I can’t remember the exact moment when I decided that I wanted to go back to school to become a middle school math and science teacher, but I’m certain that it happened quickly and resolutely. My daughter must have been around seven months old and I had given up hope for and interest in finding work as a nanny in my home so that I could support Rosalie and myself without having to put her in full-time daycare, work a job I didn’t love or get any fulfillment from, and then get stuck in a career I didn’t want to just get by and pay the bills.
My undergraduate degree is in English, so I of course considered going for an MA and eventually a PhD to become a professor at a university. But those positions can be notoriously hard to get and further secure with tenure. And you have to go to where the jobs are, which will most likely mean uprooting and relocating to a new city in a new state. And, most importantly, I came to this decision to return to school during late summer of last year, long after the Fall application deadline, and Georgia State University’s Department of English only accepts Fall admissions. I never considered applying to or attending any other school than GSU because I didn’t want to leave Atlanta and risk destabilizing my home financially, emotionally, and mentally. I loved my experiences at GSU as an undergrad and feel like it offers me everything I need and want from a university.
This is about the extent and depth of thought and concern I worked through a few times before settling on pursuing the MAT for Middle Level Education: both simple in logic and heavy in personal factors.
Finally, although I majored in literature and I tend to hoard novels like some people hoard garbage or shoes or antique furniture, I always missed taking math and science classes as an undergraduate and often considered (before I had Rosalie) going back for a degree in Mathematics, Chemistry, or Psychology. Really, I want to be a professional college student and accrue degrees in exchange for a salary. That’s my dream job. So I decided that it would be a refreshing and exciting change to go back and study these subjects, and now I had a strong purpose for doing so. The program for Middle Level Education does not require any subject-specific undergraduate degree—just a degree and a few other requirements like GRE scores and recommendations. I imagined that I would have the opportunity to do higher level mathematics and study different fields of science in the program, satisfying my intrinsic interest in the subjects.
Soon after I found my direction I went to the bookstore to buy GRE study guides and emailed professors for my letters of recommendation. Without a background in the subjects, I thought I’d have to study more for a strong test score, secure letters from respected professors, as well as apply for the language arts/social studies program just in case. Because Rosalie was still so little I found the prep books to be a welcome diversion when I had time to myself while she slept. After two months of preparing I took the exam and submitted my application. I felt confident of acceptance and didn’t consider too much being rejected. Nonetheless, the waiting for getting into college can be stressful and worrisome because there can always be a reason you won’t get in and, as I learned, sometimes the people working in the admissions offices truly do not do their jobs effectively (they lost my applications and failed to submit one of them!).
I was accepted and have just wrapped up my first semester in GSU’s MAT Middle Level Education–Mathematics and Science. I want to provide you, aspiring teacher, working parent, or otherwise-interested blog reader, with an account of my pursuit of a master’s degree as well as entry into the field of education. I expect it to be a process largely comprised of trial and error, minor frustrations, and overall high expectations, while I hope it ends fruitfully and provides the fulfillment I spoke of earlier.