There is a lot of hubub at my school regarding getting a master’s degree. In Michigan, a master’s degree without a chunk of teaching experience is a sort of death sentence: you become too expensive to employ with not enough experience to make the additional money a worthy investment. However, internationally, there are no teacher’s unions and a master’s degree will allow you to move up the pay scale, and even seems be a requirement for employment at many international schools worldwide. Teachers at my school chose master’s programs that are intense and fast, finishing in about a year, with one condensed class per month.
Questions about grad school have been occupying my mind for quite some time. While I was already quite certain that I didn’t want to do an online program for my master’s degree, I decided to take a short online class through the free education website, Coursera. (Coursera offers courses through universities around the word: this particular class was associated with a large state university on the west coast.) I work a lot (arguably, “too much”), so I wanted to see what it would be like to add in an extra element to my schedule. The course was only five weeks long, and focused on teaching strategies surrounding ESL students. It is a topic I am interested in both on a theoretical level and a practical level, since I work with almost exclusively ELL students and bi- or tri-lingual students.
I don’t know what went wrong, exactly, but I have come to two conclusions.
My first conclusion is that my undergraduate school really prepared me well for my chosen profession: my minor is ESL, and even though I only took a few education-focused classes (in comparison to my English and ESL classes), I am decently well-versed in various educational schools of thought. Why do I say this? Because I only scanned all of the required readings, and didn’t watch any of the lectures, but still was able to pass all of the quizzes with a 95% average, as well as constructively participate in the required forum postings. Differentiation? Check. Receptive Skills vs. Productive Skills? Check. Understanding by Design? Check.
Obviously, this has exposed my second conclusion: I need a very specific kind of environment in order to learn without my slacker nature surfacing. I will energetically watch a random hour long documentary about Nikola Tesla or a ten minute video about the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but will I watch a fifteen minute video on whatever I am supposed to be learning? (No.) The environment that I need is a lecture: face to face, engaging, physically present. I learn less when the class is online.
All this to say, I have realized that, regardless of what degree I chose to pursue and the institution in which I chose to enroll, it can’t be online. I am not even sure if I would be able to balance a full time job with additional classes. I suppose I am only on the cusp of finishing my first year of teaching, so in a few years that could be a different matter.
Maybe, as they say, teaching will get easier the second and third year.
Either way, I don’t think I will be hopping on the online master’s bandwagon any time soon.
Sidenote: I did pass the class. With “distinction,” too!