I initially began my doctoral journey solely for intrinsic reasons. As a person who simply enjoys the process of learning, pursuing an advanced degree was a natural step in my life journey. Well, that, and I also made a promise to my grandmother that no matter what it took, I would obtain my doctorate sometime during my adult life. My doctoral journey was something that I was doing just for myself, just because I wanted to experience that particular level of challenge and engagement.
I knew that I’d learn a lot during the course of my studies at SPU, and I knew that my studies would also further my understanding of theory and knowledge as it applies to education in general. What I never really anticipated, however, was how useful and applicable my learning in doctoral program would be to my career. I’m happy to report that I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I have put my learning to work in my day-to-day work life. My doctorate has benefitted me in ways big and small in my professional pursuits, and for that I am doubly grateful that I persevered and completed the doctoral program at SPU.
Yes, it is true that having the letters “Ed.D.” after one’s name is a nice plus when you are a brand new building principal. Staff, colleagues, parents, and even kids seem to hold a hefty respect for that level of educational pursuit. That fact, in and of itself, has been a nice side benefit of my decision to complete the program. There just seems to be an inherent respect for a person who undertakes and completes a rigorous course of study from a well-respected program such as the one offered by SPU’s School of Education. However, the true professional benefit of having my doctorate runs deeper than just providing others with a positive perception of my ability.
Prior to undertaking my doctorate, I had a basic knowledge of theory and relevant literature for the field of education, but now, I truly own the knowledge. In talking with staff, parents, or colleagues, I have an extensive learned knowledge base that I can pull from at any time, because after the intensive degree of research offered by the program, I now just “know” the information. Furthermore, I’m able to distill credible researchers and theorists from those who lack a basis for their conclusions. Even more important, I am able to concisely and clearly articulate why one theorist has credence while another may not, and I can do so without jargon or confusion. This has been enormously helpful as my building leadership team discusses pedagogical decisions for our team. I also learned the art of staying current on research trends, which I know will pay enormous dividends as my career progresses.
Another essential benefit to my work is the fact that the strong statistics emphasis provided in the SPU program has translated into my being able to guide my staff through assessment results in a way that I was not able to do previously. In this era of growing accountability for student performance, understanding the way in which assessments are crafted and evaluated is of paramount importance. Our discussions about state testing data and results were made more applicable and meaningful to our staff and students because I had the ability to clarify just what the results meant and how they translated into gains for student achievement. I was also able to take complicated results and craft trend data that was eminently more useful in our building discussions. Being able to handle staff questions about testing data, even highly detailed questions, felt very empowering to me and it clearly gave the staff confidence in my abilities as an instructional leader.
I began my doctoral work with the goal of making myself a better person and offering myself the opportunity to engage in extended and meaningful discourse with like-minded students. I concluded my doctoral work realizing thatthe experience transcended all of my expectations. Yes, I became a better person, and yes, I ended the program with a wonderful cohort of intelligent and dedicated educators whom I now call my friends. However, the journey transcended my expectations due to how it is benefitting not just me, but how it’s also benefitting my school community. I am already witnessing the ripple effect of this on my staff and students. It is my hope that I can continue to translate those small ripples into greater and greater effects on the achievement of my students.
Laurynn Evans, Ed.D.
Rose Hill Junior High School
Stella Schola Middle School
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