Changing Education without Losing Myself


Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when I started a blog.  I’ve been doing this for just over six months now and what nobody tells you is how hard it’s going to be.  And how stressful it is not only to think of stuff to write about (that you hope others will find interesting), but also how vulnerable you sometimes feel putting yourself out there.

So why am I so attached to this blog and whether or not it succeeds?  I had to give it some thought.  So the post today is about the answer to that question.  It’s a little bit different from my usual posts, because it’s not so much about education and technology.  It’s about me and my relationship with education and technology.

I finished graduate school in 1998.  I was 27 years old and had a doctorate.  I can honestly say that I had NO IDEA what my purpose was.  I only had a vague idea that I wanted to make a difference for kids in education.  So I spent the next 14 years working for other people, fitting myself into their purposes as I learned more about my own.  Sure, I was lucky that there were times when their purposes overlapped with my developing purpose.  And I felt my way.  Which things felt good to me?  Which things energized me?  And which things just didn’t feel right at all?  Which felt downright wrong…sinister, even?

In January of this year I was laid off.  I was excited.  I hadn’t been “feeling” good stuff in my job for a long time and I was ready for the next adventure.  And this blog and the work I’ve been doing since with clients has been so gratifying.  And the reason is because now that I’m on my own, EVERYTHING I do is consistent with my purpose, ethics and personal integrity.  What a concept.

So what do my purpose, ethics and personal integrity dictate for me?  That at the end of the day, it should be all about kids learning.  For me, that means clearly defined student outcomes that can be measured.  A lot of people disagree with me on the measurement piece, but for me, being able to demonstrate that an instructional program works in teaching kids is how we not only justify the expense, but also how we make a case for doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.  At the end of the day, I’m a scientist.  Show me the data!

I care passionately about this.  I feel physically sick when I hear people talk about kids’ learning in terms of the bottom line or act like kids learning something from digital instruction is sort of nice, but not necessary.  I get angry, I get combative and yes, I fill up with self-righteous indignation.  And now I can do those things without worrying about the office politics.

But that’s not all.  I also sleep better at night, I worry less, I laugh more, I clench my jaw less (just ask my dentist!), I’m more fun to be around (just ask my husband!) and I can look at myself in the mirror every day and feel good.

So here I am.  Living my purpose and trying to make a difference in education.  Putting myself out there.  Trying to listen; trying to collaborate; trying to help.  Feeling good.  And getting my “self” back.  And hoping that it might also start paying the bills!

What’s your purpose?  Are you living it?  And if not, what’s holding you back?

About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
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4 Responses to Changing Education without Losing Myself

  1. Chris Wondra says:

    Outstanding. As a long time blogger who continues to evolve, I totally get your comment about how hard this is. Thank you for sticking to your guns. You are doing important work and adding much value to this (I believe) most interesting of professions.

  2. Lauren R. says:

    Thank you for being such an inspiration and sharing your voice so honestly. Seriously Karen, this blog and particularly this post is so you I can practically hear you speak it!

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