Thursday, February 20, 2020

Eagle Butte

Back to school: stretching beyond limits betters us 

Ten years ago, I took graduate classes for a masters in curriculum and instruction. At the time, my children were still under 10, and I was not in a transition period I did not want to be living.

The pressures of my world demanded I get back into the full-time workforce, after having lived several years off contract work and a case management job.

I accrued debt and since I left Indiana to come teach in South Dakota, I allowed life and the need to make money interfere with the completion of my master’s thesis and thus, the completion of my degree.

My expensive failure to complete that goal nags at the edge of my mind, but when raising children and working for that almighty dollar, it is easy to shove failures aside or rationalize them, whichever works best.

Since my children have graduated from high school and have begun their venture into adulthood, I have decided to aim for my master’s degree, this time focusing on my passion rather than my paycheck by earning a master’s in English rather than education.

First, teachers getting master’s degrees is not really a big deal. Many if not most of the teachers who work at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte and surrounding schools are currently working on their master’s degrees in education or their specific field of interest. I am like many of these teachers, working on my homework in between writing lesson plans and grading papers.

This column is not about me doing anything different from what hundreds of other teachers do. Instead, it is about how graduate school or any other quality training can give us perspective on what we are capable of and how we can improve in our professions and in our personal lives.

I have started what I consider serious and challenging graduate work, with the goal of developing a thesis and completing it this time, and five weeks into the first online class of this venture, I am already learning where my strengths and weaknesses exist in writing and reading.

Online classes challenge one’s knowledge and dexterity with technology, and for me, has already made me realize that incorporating technology into my class and requiring its use from my students is a must.

Too often, we land a job or a kind of job, and we stick with it. We become experts and think that since we have been there a long time and not been fired, or received awards, then we do not need training or higher education.

I disagree with this comfortable complacency. We can always and should always seek to better ourselves through educational opportunities that stretch our abilities rather than fortify our comfort zones.

If we are not challenged, how can we grow? No successful athlete, businessman or author ever came by their success without the toil of work and the challenge that threatened them with the thought of giving up.

The moment of truth is when one asks him or herself, “Why am I doing this?”

Why am I running to the point I feel I will throw up? Why am I losing sleep to finish this paper? Why am I taking my trying to understand this article about the life cycle of an amoeba?

Whatever question it is, it is at this point you will find yourself either giving up or pressing on. Never have I given up and felt good about it. Each time I have given into my desire to just stop, I have regretted that I did not push myself harder.

Why start a race you will not finish? If you start, you should always finish, and finish as strongly as you can. Even if you are dragging yourself across the finish line for last place, you have pushed yourself beyond your limits. You have grown to be better than you were before you started.

I tell this to my students and as I begin my master’s degree, I remind myself that hard work, challenges, patience and endurance will lead to greater gains for me in the future. And the better I am, the better I can be for others.