As I write, I am taking a break from working on my Management Research Report. It is essentially our ‘thesis’ here at AIM where we are tasked to come up with an original management solution that responds to a real problem that is of value to the organization we’re writing for. I’m writing mine on Pisay, the school I’ve come to call home for the past eight years, and so far it’s been really interesting to encounter my school at an angle I’ve never really seen before.
But enough about my MRR. My girlfriend has basically chided me for not writing more here — or anywhere else as a matter of fact — so here’s an attempt. Anyway I’ve been feeling that I do need to write here, if only to help me process the twists and turns that my life has taken on so far.
After all, it has been a really long time.
A really long time.
That is what it feels. Though I’ve only been in grad school for five months, it feels that I’ve been gone from work for much, much longer. Something like two years. They say that a year in AIM is equivalent to ten years of managerial experience. With the pace of our classes and the degree to which my thinking has been challenged and raised in each of our classes, I can now see where that claim has come from.
I had a tough time at the beginning, to be honest. I’ve never really had any experience of graduate school so in my mind I was simply thinking college but more difficult. And I was never really the best student back then. Save for my last semester in college, I felt that I simply ‘powered through’ my classes. I never really studied or spent all-nighters, and relied solely on brainpower to get me through my exams. That’s why my grades were average at best and, looking back, I feel that I under-performed.
The last semester was different. I am not really the type who chases after grades but I registered my highest QPI in that semester. I still remember what made the difference: by that final semester in college, I was sure that I wanted to be a teacher.
That made the difference because admitting that to myself liberated me. It freed me from simply surviving college to actually feeling that I want to just do well. Prior to that realization, I was lost. Most of my batchmates in political science already got themselves into a law school and I was just in the mode of getting out of college so my life can begin and make it up as I go along. But much else remained meaningless and I felt contented at just passing my classes enough so I can graduate and get out. Teaching turned me around. I always had the desire and passion but I denied it for seven semesters.
When I finally embraced teaching, I went through that last semester thinking that my life is what I will make it to be. And I wanted to make it good, I wanted to do well. And as I thought of the students that I’d encounter when I started teaching, I felt a responsibility to personalize the values that I’d teach them eventually — passion for what you do, resilience, and hard work. I still had political science subjects that semester and just had one education elective, but it didn’t matter. What was more important was that my work reflected the values I sought to live my life by, and the rest is history.
Now I look back at the past eight years as the most formative years of my life, and as I carry on with student life at AIM I also grow in gratitude towards the school that I’ve served all these years. I took a lot out of my years there, too — basically the affirmation that passion, resilience, and hard work is all you need. (Or as Angela Lee Duckworth puts it, grit.)
So when I started having a hard time at AIM, I had to come around and realize that thinking that it would be just like college but more difficult was simply the wrong way to go. For one, I didn’t do well in college thinking it was just college. But life felt easier and less stressful when I viewed it more as the reality of my life — and a reflection of who I am. Grad school requires the same perspective.
I guess what makes the graduate level most unique from basic, secondary, and even tertiary education is that it relies on vulnerability. When done well, graduate school should make one incredibly uneasy and maybe even a touch insecure. There will be a lot of un-learning and re-learning involved, but what all this does is to facilitate a gut check. By stripping you away of everything you thought you already knew, you’re stuck looking at what’s left when all is said and done. In the past few months I’ve been asked these questions again and again: What do you stand for and what are you willing to give?
Since that last semester in college, I kept myself to a pact — that I’ll always be true to what it is I want to do. I came around at AIM when I admitted to myself that my schooling is a continuation of my work as an educator, and that the time I spend reading cases and writing my MRR is an investment towards making an even bigger difference in our students, our teachers, our schools. What can I say? I’ve always been a dreamer, too.
This is not to say that I’m having it easy now. Definitely not. If anything, I feel that our work here at AIM has gotten even tougher. We’ve just started Module 2 (out of 3) and the subjects are now more practical and managerial in orientation. For instance right now we’re currently tackling human resources, project management, and even marketing — subjects where I have close to zero background. Hence, the need for grit. And the ability to think fast and remain on one’s toes. I’m being asked the hard questions again, but that’s really how the learning is done. “What do you stand for?” is really “How does this make sense to you and your experience?”; “What are you willing to give?” is really “What are you willing to do to make the most of your learning?” The path to becoming leaders and managers runs through self-discovery.
So that’s how I’ve been in a nutshell. I’m doing good, doing well. But the work never ends.
For the meantime I hope this earns me brownie points. I already owe someone a date after I turn in my MRR’s first draft on June 3.