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Thomas R.

DeGrand
Reflective Essay
EA 702- Dr. Abbott
May 26, 2016
My Education Specialist Program Experience:
Where do I start? Well, I’ll say this program was challenging, but appropriately
challenging. Every course offered new information to me, especially the law class and school
business management. While learning foreign information (e.g. various case law examples and
the history of Proposal A) makes it more difficult, it also kept me interested and motivated to
continue to work hard and learn more. The workload was extensive, but as I said, appropriate.
The papers were never easy to write, but they definitely allowed reflection and thoughts about
the topics discussed. There was a good amount of reading; however, the majority of the books
were very informative and inspiring. I’m leaving this program with a few books in mind that I’d
like to do book studies with a staff that I may lead in the future. Two of those include: Failure
is Not an Option by Alan Blankstein and The Truth About Leadership by Kouzes and Posner.
Both of these books can be directly applied to my position now, as well as the position in which I
aspire to be (assistant principal/principal).
I will say the most difficult aspect of the program was the cultural shift it created in my
family routine. For example, I planned out my semester workload in a way that I would
complete a portion every night, with the exception of Friday (and some Saturday) nights. I found
this to be an effective work ethic and procedure to be successful in this program, but it put some
strain on my family. For two years, my family had to adapt to a routine that involved my wife
putting the kids to bed every night while I worked in my office. This brought about additional
stress for my wife, but luckily she was extremely supportive. So for two years, I taught all day,
came home, ate dinner, and then worked more in my office until late at night. This also created
stress in my teaching job since I was losing the at-home time to catch up on grading and other
work-related tasks. While this was certainly the most difficult part of the program, it became
much more routine and manageable after the first semester. I know my family is ready to get me
back at night!
Besides the challenging parts, I will say the greatest element of the program was the
cohort. I looked forward to every Monday evening class…the dialogue, the ideas, the stories, the

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support, the humor, the depth of knowledge…I loved it all. This will be the single most missed
part of the program when it ends in two weeks. I am positive that June 13th will not be the last
time I hear from everyone; we built solid relationships within the group.
My Internship Experience:
This two-year internship had some positives and some negatives. The positives include
the fact that it placed me into an internship position with my mentor- my principal. I was able to
gain significant experiences, especially through Continual School Improvement (CSI) that I may
not have done outside of this internship. When you compare my pre- and post-survey results, I
improved on 100% of the questions within each standard. The pre-survey had mostly Not
Applicable and Beginning ratings, while my post-survey consisted mostly of Developing ratings.
Considering I spent the two years in a teaching position, that is significant progress. Had I been
in an administrative role, those ratings would have improved much more.
Here is the problem: I’m a teacher in a full-time teaching position with a plate already
overflowing. Trying to engage fully in an administrative internship, while also juggling the
responsibilities of my job as a teacher, proved to be very difficult. I will place some blame on
myself for not reaching out more to achieve some of my internship plan goals. Of the 14 goals
listed, I only obtained 7 of them (50%). Some were out of my control; however, there were a
few that I failed to attempt to meet due to the commitment that I have to my teaching profession.
This brings me to my concern with this internship program as a whole…is it doing the best job
possible to prepare aspiring administrators for a principalship? I have an idea…
Michigan State University, where I completed my undergraduate and graduate programs,
included a one-year teaching internship where you were place in a classroom with a
collaborating teacher. Is there a way to implement such a program with graduate students that
are in full-time positions? It is tough to say, but I am going to suggest the following idea to
central office in my own school district: district administrative internship. The district can offer
year-long internship(s) to interested teachers. They would apply, interview, and be accepted into
the position. The district would place an intern at a building using factors such as district needs,
building needs, and intern preference. The intern would remain a member of the education
association; therefore, salary, benefits, and seniority would continue as though they were in a
classroom. Their job duties would mirror that of an assistant principal, with the exception of

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completing teacher evaluations. After the internship is completed, various paths can present
themselves. First, the district could choose to hire the intern for an administrative position that
opens up. The intern would still need to apply, interview, and be offered the position. If no
positions are available, the district, in agreement with the intern, could offer to continue the
internship into a second year at the same building or a different one. Lastly, if no positions are
available and the intern (or the district) prefers to move the teacher back into the classroom, they
will be guaranteed the position they left prior to the internship. Since this internship position
adds a cost to the district (one year’s worth of additional teacher salary), the intern is required to
remain in the district for one year following the internship. After that year, the intern may seek
an administrative role outside of the district.
I feel an internship experience like the one I described above would be the most effective
way to prepare an administrator. Maybe Oakland University can partner with school districts to
make such an idea come to life for aspiring administrators that are enrolled in an educational
leadership program through Oakland University. As many positive things I have to say about the
past two years, I feel the internship was the weakest element. This provides a solution.
The Effect on My Future:
Part of the reason I entered this program was to get a clearer picture of my future career
goals. While I believe in my heart that administration is the path I am meant to take, there is a
part of me that finds it difficult to let go of the students in the classroom. These two years of
instruction, book studies, cohort discussions, papers, internship experiences, and reflection have
cleared the fogginess away. I have seen that leaving the classroom does not mean I am leaving
the students. Instead of having 30 students, I will now have a school of students. I will be able
to reach every student, but in different ways. On top of this, administration allows me to also
make an impact on the professionals in the building…to help them reach their highest potential
and build their own leadership capacity. This program put a stress on exactly what I
needed…what it takes and what it means to be the leader of the building; how to work
effectively with the staff and the community; how to build trust and a culture in the building that
will allow staff to flourish; and how to lead a building of leaders that provides students a learning
environment that breeds success. My heart has spoken…next up…administration. The question
marks have drifted away.