Tomi Kay Phillips

Tomi Phillips
Learning Log

Tomi Kay Phillips

Report date
November 2017
Fellowship term
24 months
Learning log 1

As a new Fellow I was excited, overwhelmed (in a good way), and I really didn’t know what to expect but anticipated great things on the horizon! What I did know was that I was about to set out on a new path of growth and change. I was ready. It was an exhilarating time for me. I felt humble and thankful for the Fellowship and continue with those sentiments to this day.

After the news came that I was a recipient of the Bush Fellowship, many life changing decisions were made. I made a difficult decision to leave my work that practically defined my life for many years. I gave 110% to my position as a Middle School Principal for ten years. Knowing the type of person I am, I knew that I would not be able to give the same time and energy to the students and school and the Fellowship. At the time, I hadn’t realized that I was becoming that person who lives through their work. Looking back, I knew I wanted a change because I felt like I was spinning my wheels and not making the progress that I believed was needed. So I made a decision and put myself first. That was the first time in many, many years that I have put myself first and didn’t feel guilty about it. That was the beginning of a new direction and path in my life.

A major part of my plan was to complete a Doctorate program. The deadline for the program I was interested in had past by two weeks. I reached out to the Professor’s in charge of the cohort and requested a late admission. I was granted an interview and when they found out that I was a Bush Fellow they became very interested. I do believe that being a Bush Fellow opened that door for me. I was granted admission and within a week began classes and challenging coursework. For the past 6 months I have been immersed into my Doctorate program. My Fellowship began June 1, and my summer residency began June 18. I have continued to express my gratitude daily for this magnificent opportunity to be able to focus on my Doctorate and not have to work full time. My research is focused on Native Language acquisition and Native Student success. There have been huge revitalization efforts to save endangered languages. The Lakota language (my inherent language) was considered endangered. Due to many strong beliefs and determined people the Lakota language is being revitalized. My hope and dream is that our Lakota children will be fluent in our Lakota language. I always refer to the words of Sitting Bull, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can build for our children”. Our mind can be our most powerful asset. Our children can be our most motivating factors for inspiration. My children are the reasons for my educational aspirations.

After a conversation with my coach, I was able to redirect myself and began thinking of my Fellowship as full time. I was so immersed in my studies that it was feeling like a full time job. A great reminder came out of our conversation, that there are many people that have completed a program like mine and have had to work full time. I am so fortunate that I do not have to work full time during this part of my program. So now my fellowship will be my full time work and my coursework will be scheduled in accordingly. I found myself neglecting my physical self as well. I have always been a person who was physically active. I have had to set time in the day for my walking and to work out. With the cold winter approaching I will have to get creative with my walking. Like most people, I do a lot of reflecting while I walk for exercise. I have had a lot of time for reflection and have learned to think of self care in a new way. In my culture and upbringing, you are to always take care of yourself first. It is our belief that when we are healthy and strong ourselves, we can take better care of others in a good way.

To make a difference in your world you have to be ready to accept and make changes. With change comes sacrifice. To grow and change you have to be able to let go of some things. Especially those things that are not adding to your positive growth. When we let go of things we actually make room for new things. “Letting go” and letting things flow naturally have become a part of my learning journey.