Two years ago in November I sat in one of the large conference rooms at the district office with 19 other teachers, 17 of whom I’d never met before. Dr. Swindle, the program director, informed us that we needed to prepare to commit 24 hours per week to our new studies and reminded us that this wasn’t a free master’s because it wasn’t free to the community or our families.
I was 3 months pregnant and bracing for what I thought was going to be the biggest challenge yet: starting a master’s and delivering a newborn. We left the conference room with a Rockford University coffee mug, excitement and apprehension. Over the next year the 20 of us became family. I delivered George and edited my relevant topic paper in the hospital the following morning. I showed up to class 9 days after delivery and was quickly reminded why we are supposed to take 6 weeks to rest and heal. I thought the most challenging part was over. I had no idea.
In September on the first week of school, our district was hit by ransomware. We had no internet, no printers, no phones, no clocks, no bells, no PA system, no access to years of resources on district servers (this is part of the reason I haven’t blogged) Even still, we persisted in our studies, all the while reinventing our craft and our materials for our jobs. In December 2019 we all attended cohort 2’s research symposium, excitedly supporting our colleagues and talking about our own day soon to come. The ransomware attack had mostly been resolved and we thought we could get back to normal. We had no idea.
By March the University announced classes would no longer be in person and we shifted to zoom, where we remain. Many of us have children at home and having class over dinner time and bedtime is not exactly easy. Meanwhile many of us had to shift and rethink our research projects, now severely impacted by the pandemic. Once again we found ourselves reinventing our craft as we struggled to find effective ways to teach online learners, hybrid learners with less contact time and constantly changing schedules and constant uncertainty about what tomorrow would look like. When I entered this program, I entered with a mindset that I would just “get it done”. Completion wasn’t something to be particularly proud of because getting a master’s is just a thing “you do” as a teacher. All of that has changed. And in the process we’ve been transformed as educators and bonded forever as friends.