What I learned this year

This time last year, like some of you, I had just been notified of my admission to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I had many of the same thoughts and feelings that I imagine you have right now – excitement, gratitude, anxiety, curiosity, relief, etc. In six weeks my classmates and I will submit our final exams, papers, and projects, and my year at HGSE will end. It is a time of much reflection. In no particular order, here are some of the things I learned this year:
• I need to eat something approximately once every 90 minutes. Class meetings are typically 1.5 to 3 hours long. The result was that a majority of my calories were consumed this year in the form of snacks.
• Measures of central tendency are useful. Right? Averages are helpful both academically and psychologically. But beware the Normal distribution: it’s one thing to discover it through research; it’s a potentially more dangerous thing to expect it. Put another way, can you think of examples from life where we don’t want something to take the shape of the bell curve?
• Human capital > signaling. Two theories regarding the value of schooling: the first is that education really does make us better, thereby increasing our human capital; the second is that education only signals to others that we were already smart enough in the first place. I am demonstrably more talented now than I was nine months ago, and most of that is attributable to this degree. It’s not a waste of time, and it’s not just a signal, provided one actually does the work.
• A place is only as good as the people I’m with. I learned more from my peers than I did from my professors. I learned more from my professors than I did from the readings. HGSE brings together unbelievably talented and committed people, and that has made all the difference.
• Faith without works is dead – James 2:26. The strongest conviction is useless without evidence. The strongest evidence is useless without action. I’m grateful for the academic training I participated in this year, but I’m anxious to get back to the work of improving education for children. Ultimately, that has to be the beginning and the end of all efforts.