Oh, what a difference a year makes!
This time last year I was fervently submitting my applications for PhD programs in Counselor Education & Supervision. I was comfortably living in Southern California, where I have resided my entire life, working as a professional school counselor. How could I and why should I consider leaving my nest? Well, first of all, the notion of burnout was prevailing in my life. I found myself thinking “I do love my career. However, if I ever want to do this again, I need to get out now.” So, thus a contributing factor to my desire to reach for future goals.
Additionally, over the prior three years, I had regularly been an invited lecturer at Chapman University and asked to speak on issues relevant to professional school counseling. As time went on, I began to consider whether I would want to do this for a career. More and more, this perked my interest. In hindsight, I guess I have always had the mentality of “what’s next.”
Now, here I am at University of Florida, nearly 2,200 miles away from what was my home for the past 30 years. I’m not going to say the journey over the last 12 months has been easy because it has not. Between the handful of interviews, making the final decision between multiple offers, saying goodbye to family and longtime friends, it has been a challenge. And then there’s the coursework. One of my greatest fears has been returning to academia after a span of working as a practitioner. As I began to draft my first manuscript in quite some time, I became humbled. The last time I wrote and utilized the APA Manual it was in its fourth edition; we’re now in the 6th edition! AGH!
During my time working in schools, I also had the opportunity to supervise half a dozen interns of the years. Although some might consider this a challenging task, when school counselors are already so busy, I truly enjoyed the experience. It is such a great feeling when you see the growth of your interns from September to June. This past semester I have had the opportunity to continue to refine my supervisory skills with a couple of master’s-level counseling students. However, the difference this time is that neither are on the school counseling track. I have one in the mental health track and one from marriage & family track. While I was not so keen on this in the beginning, I have come to appreciate it. As a counselor educator, one it not limited to one track. As such, neither should my supervisory experiences.
And then there’s my teaching. I have had the wonderful opportunity of teaching an undergraduate course then semester that is required for students majoring in elementary education. Family and Community Involvement in Education has been such a great experience.
Unlike my strong apprehension for writing, I was very excited to teach this course. Over the last 15 weeks, I have enjoyed the relevant and timely topics that I have shared. But probably even more enjoyable has been seeing the growth in my students. Some of the subjects that we have discussed have forced them to critically examine and maybe even challenge their perspective. However, on the flip side, one of the areas that has been more difficult than I thought was in terms of feedback. I tend to be quite a perfectionist and want everyone to learn and do well in my course. And while all of my students are earning decent grades, there are some that have contested me more than I would have thought. Reflecting upon this first semester, I need to realize that I cannot always appease everyone in the course. Rather, I need to be prepared for the varying opinions when I solicit my feedback. For example, I have had some comment on a particular assignment that they did not like, yet, the next five evaluations noted how valuable that same assignment was for them.
Overall, I can say that I have learned quite a bit this semester and am proud to say “I survived my first semester at a doctoral student.” In fact, I might even make a t-shirt for myself with this statement.
Sandi Logan is school counselor and currently a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program at University of Florida. Prior to pursuing further studies, she worked as an elementary and middle school counselor in Southern California.