Does this mean I’ll need to change my twitter handle?

For the first time in a long time, I’m nervous.

Stepping in front of a classroom for the first time nine years ago didn’t frighten me. My teacher training at Illinois State prepared me for that.

Stepping foot on the Harvard Ed School campus as a student this year didn’t worry me. Learning as a teacher and student at Science Leadership for four years prepared me for that.

Next year is a bit different.

I’m going west (young man) to Boulder, CO where I’ll be one of the newest doctoral students at the University of Colorado – Boulder in their Educational Foundations Policy and Practice Ph.D. program.

While everything up to this point prepared me to complete the application and ostensibly to complete the program, joining the program also means stepping out of my depth.

Under the G.I. Bill, my grandfather completed his master’s degree when he left the army decades ago, and my mom completed hers a couple years ago. Making the move to complete my M.Ed. this year meant following in their footsteps. It was learning from the lead of two of the most impactful role models I’ve ever had. I wasn’t encouraged by the fact teachers around me had completed their master’s. It was that this was something my family has done. We do this.

The doctorate lives in a different space in my head. While I’ve encountered and befriended countless Ph.D’s, it’s not something my family has done. I didn’t realize, until I received my admission notice and was faced with the decision, how much my family and lineage weigh on my perception of what I can (and should) do.

I’m going.

In the end, it came down the chance to study a topic about which I’m passionate at a world-class institution dedicated to interdisciplinary studies with a social justice bent versus moving safely in the spaces I know.

Part of me is scared.

I could fail. I’ve no family history toward which I can nod and say, “This is something we do.”

I’m moving halfway across the country. I’m committing to the formal life of a student. I’m saying this is the work to which I am dedicating my life for the next few years. Pieces of it feel more selfish than teaching. Most of it is much less immediate than the daily workings of the classroom. But it’s something about which I’m curious and something I know to be important. It’s a chance to make a difference in a different way.

Because of this – and because it’s important to lean in to the things that scare us – I’m going.

And, I guess, if you keep reading, you’re going too.

10 thoughts on “Does this mean I’ll need to change my twitter handle?

  1. Congratulations, Zac! What an exciting journey your life is turning out to be – and I’m glad you’re still sharing it with us! It’s ok to be scared – that’s sometimes when the most impactful growth occurs. Maybe the girls and I can come out and visit you. You do ski, right? If not, add it to your list of things to learn! I know this great instructor. 😀

  2. Welcome to CU, Zac. You can’t get here soon enough!

    Sense the challenge, not the fear of failure. The environment here at CU is too supportive for fear, and everyone from Dean Shepard on down recognizes the investment you’re putting into the program and the investment we’re putting in you, and for that reason we don’t want you — or will let you — fail. And that includes me. As happy as I am for you, I’m selfishly happy for myself, as I know having you around will push me in some ways that need pushing.
    You may have a different set of assignments, but in my Multicultural Ed class (required of all 2nd year students) we wrote an autobiographical/sociohistorical essay examining our family and the various circumstances (including policies, privileges, disadvantages, etc.) that shaped our educational path. Something tells me you’ll enjoy that assignment, and enjoy hearing about the stories of your classmates. I sure did.

  3. Congrats Zac!! You’re made for this… You will need to learn to ski if you don’t already. And you’ll probably need to get a dog. Both my nephews went to CU and are now living in Denver (well, one lives in”Stapletopia”) if you need contacts in the area.

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