Every year, my students complete their college education and they can’t help but think about taking their Master’s Education. They frequently ask for my views and questions like these are usual…
“Is a Master’s Education still important in this day and age?”
“Will it be worth it?”
I know how important it is for them to pursue higher studies because some of them are aiming for promotion and others are planning on migrating. Given these reasons, it makes sense to choose a path that will open doors for a higher income, a better status, and more opportunities.
It’s understandable to think this way because these are typical reasons that compel us to take a Master’s degree.
From seminars, workshops, and talks I have attended on personal development in the past, the usual advice was to consider Passion, Purpose, and Profit as the determining factors for making major decisions on improving one’s self.
What this means is that we must choose something that is in line with our passion and purpose. We’re told to follow our passion because it’s what will help us get through the toughest times in life. Taking a Master’s degree is no easy feat and when we’re doing it based on what we are so eager on, it drives us to persevere. Oftentimes, we are advised to identify our purpose and navigate our way in life through that. When we operate on purpose, every action we do seems meaningful. Our choices must potentially yield to a good return of investment in the near future, after all, we’re investing our time and money into it.
While these are all valid grounds, these weren’t my considerations when I pursued my Master’s education. My circumstances were what impelled me to follow another route. I will share with you in this post what worked for me instead.
If you are one of my students and you’re reading this post, I hope you will learn from my answer to your question.
…and for that, I will take you back to 2011!
Circumstances played a huge role
I will carry you through me.
You don’t really fully realise the gravity of this emotion until you’ve experienced the opposite of it which is happiness.
You cannot fathom the depth of this pit until you’ve reached the surface, have climbed yourself out of it, and have seen the light.
I didn’t know I was lonely and in the dark a decade ago. Looking back, I can remember being surrounded by people, yet feeling alone. I was earning a good amount of salary, but my pockets were empty. My work seemed like a futile effort, so I felt used, but also useless at the same time.
I didn’t know that I was lonely and in the dark because I was highly functional and productive. In fact, I was trusted to teach more modules in the college and even managed to lead the team in charge of the on-the-job-training for students alongside. My students were happy with the way I was teaching them. I was able to put my brother through college and pay my bills.
Now that I’m in a better place, in hindsight, I can say that in those years, I was actually in a gloomy and forlorn state. It didn’t look like it on the outside, but I, actually, was on the inside. I was just probably too busy to notice it. Or perhaps, it was my subconscious mind masking the real situation.
I’m glad I’m no longer in that state. I’m not euphorically happy now, but I’m less dispirited and my days are brighter.
I got my Eureka moment!
Do you want to know what helped me get through from that situation to where I am now in my state of mind?
It’s this Master of Education in Leadership and School Improvement I took at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam in 2013.
During brief get-to-know-you conversations with my university classmates, questions such as, “Why are you taking this programme?” would come up. I would, then, reason out that I have plans of managing my own school someday. That wasn’t a lie, but there was more to that answer than that.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell them that I was there to find myself…that perhaps, this programme will give me something to look forward to..in life.
At that time, I didn’t want to sound ridiculous to any of my classmates because they were all in high-ranking positions in the schools they were leading.
Here’s where it got more exciting!
I did a qualitative thesis for my coursework. It was a depiction of the exploration of a middle manager of her journey in leadership.
I think that somehow the universe had my back and understood my plight because this research activity suited me well. It meshed with my personality and it served the therapy I didn’t know I needed back then.
My research supervisor, Dr. Takeyuki Ueyama, encouraged me to look up John C. Flanagan and read up on the Critical Incident Technique. This, as it turned out, is a procedure that one can use to understand one’s behaviour in certain experiences and this understanding can in turn help in solving personal and professional challenges in the near future. At the heart of this technique is identifying what works, what does not work, what should be done, and what should not be done. In carrying out this technique, the individual using it benefits from assessing situations and asking the right questions.
The idea sat well with me because it was just like keeping a diary or journaling which I’ve already been doing since my younger years. The act of recording and reflecting on the critical incidents also resonated with me being an introvert. Plus, I gravitated towards introspection and retrospection.
What a Master’s Education Gave Me
3 months after completing this programme, I left Brunei Darussalam where I taught for 7 years and I moved to Sri Lanka to finally settle down in life. I didn’t get to practice my masters degree in the traditional sense of it like being a principal in a learning institute or building my own school.
I brought with me the technique and habit of recording incidents that are critical to me. That was the biggest takeaway from it all.
The universe had to put me in a desolate phase in my life so I could be prodded to go through a 2-year part-time programme to realise this.
Am I angry? No.
Am I thankful? Very!
Because of this whole experience, I learned the art of leading and improving myself. I have fully understood what it means to lead full throttle. I’m a big believer now of one cannot uplift others if one cannot even lift himself or herself up.
I needed to learn how to carry myself because when and if I get to be lonely and in the dark again, I know there’s no other person who can and who will carry me…but myself.
It’s this Master of Education in Leadership and School Improvement that shaped this realization.
As always…the journey of self-improvement continues and who knows what and when the next leap will be. The universe leaves clues.
I will carry myself through me.
Pain. Progress.Peace of Mind
People pursue higher studies for different reasons. Some don’t know what to study for Master’s Education, which topics to explore for their research, or determine the best time to take it, and which university would be right for it.
Others are worried about their GPA not being enough to qualify. There are those who want to make sure they can use the qualification to migrate. Some want to use it so they can apply for better opportunities domestically.
So many thoughts and emotions are around this life-changing decision. I don’t have the right answers, but I hope that my journey serves as an answer.
For me, what triggered the decision to further my studies was Pain. I was feeling an emotion that was slowly destroying my confidence and self-esteem. I did not really intend to take my Master’s degree to secure any promotion. What I wanted was a routine and habit I could take on to see Progress in my life. When I finished my journey, I got the Peace of mind I didn’t know I needed back then. At the end of it all, I was truly happy.
What I understood in life is that, although pain is a negative emotion, it does bring benefits when making big decisions.
- Pain revealed to me who I am.
- Pain exposed to me what I want my future to be and what I don’t want it to be.
- Pain helped me identify what is essential for my progress and what is not.
- Pain opened my eyes to what I was really searching for at that time, and it was not a promotion nor recognition, but it was peace of mind.
I’m not saying we should forget about our passion and purpose. Both are great factors, of course!
But, more than these two, it really helps to look at ourselves closely.
I became less hopeless and more hopeful
When we find ourselves in that situation where it’s hopeless to change, sometimes, the wiser thing to do is to change ourselves. I take this from experience. It may be painful but a better mindset would help. A more solid set of habits would help. A great avenue to gain all this is education.
There will be that point in time when we’ll feel that urge to get out of our plight. We’ll feel frustrated about something. We will have that desire to experience progress. Progress, not success.
We’ll somehow feel that genuine calling for change.
And then…slowly, every thing becomes a little brighter and more sensible to us.
We’ll be less and less hopeless and be more and more hopeful.
At the end of the day…
You know what? We will have mustered the courage to bring ourselves up.
You will carry yourself through you.
By the time we know it, we will have completed your studies and have become a changed person.
We’ll finally get to say, “Oh, well, this is what a Masters of Education did to me!”
Then, we’ll realise that our decision to take it was all worth it.
“Is a Master’s Education still important in this day and age?”
Whether we follow a practical route of following passion-purpose-profit or one that’s based on our circumstances (like what happened to me), if we have clarity to some extent, taking a Master’s Education is still important in these times.
“Will it be worth it?”
It will always be worth it if we value at least one take-away that a Master’s Education has given us. In my case, the take-away were the habits and the mindset of looking into myself as a leader. What I realised is that I will always carry myself through it all, no matter what.
This is What A Master’s Education Did To Me
Education will always be part of an individual’s growing up process, whether that’s in a formal or informal setting. What pursuing further studies did to me was somehow similar to driving in a tunnel and realising that there’s light at the end of it. I couldn’t see the light when I was in it. It’s not until later when I looked back on it, that I realised just how important it was to get there.
I managed to get out of the pain I was suffering from at that time and I saw how I can progress in life. I got the calm that I didn’t know I was looking for. Imagine the irony of taking a Master’s Education while maintaining a full-time job (that’s not calm at all!), then only to experience calm piece by piece afterwards? It’s beautiful!
To my students who are graduating or have already graduated and are contemplating on venturing into a Master’s degree, I hope my journey can give you some perspective about it.
All the best!
To those of you who have completed your Master’s Education, feel free to comment what was your journey like. It may contribute to the perspective of others and may help in making a decision around higher studies.
(N.B. I will share with you a downloadable worksheet that you can use to apply the Critical Incident Technique by John Flanagan.It will be filed under the Resources page.)