financial, social, or emotional support to attend college. As early as 1868, philosopher William Torrey Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906 sought educational services for gifted students (National, 2018), (Watras, 2012). What has followed includes research on intellect and social and emotional intelligence. What has also happened is educational support such as that which drove the Space Race with federal and state recognition and funding of gifted programs. Authors discussed the lowering of standards and the destruction of gifted programs during the NCLB era (Brighton, Moon, and Huang, 2015); (Gregory Harman, Boden, Karpenski, and Muchowicz, 2016); (Ladd, 2017). New York State was the region of discussion in Lee, Shin, and Amo’s, (2013) research discussing the failures of one-size-fits-all, or cookie-cutter educational practices. Programs such as No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and gross amounts of standardized testing glorified cookie-cutter equal education failing to see the individuality of humanity and taking time from social studies, arts, and humanities courses (Furgione et al, 2018).
Three colleges in three years leaves a twenty-year-old woman with little direction nor a badly needed mentor. With family increasingly on my case about marriage and family, I married the next man who asked. A man more than ten years my elder, my manager during my undergraduate internship, and even worse, a musician! I say that tongue and cheek as a musician myself. A turbulent three months of dating, and I became a trophy bride even though I told my parents on the lawn of the church, “I do not want this” before the ceremony. In the week after our marriage, our only discussion was that his friends and co-workers did not agree with our marriage because I was not ‘controllable.’ There was a friendly wager as to how long our marriage would last. I was not to lose my 100lb trophy bride figure and we would likely not have children due to his history with cancer. In the next five years, I had two sons, earned my master’s degree, gained two-hundred pounds, lost my husband, and began a doctoral journey. There was no time to contemplate, there was pain and suffering but also a promising journey that would make our lives better, and jobs so that two little mouths would be fed and hearts nourished. We moved back to the rural, patriarchal land where I grew up, with the hope of help raising two sons. A disappointment of a child; an educated mother who even worse, would soon be single.
Doctoral Writing and Distance
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
~ 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Doctoral student writing is more than just a poetic journey. Buono and Gonzalez (2017) discussed that the doctoral student can slip from writing the research to becoming the research. The proposed study of a learner can morph from quantitative to a qualitative narrative, to qualitative descriptive, and issues will ebb and flow. Instead of keeping the proposed research fluid, remaining open to change, and allowing the research to stand on its own, I, as the student, started to become the research. Self-determination crept back slowly, reminding the girl who was lost to not so great situations and time that there was once a whole person looking back from the cracked reflection she barely recognized now. As time continued, tears invaded the journey as an uninvited guest. Those same tears seen as a weakness in childhood and femininity were now understood to be healing salt waters and the separation between writing the research to become the research reemerged. Eventually, the regular classes ended and the dissertation classes began, two chairs in twenty-four hours, but I was ready for a roller coaster as well as hopeful and prayerful for a productive, collaborative journey with my dissertation committee.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder and this was especially true after the first residency. The warmth of the Arizona sun and the acceptance of my assistant professor made me feel for perhaps the third time in my life that although a difficult journey it was where I belonged. The warmth and excitement I internalized carried me over the next twelve months. Residency two, I found myself completely unprepared. Yet I sat beside the for-profit so-called Christian University pool for nearly twenty hours to write exactly what my professor was looking for. The message she left me on my paper and the moment when she and my assistant professor from residency discussed my proposed study and my future in front of me, gave me a feeling of support and respect I had never had before. Yet, distance makes learning difficult, there is little support. Rounell and Bolliger (2017) discussed the difficulty of faculty and students in long-distance learning relationships. This has been a difficult journey and although faculty are willing to meet, there are many obstacles. As a result of the support of most of the professors in this program, I was able to step back and return the research to a fluid project-based learning endeavor. Another topic of this first conversation was the sudden loneliness of the online doctoral learner. Online learning and being usually the only East Coast Student in each class, has been an issue since the beginning. Doctoral, online students are in an interesting position, in a program alone, all together. According to Thompson, Ballenger, and Templeton (2018), online doctoral students cite the need for instructor to student interaction including meaningful activities and feedback and social interactions. The authors continued with discussion acknowledging the lack of face to face interaction and support. While the stress and anxiety are prevalent on this journey, mindfulness, prayers, and understanding helped return the words of the writer’s heart and mind to the keyboard. McCann and Davis (2018), acknowledged the need for mindfulness interventions throughout the course of online doctoral learning. One action that helped previously was reading the posts of others. Once the dissertation courses began, with no one to respond to, and kindergarten copy and past modules that look like the following, the point is driven home.
Allow me to loop back to that second residency for just one moment. As a woman from just south of the Canadian border in spring. Seven days in the Arizona heat, amazing, difficult critiques, banter between professors as to why I should have a qualitative or quantitative study, standing before my class to present and stating (as the others did) "I will be Dr. Heather Joy, and my study is..."; an amazing learning experience. Standing in line to board the plane to go home, then watching the plane leave. What was I really doing? I was looking for a home.
Without a vision and a plan, an organization will grapple to stay afloat. According to Dick et al (2018), a strategic plan must take into consideration and include, when and how leaders communicate important information with team members across an organization. The author continued by discussing the ability to adapt and alter course for small or large incidents and planned or unplanned changes in order to create a long-term success plan. Creating a culture of adaptivity and success depends on a strong strategic plan that includes not only communication but increasing knowledge and a path to share that knowledge. According to Sheehan et al (2017), strategic planning must include research-informed guidance, and the development and use of knowledge networks. Adaptivity includes knowing where the organization was, what the organizational leaders and team members have learned, and applying this knowledge to the creation of goals. One way to include goals in a strategic plan is to identify and create a scope and sequence for team members to follow and be held responsible to follow. This creates a base for knowledge, shared vision, and communication, all important aspects of a strategic plan. Without these aspects, an organization fails to hold to accountability standards, communicate across team lines, or grow with a depth of knowledge that will create organizational sustainability.
As a teacher turned doctoral student and curriculum-based technology integration leader, the personal philosophy of educational leadership has grown into a more student-centered, self-determination theory supported philosophy. Specifically, there is self-determination in the need to educate each and every child by encouraging teachers and administrators to build relationships that are assistive in developing intrinsic motivations while integrating technology, not for the sake of technology but for the sake of productive, curriculum and life skills-based education. Ryan and Deci’s (2017) Self-Determination Theory, in a very broad overview, is a psychological approach to understand how social factors assist or thwart humans’ ability to thrive. The evolution, as an education leader, has been growth in understanding the social factors that thwart or propel intrinsic motivations of teachers and students thus preventing or expediting the education of each and every child. Personalized learning is intriguing and possible with well-integrated technologies. According to Zmuda and Luhtala (2017), personalized learning encourages collaboration, self-learning, and the power to create instead of just consume. Whether educational institutions use the term 21st-century learners, future-ready learners, or one of the other fad or trending terms, the bottom line is to encourage each student to find, expand, and share their unique gifts with their communities.
Since the late 1940s, the grand scheme of education has moved from the industrial age to the digital age, from separate but equal to encouraging cultural diversity, and from separate to inclusive of multiple learning styles and abilities in a single room and leaning toward hopeful equity. According to Wilkerson and Wilson (2018), the barriers of discrimination are still in place affecting not only the disproportionately high African American students but also African American teachers and educational leaders. Today, a leader must be cognizant of building a welcoming educational institution and can so so with a lens of cultural understanding, and Critical Race Theory (CRT). A personal philosophy includes the demand to educate each and every child, including those Nepo (2017) discussed as ‘different’. Encouraging teachers and administrators to build relationships that are assistive in developing intrinsic motivations and integrating technology not for the sake of technology but for the sake of productive, curriculum and life skill-based education are also essential aspects. Technology brings students to the world and allows them to cross borders, division, and stereotypes. Additionally, a personal education philosophy interjected with Deci and Ryan’s (2017) self-determination theory (SDT), a psychological approach to understanding how social factors assist or thwart humans’ ability to thrive. Specifically, there is self-determination in the need to educate each and every child by supporting and encouraging teachers and administrators to build relationships.
School culture and climate are to be unrelenting inclusivity, humility, humanity, and celebration. Acceptance, patience, and a celebration of differences with a commitment to the virtues of character education will be the cornerstones. Beyond the realm of acceptance is respect for tough conversations. According to Pierce (2018), the ability to hold difficult, respectful discussions builds acceptance and creates a community. There need not be an agreement of personal theories or philosophies, but there must be respect. The school will have a relentless love of students, ideas, and technology. Teachers will be encouraged for their role in passing their talents, knowledge, and strengths to their students. Dehmlow (2017) discussed the need for collaboration that allows the past to not be the focus. Remembering that the adage, but, we have always done it that way can be poison to the collaborative process. Collaboration and encouragement to take risks in evolving educational practices, lessons, and continued growth will set a precedent for students to become relentless learners who should follow their passions.
Building relationships and not making immediate changes are the first steps in realigning a school’s mission, vision, goals, and budget when following in the footsteps of one who did not align these factors. There is no more important step than bringing humanity and humility to a school that has not been well-led. There will be a time to make really tough decisions but the most difficulty should have been making the commitment to a school as the next in line after a principal who did not follow through with alignment of vision, goals and other important decision making needs. According to Yildirim (2018), principals must be not only ethical but hardworking and in possession of a great depth of knowledge. Clear communication and the use of a clear and effective change model is important. Supporting or building a growth mindset among the faculty is essential. According to Cansoy (2019) principals who create a “strong school culture where there is participation, flexibility and healthy and open communication” encourage and empower teachers to take risks, and create a positive atmosphere. These words from Dr. Seuss (1971) ring true for education leaders also, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Jones and Mason (2010) discussed how leaders and team members perceive the world; some through their bodies, their minds, or their emotions. The way teachers and leaders perceive the world may be in contrast to each other. A lack of strategic planning may cause challenges for both teachers and leaders in building an inclusive culture that involves parents. How do we, as teachers, perceive the world? On one hand, it is how our students perceive the world and on the other hand, is how our leaders perceive the world. How do we find common ground in the midst of an open open-ended universe? Understanding the difference between parental home and school involvement can assist in creating a strategic plan that is healthy for the school and child. According to Bernie (2017), the process of creating open-sharing and communication between teachers and parents increased the self-efficacy of both parties. The author stated that time must be made for planning, communicating, and consulting with both parents and teachers. According to Colman (2017), there are six ways to retrain the brain to become a better inclusive leader; avoid favorites, have transparent communications, avoid gender-based communication, avoid old adages, be clear and avoid jargon, and be intellectually curious. These suggestions work if applied to the core values created and illustrated by the strategic plan when building a parent inclusive culture.
Current Trends, Leadership Strategies, Classroom Practices, & Student Outcomes
To create future-ready students, educational institutions are attaching themselves to several current trends including no homework, digital citizenship, gamification, genius hour, blended learning, growth mindset, and many others (Teach, 2018). While technology as a whole can no longer be considered a trend as a whole, the actions towards education within technological fields have created several trends. Three specific trends stand out in the educational technology realm; the advancement of personalized learning, use of makerspaces and de-makerspaces as a singular trend, and project-based learning.
Technology-based personal learning offers individual journeys along multiple pathways. Any individual learning plan may become overwhelming for a single teacher. According to Bingham (2017) the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has challenged teachers to replace lecture days with personal learning days encompassing personal technology pathways. The leader dilemma is how to support both the student who is now more and more responsible for their own education and supporting the teacher who may be moving from lecturer to a 1:1 coach for every individual student on their roster. The implementation of evidence-based practices in personalized learning is intriguing yet possible with well-integrated technologies. According to Zmuda and Luhtala (2017), personalized learning encourages self-learning, digital citizenship, and the power to create instead of just consume. The use of evolving technologies can be a liberating shift in the roll of teachers. It allows teachers to create fewer presentations and long lectures in exchange for the creation of learning activities. Students participating in learning activities become active researchers and presenters, creating more depth of knowledge. Additionally, students grow more confident in creating, researching, and presenting. Student-created presentations are no longer to the audience of 1 (the teacher) but created and shared with peers, families, and communities. Technology-based personalized learning infuses traditional three R’s with four C’s: critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. For students to reach their full potential, they need access to the constant evolution of technology which in turn increases problem-solving, decision making, collaboration, and innovation through creation.
Technology-integrated maker and de-makerspaces are a current trend in technology integration. Having 3D printers, robot pieces, cardboard and textiles, and Lego®️ materials, is seen as essential by those with a goal of giving students optimal creative outlet in makerspaces. De-makerspaces allow for an understanding of how items are made via deconstruction. In addition, deconstructed pieces are studied and put together with improvements. However, the possession of a 3D printer or other maker materials does not constitute an effective encouragement of creativity or a leadership strategy for technology-integrated maker and de-makerspaces. Soft skills, or as some now call these skills, ‘essential skills’ can be encouraged in makerspaces and de-makerspaces. These skills in behavior and attitude include the ability to work well with others and work creatively. According to Fan, Wei and Zhang (2017) soft-skills are part of the problem in racial wage disparity. Leaders who give students the ability to work in makerspaces and de-makerspaces are encouraging equity by encouraging self-esteem and, to use a term coined by First Lego League, “gracious professionalism.”
Leader strategies include teacher collaboration and the ability to create real-world problems for students to work on. Leaders may use this trend to bring together science, engineering, mathematics, and the arts. Leaders must take care to encourage teachers and learners to keep the learning part of the project as the central focus. Encouraging focus on the investigation into learning about a topic is essential for positive outcomes. Technology-integrated, project-based learning, allows the teacher to set goals and parameters and then assume the role of coach. Technology-integrated, project-based learning is collaborative, disciplined, interactive, and authentic (Creating, 2019). The use of project-based learning challenges learners to consume and create as well as have to According to Kotluk and Kocakaya (2017), creating a technology-integrated project-based lesson combining digital storytelling and physics increased engagement and gained knowledge.
From the earliest days of general education in the United States through today, major events and political issues have influenced what is now 21st-century learning in K-12 education. The philosophies and historical and political events have been researched and built upon. Motives of various stakeholders, families, communities, local, state and federal government, teachers, unions, administrators, have sometimes clashed and sometimes worked in peace, advancing the knowledge and education. The effective educational leader holds a personal philosophy for life and leadership that must be created, evaluated, and improved upon. The following reflection is my educational leadership philosophy. It is one from a teacher with PreK-college experience, and a single mother of unique needs children, one of whom I homeschooled. The philosophy has grown like a vine up the trellis reaching for the light through the K-12 education lens of theories, history, politics, and a journey as a doctoral student.
This personal educational leadership philosophy supports a diverse, student-centered, self-determination theory supported philosophy. Ryan and Deci’s (2017) Self-Determination Theory (SDT), is a psychological approach to understand how social factors assist or thwart humans’ ability to thrive. Specifically, there is self-determination in the need to educate each and every child by encouraging teachers and administrators to build relationships. These relationships, in turn, are the key to developing intrinsic motivations while integrating technology, not for the sake of technology but for the sake of productive, curriculum-based, and life skills-based education. School culture and climate should be one of inclusivity, humility, and humanity. The culture and climate of the school will be one of acceptance, patience, and a celebration of differences with a commitment to the virtues of character education. Beyond the realm of acceptance is respect for tough conversations. According to Pierce (2018), the ability to hold difficult, respectful discussions builds acceptance and creates a community. There need not be an agreement of personal theories, but there must be respect. The school will have a relentless love of students, ideas, and technology. Teachers will be encouraged for their role in passing their talents, knowledge, and strengths to their students. Dehmlow (2017) discussed the need for collaboration that allows the past to not be the focus. Remembering that the addige, but, we have always done it that way can be poison to the collaborative process. Collaboration and encouragement to take risks in evolving educational practices, lessons, and continued growth will set a precedent for students to become relentless learners who should follow their passions.
Whether educational institutions use the term 21st-century learners, future-ready learners, or one of the other fad or trending terms, the bottom line is to encourage each student to find, expand, and share their unique gifts with their communities. Technology integration can assist in educating each and every child. Nepo (2017) discussed the availability of education to students who are ‘different’ and the importance of serving all children. The use of technology is able to improve the education of students across a wide spectrum from low functioning to advanced. The use of many current trends in technology can allow students, teachers, and administrators to gain global access and the opportunity to build professional learning networks where they can build relationships which are assistive in developing intrinsic motivations. To integrate technology not for the sake of technology but for the sake of productive, curriculum and life skills-based education and global inclusion. Technology brings students to the world and allows them to cross borders, division, and stereotypes. Encouraging teachers and administrators to build relationships that are assistive in developing intrinsic motivations and integrating technology not for the sake of technology but for the sake of productive, curriculum and life skill-based education are also essential aspects. Technology brings students to the world and allows them to cross borders, division, and stereotypes. Additionally, a personal education philosophy interjected with Deci and Ryan’s (2017) self-determination theory (SDT), a psychological approach to understanding how social factors assist or thwart humans’ ability to thrive. Specifically, there is self-determination in the need to educate each and every child by supporting and encouraging teachers and administrators to build relationships.
Historically, there has been a vein of support for student voice. In globalized education, students are freer to find their place, that space where they are engaged, influenced, supported, and encouraged to grow and become more. Politics and policies have tried to favor what is best for the United States, sometimes succeeding, and sometimes with large areas left open for growth, reflection, and correction. Students today are encouraged to use their voices in speaking out, whether it is about school lunches or gun violence, they are supported to become leaders, developers, innovators, and thinkers. Together, diverse educators and leaders can work together to create advancements in personalized learning for the advancement of each student, uses of makerspaces and de-makerspaces to inform equity in education and, and project-based learning to grow resilience and problem-solving skills. Diverse perspectives and backgrounds can create visions, and set strategic goals that are high and yet achievable for each and every student when provided with appropriate, effective learning opportunities. The use of these three trends opens the doors of schools to community involvement and educational opportunities including safe places to have difficult discussions about education, race, religion, equity, and diversity. The personal goals and trends can encourage teachers and administrators to build relationships that are assistive in developing intrinsic motivations. The integration of trends in technology is not for the sake of technology but for the sake of life skill-based education bringing out the best in each and every child, teacher, leader, and families.
Perhaps I would need no personal philosophy in education if I did not have my sons, they are my light & my life here on earth. Their own educational journeys have brought more challenges, more knowledge, more desire to help, fix, learn and grow than any class or demand. They are not so unique that there are no other children like them. I simply refused to run them through the industrial age, the rural district I grew up in.
I mentioned my eldest promised at the age of six to quit school, marry and have a family. He did, in fact, follow through with his promise although he was thirteen when he applied to an early entrance program. After his acceptance, his father was diagnosed as terminal, I was laid off from work and he decided to wait until dad was gone and his brother and I had moved to a new house, so he would know where home was. At the age of fifteen, he left. Now nineteen, he assists in greeting the incoming freshman as a college senior then calls home and for the yearly joke. He laughs, “Mom! Why am I still younger than some of these babies?!” He can hear me shake my head.
My younger son, as I mentioned before was six and still labeled unintelligible. The psychologist even offered to help me find a home to place him to lessen my burden. His story is long, fighting with special education, a diagnosis, finally in the ninth grade of dyslexia and nutty professor syndrome. At fourteen, one year after his father’s death, and with the combination of a new school, a bully, a white supremacist teacher, and a failure of an administration led to my son to be questioned as a possible school shooter. How does one destroy a loving, intelligent child? Accuse him of wanting to be a mass murderer in the wake of the Florida school shootings as we prepared to join the March For Our Lives. I homeschooled him for two years, worked full time and was a for-profit so-called Christian University student. That was my life.
Thank You, Sir, May I have another?
A 1978 cult classic movie created a reference used widely still today, possibly by folks who have not seen the movie. Kevin Bacon spoke the words “Thank you, sir, may I have another” in the only scene I have watched from Animal House. Why? Because for the umpteenth time since becoming a teacher I was told to shut my mouth look at the floor and say, “Thank you, sir, may I have another.” I had no interest in the movie, it is not my type of entertainment. Yet this phrase is so persistent in our society. After seeing this clip, I never want to hear the phrase again. I simply think in an educated society, it does not mean what one may think it means.
No. I am an educated woman, Bacon’s character was pledging for a fraternity. A fraternity no less named Animal House. I will not be told to be obedient for the sake of a controlling person’s ego. Each situation I have heard that vulgar phrase was indeed a chauvinistic, sexist controlling situation. Four that come immediately to mind, high school graduation, teaching at a parochial school, not being considered for a promotion, turning in a co-worker for harassment, and then being a doctoral student at a residency.
Imagine being a seventeen-year-old young woman in the early nine-teen-nineties. You were fortunate enough to spend summers before traveling in D.C. and studying at Cornell through 4-H. Although an introvert, there was a burning passion to find your place. When you realize the guidance office had skipped you to pick a college, you march in and ask for help... and you are laughed at, you hear, “I think you should run off and marry a farmer like your momma did.” There was no help. After high school graduation, the college adventure was a lonely three-year journey not knowing what I was supposed to be doing, because I was not where I was supposed to be. I was unprepared.
Teaching at a parochial school seemed a common-sense move to me. I wanted to go to seminary. Instead, I gave in to family pressure, married, and had two sons. Shortly after, marriage disintegrating, a misdiagnosis of brain tumor, my older son determined to quit school and marry at the age of 6, and my younger diagnosed unintelligible at the age of 4, my principal called me into his evil lair. As if he knew what was going on in my home he stated, “If you cannot keep my husband home and not “busy with other congregants” I will have no option but to let you go.”
I had stood up to this man for being sexists in the hallway; for scolding me for speaking to a sixth-grade boy for inappropriately touching a girl. He reprimanded me firmly, “Boys will be boys and that girl’s uniform was far too short!” she was sent home for being indecent. Things really have not changed that much, I have sought assistance years later for another instance where I learned about PTSD and whistleblowers syndrome after submitting a complaint against a coworker.
Then there is my doctoral program. I was asked why I was on this doctoral journey. This journey was so hard and I expected it to be. I have no complaint there. I wanted to continue my education for the advancement of our children, that they may know love, be loved, and learn to love learning. Each and every child deserves this much and nothing less. I fought on that I may give them the opportunity to share their voice. I realize one of the times I heard, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” was at residency. Part of me wants to believe that it is the pseudo-believable, learn how to make critical evaluations. Alas, it cannot be both. In education, we must choose to teach our students to keep an open mind and fail forward or we teach them to be obedient. In education, as we delve deeper into the 21st century, there must be an expectation of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.
Three of these aspects were grossly missing from a failed journey at the for-profit so-called Christian University. In fact, there was such a failure of collaboration and communication that even if I had wanted to follow that vulgar statement of obedience, I received nothing to ask, “may I have another?” Where did I draw the line that was so highly spoken of? I do not drink, I do not go out partying. After my sons’ father passed I gave up on dating, I worked, I cared for my children, and I was a for-profit so-called Christian University doctoral Student. Everything else was below the line the dean spoke about at residency. My computer often sat on my piano and there I would write, take breaks by singing and playing, walk my pup, home school my son, then back to writing. My spirituality and my faith are unwavering. Yet, even at a Christian University doctoral residency, I listened to, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” Where is the feedback? And, what purpose in doctoral learning does twenty-four plus weeks of, "Post the following statement to the forum: "I am attending class, I am engaged in the writing of my dissertation, and I use my Learner Dissertation Page on the DC Network to communicate regularly with my dissertation chair/committee" teach?
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
The conflicting schools of thought I find myself in no longer boggle my mind. On one hand, part of the system told me to hold my head up, bite my lip if I have to, and keep being strong” and if the system jerks you around stand up and fight it. While other parts of the system demand animalistic, sexist, controlling obedience, “Thank you, sir, may I have another.” So herein lies a choice for both a university who says they are both Christian and great and a woman who is an ever-learning teacher and mother. Either way, my educational journey is not over. I am not quitting whether I have a doctorate that has the name of a certain for-profit so-called Christian University emblazoned on it or not. Can you look me in the eyes and tell me I am not worthy of a doctorate degree, yes, then we go our separate ways. Or, do we collaborate, learn together, teach together, and fight together for the future of each and every child?
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