Questions that need some answering

Summer classes don’t start for a few more weeks, so I’ve had some extra idle time to think and come up with questions about what teaching will be like. I wonder if some of us who are going into this are like innocent, starry-eyed children, believing in ideals and goodness and changing the world through education. (I recently wrote an essay for a scholarship competition that had that perspective, I admit.) For myself, I’ll tell you I think I’ve always been that way—idealistic about humanity and life’s possibilities—but I’ve balanced it often with heavy doses of cynicism and pessimism about the ubiquitous dismal state of things that seems to pervade societal politics and operations. I digress.

I bring it up because I think that those of us who are excited about having a positive impact in our communities and on our nation’s youth are somewhere in our minds expecting to be rudely awakened by the less-than-ideal reality that faces all teachers. Teacher burnout was a topic brought up in the few interviews I’ve had so far for mentorship positions (which I don’t think I got, sadly). So maybe we, or I at least, need a bit of knowledge about what to expect when we actually start teaching. Maybe this will help soften the blow when we step into the classroom for the first day on our own and the stars fall out of our eyes.

When I get any answers to these questions, I’ll post them. Also, I’m always coming up with questions, so this list will grow with time and extended periods of idleness.

  • How much can I really expect to make teaching in Georgia with a Master’s? (It’s also all about the money.)
  • Is it worth it financially to get special ed, gifted, and/or ESOL endorsements?
  • What will my hours be on a typical day? Is it realistic to expect to leave soon after the end of the school day?
  • How secure will my position be when and if I attain one?
  • Is it ridiculous to think I could make it long term in the Atlanta Public Schools system?
  • Will I be able to coordinate and work with other teachers on such things as coteaching or coplanning?
  • How secure is the mandatory teacher’s retirement plan and pension? Really.
  • Is it at all reasonable to think that I could get a job teaching high school one day without returning to school for another degree?
  • Is this work going to be able to support me and my daughter like I’m hoping?
  • What possibilities are there for me to earn additional income (as a teacher, not a waiter) during summers?
  • Am I delusional in hoping I’ll be able to save, support, and do a little traveling every year (hello, Paris) on this salary?
  • How good and how expensive are the benefits? Dental? Acupuncture?
Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 11:35 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , ,

First steps from back there to here

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.

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,