MIKE SIMPSON

"Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Dr. Martin Luther King

My Personal MBA

The main purpose of this blog is to document and to hold myself accountable for my own professional development.

After completing a Masters in Educational Leadership through Lehigh University I was left wondering what my next step should be. I felt my Master’s degree was very purposeful in that I was able to immediately apply my learning to my leadership role at Escuela Campo Alegre.

As an educational leader, I view postgraduate study as first and foremost an opportunity to develop educational, collaborative and leadership beliefs and practices. The letters that you earn are obviously an asset in establishing your credentials in the eyes of school directors and school boards but I believe these must be a secondary concern in deciding upon future professional development. I am more interested in ensuring that I can do a job rather than just being able to convince someone that I can.

My overriding motivation as an educator is to make the biggest possible positive difference to as many people as I can. It is yet to be seen which role I am best suited to in making that positive difference. I want to keep all options open and that means considering what the role of a school director entails and what I need to learn to ensure that I could make a positive difference in such a role.

I am encouraged by my progression from lawyer to teacher to assistant principal and now to Principal at the American International School of Lesotho (AISL). My own professional development was the overriding factor in applying for my current role. AISL is a small school catering for Pre-School to Grade 8 students and I am the sole principal. The size of the school ensures that I am required to work very closely with the Director, Board and all stakeholders in all academic, pastoral and operational matters. It provides me an excellent opportunity to get an unabridged insight into what is required to run a successful school, prove to myself that I have what is required and to establish what I must do to fully develop my potential.

It was always my intention to supplement my experiences at AISL with further study. To me, the decision of what to study comes down to two options – studying what I am most passionate about (teacher motivation and organizational citizenship) or filling professional gaps that I know I have. The question is essentially ‘Do I study what I want to or do I study what I need to?’

I want to study teacher motivation and organizational citizenship and ideally in the form of a doctoral degree. I have already read and experimented extensively in this area and have gone so far as to have developed a research proposal based around self-determination theory.

I need to develop my practical understanding of the operational side of running a school and a masters in business administration (MBA) would seem to be the logical option in this regard. Three years as a lawyer means that I will not be a stranger to many of the concepts that a MBA would provide tuition in but financial decision making and strategic use of resources are examples of concepts that I feel an MBA would develop my understanding of.

Regardless of what path I pursue, I was resigned to the fact that it was going to cost me a lot of money. This financial reality weighs on me as I have already spent tens of thousands of dollars between two undergraduate degrees, two masters degrees, and a graduate diploma in teaching. I have two young children and I feel that I should be focused more on providing educational opportunities for them in the future rather than potentially overcapitalizing on my own education in the present. In addition, my wife, Stacey is as passionate and aspirational an educator as I am and I would like to provide her with the same support that she has given me to realize her own professional goals.

I was in a bookshop in Christchurch International Airport and stumbled upon ‘The Personal MBA’ by Josh Kaufman. Normally I would not have picked it up but given my indecision around my professional development, I did. The premise of the book is based upon condensing the key understandings that a MBA would provide you with to supplement actually trying things in your own professional context. I was under no illusions that a potential school would employ me based upon a book that I had supposedly read. I bought it anyway.

A couple of weeks later, I Googled ‘online MBA’ and in addition to the expected $50,000 plus offerings, I clicked on an article from Business Insider Australia entitled ‘How To Get An MBA Online For Free.’ This article uses the curriculum snapshot at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business to find free online matches for its MBA core and elective courses. Many of these free options are taught by the same professors.

After another couple of weeks of indecision, I enrolled in Wharton’s Business Foundations Specialization hosted by Coursera. I intend to finish this specialization within six months and then use the Business Insider Australia article and Wharton’s curriculum snapshot to complete the free* online equivalent of an MBA from some of the top business schools in world.

Again, I am under no illusions that this course of study will be viewed in the same light as the $100,000 accredited version. But after the first week of my ‘Introduction to Marketing’ course, I am certain that this course of study and the opportunity to apply what I learn in my current professional context will round out my professional profile to the benefit of any school that I serve in the future. It will also leave the door open to any future doctoral ambitions.

I intend to use this blog to document my learning. This is primarily for my own professional development. I am sharing it in the hope that others might benefit from my experiences in the same way that I continually benefit from the experiences of others.

I will record on this page the courses that I have enrolled or completed in the order that I study them. I will use this blog to reflect upon my learning.

* I pay $45 per month to Coursera to have my completed courses verified and certified.

Current Courses:

Completed Courses:

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