For the past two years, I have written far fewer blog posts due to the reality that I was working on my doctorate. A doctorate is by no means a requirement for educational leadership; many of our school leaders have no Ed.D. at the end of their titles. In my case, I just felt that the doctoral training could help me more fully understand the intricacies of the educational landscape. So I did it.
And it was hard work. After two years of coursework and dissertation-writing, I have completed the journey. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to being called “Dr. Hynes,” but the title was not the point of this. It was all about deepening the lens through which I view this incredibly challenging, yet fulfilling, profession.
A big part of this doctoral journey is researching, writing and editing the dissertation. My dissertation addresses the intersection of media literacy and racial literacy. I spent hours visiting with middle-school students, talking with them about how media literacy tools and media sources influenced their thoughts about tough topics. I’m hopeful that I added something of value to the research on these topics. The dissertation link is here, as it was published just last week.
When I began this doctorate, I was able to share the details of the program with my parents, who as always were supportive and very proud. They had, after all, nurtured my brother and me into strong students and lifelong learners. Three months into the doctoral program, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Six months into the program, we lost my dad after he suffered a massive stroke. Over the past year and a half, my brother and I have tried to honor our dad’s life in appropriate ways, while also managing our mom’s care. We have had a lot of help along the way.
As I began my dissertation defense, I shared with my committee that I was dedicating this dissertation to my parents. My dad was no longer here to read his son’s work, and my mom was not able to absorb this research and remember it. Yet they were still surely proud of me as I began the defense, and I stood on their shoulders as I successfully defended the dissertation.
Life brings with it both opportunity and obstacle, sometimes simultaneously. At age 52, I am a doctor of education. At the same time, I am mourning the actual loss of one parent and the gradual loss of another. It’s my job to navigate all of this – to honor and care for my parents while also using their inspiration and guidance to fuel my modest attempts at making a difference in this world. It can feel like a lot sometimes, but it is life. And I can do it. That’s how my parents raised me.