Rebecca Bittner

London, United Kingdom.

Disclaimer: Life is a work in progress. Read accordingly.

I've spent the last ten years on a journey to understand how to empower educational communities. From this journey I have come to believe the following. Never has there been so much ambition in education: student ambition to excel and innovate; educator ambition to inspire and foster individual agency; parent ambition to engage and support; and institutional ambition to improve and evolve.

In spite of the common 'doom and gloom' language evoked in educational debates, my observations and experiences over the last ten years have proved inspiring and hopeful. As a classroom teacher in schools with very different demographics, I learned firsthand what works and what is just background noise (like the habit to forget the incremental successes we have accomplished and spotlight failures). When I left the classroom, it was not for lack of interest in teaching, but in order to better evolve my understandings. To do that, I needed to break out of the bubble.

I began the next phase of my exploration as an instructional designer at a Seattle-based innovation center before moving on to work with startups and social entrepreneurs in Seattle and the Bay Area.

"Can you study social entrepreneurship?" I get asked this question A LOT. While I can't attempt to speak for others, I have used the M.A. programme as my year of synthesis, combining years of practical experience with new academic explorations. In the fall, I focused on the affect that introspective practices (e.g. mindfulness, individual agency, and ToC) had on those working in social entrepreneurship. During the spring, I focused on how social enterprises align the introspective ideologies driving their work with the practicalities of sustaining a business, such as measuring social impact and navigating relationships with government. The effect of focusing on the introspective in the fall was that I was better prepared to partner with values-aligned enterprises for my spring research.

"Can you study social entrepreneurship?" This was not the question that spurred my decision to pursue an M.A. Instead, I was inspired to infuse the last ten years of career and life experience with a revitalizing burst of intense academic learning.

What's next? This summer, my research will focus on how collaborative approaches to education can help schools excel in times of limited resources.