Why I’m Delighted I Did a Masters by Tracey Smith

Having read a recent blog by Dr Bethany Kelly (@imisschalk) about the value of doing a Masters degree, I began to reflect upon my own Masters journey, recently completed, and appreciated anew all of the benefits and advantages it has brought, both for the school I was working in, but perhaps more significantly, for myself as a learning professional.

As a Headteacher, I applied for the Masters in Educational Leadership with @UoBSchoolofEd and the NCE in 2018 and this, over the course of the next two years, prompted a transformational impact on the CPD in my school. So began a series of residentials, featuring lectures and impactful group seminars, which, along with the reading material, began a renewed interest in me for researching educational papers and journals. I had always prided myself on being an evidence-informed practitioner, keeping up to date with the latest from the EEF, Dylan Wiliam, John Hattie, but this went much deeper and brought about a fuller understanding of the research behind the evidence.

Then there were the assignments. Having been ashamed of my under-achievement at A-level and degree level, here was a way in which I endeavoured to redeem myself and I worked hard, spending all my weekends reading and researching, with a real tenacity to do better this time. The first assignment I undertook was based on styles of leadership and for me, was a study in self-reflection and a determination to be better, in fact to be the best leader I could be. For my next assignment, I decided to look at school culture and thus followed another period of reflection as I engaged in a retrospective analysis of how I had gone about re-culturing my school and a renewed appreciation of the need to be authentic and values-driven as a leader.

The final assignment was a dissertation involving a change project within my school. Here again, another chance to improve upon the paltry attempt I submitted for my first degree, incommensurate, I felt, with my potential ability, and now the opportunity to recompense for my poor effort and motivation in the past and set about fulfilling that potential. Armed as I was at my school with a new staff after the school had gone into special measures and I had been brought in by the Trust to improve things, I had a unique opportunity to establish an effective, high-impact CPD programme, and this formed the basis of my change project. Not only did I learn a huge amount about about research methods, but the knowledge I gained enabled me to design and implement a really effective and impactful programme of CPD in my school, which in turn yielded fabulous academic results but also led to a happy school community with a high performing self-actualised staff group sitting very happily at the top of Maslow’s triangle.

There are three post-scripts to this story. The first is the Whatsapp group of fellow Masters students who offered mutual help and support along the way and created new friendships in fellow professionals outside of my geographic area. The second is that I can proudly say I completed my Masters with a distinction, exorcising those academic demons from my past. Thirdly, my combined love of research and training has led me into a brand-new career, as a Senior Lecturer and Primary PGCE Course Leader at none other than the University of Buckingham’s School of Education.

Tracey Smith

Primary PGCE Course Leader, School of Education, University of Buckingham

@traceyjanesmith

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