November 20, 2018

So you want to be an admin...the aspiring leader

Ok, last installment of So you want to be an admin... (for now). This one is straight from a young teacher (I hired by the way) who has aspirations of being a school leader. Let me correct that, he is already a school leader but he wants a position that pays him for it...eventually. This is a must-read for the aspiring leader and even those who have done it for awhile, like me. Check it out and give Mr. Epley some leadership love.

So you want to be an admin?

Why pursue a career in administration?

      This is Caroline, my five-month-old daughter.  

When I think about education, as a teacher or an administrator, I wonder what Caroline’s educational journey will look like. It’s this curiosity that motivates me because I want to a part of the answer.  I will lead in education from my teaching position as long as I’m allowed to do so.  However, I decided to take the necessary steps to open doors to the world of administration.  I did this to give myself the chance of leading education into the future from a related, but different, chair.  To fully understand my “why”, it is important to understand my journey to the field of education.

Education is about serving and building relationships.  I chose to enter the field of education because of my love for history, but more importantly, my desire to positively influence the lives of our youth. Early in my life, in 8th-grade US History, I decided I wanted to be a teacher.  Throughout high school I joggled ideas of physical therapy and other fields that would have made great careers. Yet, I always ended up back where I started - teaching.  I was later hired as a young graduate of the University of Tennessee to teach 8th grade US History at my old school and in the very classroom that jump-started my desire to teach.  

I believe mentors are essential to professionals who desire to grow and lead within their field.  My 8th grade history teacher, Coach Jones, was one of the earliest mentors I remember.  Much later, I was lucky enough to be hired by Dr. Mick Shuran and mentored by him during my first few years as a teacher.  The many conversations with him stimulated my interest in school leadership.  Those conversations revolved around “everything education” and what we can do better as educators in the 21st century.

 I quickly realized I had the ability to build strong relationships with students, which allowed some of the obstacles they faced to become obvious.  Some of these students came from extremely difficult situations at home.  Their home lives were so different than mine as a child.  I grew up in Tullahoma but was naive to the conditions many of our children dealt with at home.  Teachers have a unique ability to see potential in all their students.  I was no different and saw massive potential in all my students.  

As educators, we allow our youth to have meaningful experiences, some of which may end up being their lifelong passion. The 21st century offers educational tools and access to knowledge in greater capacities than at any other point in human history.  These tools give students access to information (OER) and chances to see places (AR/VR) they may never have been able to in a previous decade.  It’s these chances and opportunities that provide all students with new opportunities and may very well save some of our young children by helping them find their passion.  I hope to lead education into the future and provide support to teachers so ALL of our students have the chance to find their passion and their own “why.”

Through much thought and prayer, I decided I wanted to further my education and begin preparing for a possible career in school leadership.  For the record, I do believe teachers are school leaders, actually the most important ones (and it's not close)! I chose to pursue (August 2016) my Ed.D at Carson - Newman University with a concentration in administration with licensure and plan to defend my dissertation in March 2019.

My “Whys”
Disclaimer: My “whys” apply to all the “hats” I wear or may wear over the course of my career in education.

     I chose this path because I understand the tools we have today may very well save kids with difficult home situations by opening doors and providing opportunities.  Serving teachers and students while providing the necessary support, training, and resources to take advantage of these amazing tools (AR/VR, OER, Coding, etc.) is something I’m passionate about.
     I chose this path because I believe the digital divide is closing (even if slowly) and access to knowledge will break down barriers for students that may have never been given a chance to succeed in the previous 20th century “industrial style” classroom.  I believe this happens by exposing students to more information, in relevant delivery methods, which increases their chances of finding their own “why.”
     I chose this path because education needs strong leaders willing to disrupt education norms and help navigate classrooms into the future.
     Lastly, I chose this path to enhance my ability as an educator.  The lessons learned and thinking skills gained from my degree will serve me well as a teacher and any other position I hold throughout my career. 

My “whys” are built on the same foundation that led me to this field: a desire to serve and my passion for people and building relationships.  Serving is the foundation of my career and it is my hope that it is what my career will end on, as a teacher or administrator, and maybe most importantly an educator.

How do you begin to prepare and pursue a career in administration?

          Ask me this question in 30 years (I’m 27), and I will probably tell you certain things I could have done better to prepare for a career in education in general, as well as administration. I don’t pretend to know what an administrator’s daily life is like.  Just like I didn’t know what a teacher’s life was like prior to entering the classroom.  I would not have ever thought to use the video linked below to explain to the “real world”, as they like to call it, what teaching is like, but that's exactly what I do. 

        Once I determined I wanted to begin preparing to ready myself for a potential shift to school leadership and understood my goals, I had to unravel the seemingly infinite amount of layers revolving around university programs, licensure, cost, and value.  I wanted to make sure I could become a licensed administrator in the state of Tennessee and that my degree held value.  Value is obviously hard to measure, so I went with a school I knew had a great reputation and was within my budget.  There are many aspects to consider when contemplating a doctoral program, but some of the more notable ones are discussed below.

 FAQ of Aspiring Administrators


What level degree do I need? What level degree do I want? Ed.D. or Ph.D.?

I received my master's degree in 2014 from UT - Knoxville.  So, I decided I wanted to earn my Ed.D.  Carson-Newman offers Masters, Ed.S, and Ed.D programs.  Some schools offer an Ed.D and some offer Ph.D.  Some may even offer both.  Carson-Newman’s doctorate program awards you with an Ed.D.
Which school should I attend? In-state or out-of-state?
Several reasons I decided to attend Carson-Newman University include their accreditation with the state of Tennessee’s licensure program, they are in-state, and I really valued their Christian perspective.  I wanted an in-state school, because I wanted to be a licensed administrator in the state of Tennessee.  I’m sure there are ways to accomplish this with out-of-state schools, but I’m unsure of them.
Should I participate in an online program or hybrid?
Many universities are moving to online methods of delivery.  UT-Chattanooga and UT-Knoxville offer a hybrid model.  Students attend classes periodically but also find coursework online.  This was a big decision for me.   I felt the ability to network and learn from others would be valuable in a hybrid program.  However, due to costs and proximity, I chose an online method of delivery.  I have been impressed with Carson - Newman’s ability to communicate and ensure students grow while participating in their program.
Is my school accredited with the state of Tennessee’s licensure program?
Some doctoral students already hold an administrative license.  I was not one of those.  So, it was important for me to choose a school accredited with the states licensure program.  
 What do I have to do, in unison with my coursework, to become a licensed administrator?
At Carson - Newman, you can earn your Ed.D without gaining licensure.  You have to be accepted into Carson - Newman’s Leadership Licensure program to have the opportunity of becoming licensed.  The licensure program is a completely separate program filled with tons of requirements that must be met.  A few of the steps that must be met: Portfolio filled with information related to your career, interview, 175 practicum hours, completion of a practicum project, and a passing score on SLLA.
How will I pay for my school? Are there tax benefits I should know about?
You can take out student loans to pay for your school or can utilize Carson - Newman’s partnership with Official Payments: Payplan.  This program divides your annual tuition into 12 payments making it much more manageable.

There are tax credits!

The Tax Assistant is a great tool for you to use to understand your eligibility for certain benefits.

Widely Used Education Tax Credits

What does it take?
I believe having a mentor or someone who has “been there, done that” is important.  That person can provide advice and confidence as you pursue your degree.  Other characteristics that are important include: 


All of these are extremely important because it's not easy paying for it, spending time away from family, and continuing it for three years minimum. I would also say it’s important to find a friend to complete the program with.  I didn’t have this, but it would have been helpful.

 My Professional Goals

During the first few years of my career, I developed three broad, but important, professional goals.  They are meaningful and applicable to any position within the field of education and certainly as an administrator.

1.  Do what is best for the students.
2.  Positively influence the progression of education
3.  Be a lifelong learner.

          These goals apply to many areas of education and are how I hope to be able to summarize my career.  Since these are somewhat long term, I have developed several other goals, or Maxims if you will (thanks, General Neyland), that help direct my daily professional life.

          I hope to use my degree to positively and efficiently stimulate progress in education by meaningfully implementing new and relevant strategies that correlate with the current and future job markets of the world.  I believe this happens by taking risks and being supportive of trying/implementing new instructional strategies.  My long term goals still leave room for people to say, “Ok, so what does that mean? What does that look like?”  Similarly, I don’t want to reflect on my career and see someone who had lots of great ideas but never acted on them.  My Maxims help establish my daily mission and are explained below.

1.  Be a risk taker.
-      I hope to use my degree to positively and efficiently influence educations progression by meaningfully implementing new and relevant learning strategies. 
2.  Promote trying new things without fear of failure.
-       I believe this happens by taking risks and being supportive of trying/implementing new instructional strategies.
3.  Move and lead!
-      I am as guilty as anyone of coming up with grand ideas but leaving them at just that - an idea.  Don’t wait for the next lesson, the next unit, or the next year to try something new.  Likewise, support others brave enough to implement new instructional strategies.  Lead by assuming extra responsibilities and offering assistance to others even when it may be inconvenient.

Interested in starting your journey as a doctoral candidate?
Click the table below (or HERE) to take you to links of programs throughout the state of Tennessee as well as one in Kentucky!

I'll refrain from giving too much advice and defer to Dr. Dan Lawson, another excellent mentor who gave me great advice while I was contemplating starting my EdD when he said, "My best advice is to MOVE!"

Thanks for reading! If you liked what you saw be sure to check out the previous installments on So you want to be an admin. If you like getting weekly tidbits of joy and coolness, click HERE to get my 5 Things Friday.

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