It feels good to be done, but the change in pace is a little strange. There has been a lot to reflect upon from this program, and soon enough, the caps and gowns will be put away and what remains, really, is what was gained.
I am not sure any of us had any idea about what our final assignment might look like, be about, or “feel like” to research and write… the extra challenge that many folks I talk to don’t realize was that our project was for another audience other than ourselves or professors. So on one hand, we pass that along, and just maybe that research will be useful to us down the road. I feel fortunate to have gotten to work on something I was really interested in, and likewise, I had the opportunity to work with a great group of colleagues who were wonderful partners.
But beyond the tables, the figures, and the references, I think, is the learning that came from the experience of responding to an authentic research need, discovering what might both make a client happy and providing something that will be useful, and then coming together in a team without any appointed leader and making it all happen. Within a year.
Derrick, Angie, Shawnya and I of course didn’t just create a big paper in the end. We had slides, presentations, a mini-website, and five site visits with–and I hope they correct me if I’m wrong–but interviews with 44 participants through both individual and focus group interviews. By the time we graduate, we will have met together just about 100 times. Exactly. And if it goes over, we’ll probably never tell anyone (we seem to like big round numbers).
I think we had a great guide in Dr. Shakeshaft for reminding us more than once that this experience was for us–it was a learning experience. Sometimes that meant going into a new direction and forging into new territory. And that would be my advice for those in the cohorts that follow us: make choices that aren’t necessarily the easy ones, but the ones that will help you grow as a student, as a leader, and as a researcher. Those roles will intermingle, not to mention your roles as an educator, and possibly a husband, a wife, or a parent.
Doing a research project like this in just a year has its tradeoffs. We would have loved to have repeated a few visits with follow ups. Done classroom observations. Talked with students and parents. And we know how to do that and how it could be done. But in the end, despite me knowing it can never be “perfect” (which is, I admit, one thing I’ve learned about myself in this program is that I have a preference for things being perfect), I am proud of our work, our finished products, but none of it was as impressive as the teamwork it took to put it all together.
Thank you, Drs. Deloatch, Kim, and Tolliver for the great experience.
(If you’re looking for more content after this post, I plan to continue my professional journey online back home at johnhendron.net.)