Saturday, October 2, 2010

Back to school?

A couple days ago I was bumming around online, looking at degree programs I might be interested in, when I saw a date that shocked me.

December 1st. As in the application deadline. As in two months from now.

It hadn't occurred to me that I would have to apply for next year's graduate programs right now!

My brain went into overdrive immediately and I hurriedly searched the application requirements. The normal things were listed: application form, personal statement, letters of recommendation....

GRE scores.

It DEFINITELY never occurred to me that I would have to take the GRE in the next couple of months! I would definitely want to take a prep class (I am not motivated enough to study on my own and need to have someone make me do it), so I looked into class dates and test dates and how long it takes to get your scores. It's doable in two months, but barely. My test scores might arrive a few days after the December 1 deadline, but I'm assuming that wouldn't be a huge problem.

So I can get the application in on time, my doctor wants me to enroll in school and live a normal life, but I hadn't totally committed to this program yet. It's a one year masters in education with certification to teach, but I was also thinking about getting a masters in public health, a masters in social work, and every now and then I still toy with the idea of being a doctor before the idea of spending the rest of my life in a hospital makes me convulse in horror. Sorry Dad, the most recent relapse has firmly nailed the lid on the coffin of your dream that I would be a doctor.

I decided to commit to the idea of going back to school to be a teacher. I'm passionate about the idea of educating and preparing youth for their futures. It's something that really speaks to me. If I change my mind after a few years, I can always go back to school. Very few things in this life are permanent, you can almost always change your mind.

Now I have to decide what level to teach, elementary or secondary? I loved teaching elementary students in France. I love working with kids, I find it pretty easy to come up with teaching methods that work well for them, and it's a good fit for my personality. I've never worked with older kids, but I like the idea of working with high school students, especially teaching high school science. I do worry that after ten years of thinking like a young child I might be starved for adult conversation and company, but again, I can always go back to school.

I also have to decide on a program. There are two universities close to my house. Let's call them School A and School B. Both have post-baccalaureate routes to teaching certification. School A has the masters with certification that I wrote about above. School A is also a much more prestigious school in general and therefore has a smarter student population. School B is considered to have a better school of education. School B, however, only has a post-baccalaureate certification in teaching, not a a masters with certification. At School B I would essentially be taking the undergraduate teaching major curriculum but not getting a degree after doing all that work. I don't like the idea of going back to school and not getting an actual degree at the end of it. I know someone who is doing this program at School B and she says she loves her professors, but her fellow students are kind of dumb undergrads. Call me a brat, but I don't like taking classes with people who aren't as smart as I am. That's what I did last fall when I was taking classes (at School B, actually) and it was frustrating for me. School B does have the advantage of being a much more complete preparation because you're taking the full undergraduate teaching curriculum, and at School A it's a condensed one-year curriculum, but I can always take more classes as a continuing education kind of thing if I feel I need them. Also, I already have two years of experience in a classroom, so that has to count for something.

So I decided to apply to School A's masters program, and that basically made my decision of teaching at the elementary or secondary level for me. Because it's only a one year program, you have to have completed subject-specific course work (math, science, history, etc) in previous degree programs. I don't have enough credits in anything to be certified as a subject teacher in high school, definitely not as a science teacher! So elementary school it is, and I'm actually not even sure I have enough subject course work for that either. I have to submit my undergrad transcript for evaluation by the program.

I'm really happy with all of these decisions. The more I think about it the more excited I get, so I know I made the right decisions. I'm also glad that everything has to happen so quickly, especially the GRE stuff, because it means I just have to do it and I don't have time to think about it. Now I just have to figure out what to do about recommendation letters written in French!


Zhu said...

You can't imagine how many times I toyed with the idea of taking XYZ class and realize the deadline was up! In France, registration is pretty flexible since you mostly need to have the Bac and that's it.

What the GRE? It sound like "Grrrrr" :-D

au soleil levant said...

Those deadlines are so tricky! Especially for school, when you have to apply almost a full year before the program starts!

The GRE (which we pronounce letter by letter, G-R-E) is the standardized test required by liberal arts-type graduate programs in the US. It's like the SAT, but for grad school. There's a quantitative reasoning section, writing, reading comprehension, stuff like that. It's annoying, but necessary. Like I said, I'm glad I don't have too much time to think about it, I just have to do it!

Jennie said...

I'm so glad I went to Oakland for my Master's because the GRE was not required. Even for my PhD, I won't have to take any stupid standardized tests (but it's not in the US so perhaps that's why.)

I almost did my PhD in Public Health (well, half in French too) back in 2007. It's very interesting!

I would have chosen school A too. :)

Mary said...

I went back to school at 56 for first a post-baccalaureate in the new field before I found out that for me, I had to get my application, GRE and all of the supporting documents completed and in by early February. I was accepted into the Master's program and started the second Fall. My program was for Speech Therapy.

It might be late for this comment, but I would encourage you to switch and NOT go for the Masters in Education but rather go for the Masters in Public Health. Education has a lot of issues right now and it doesn't look good in the future, either. Online education seems to be very popular and I am talking secondary education K-12! Hard to believe, isn't it? PLEASE RETHINK YOUR STRATEGY... You will be paid more money, you will not have to work so many long hours and you will be in a field with opportunities galore...

Oh, and I studied for the GRE on my own with a book and CD. My daughter did help me with the math relearning, though. YOU CAN DO IT!!! I was chosen for a space out of 126 applications for only 26 new entrants. GOOD LUCK.

Eileen said...

So glad you posted about this! I have lots of thoughts!

1) Are you sure you need a GRE class? It's not really that hard of a test. I studied on and off with a book for a month, not very seriously, and felt that was enough of a brush up. Take a look at a sample test before you decide to take a class. Also, surprisingly, everyone does better on math than on verbal. I worried about math (which I hadn't touched since high school) for no reason. On the other hand, I did pretty poorly on the written part, which is odd seeing as my degree is in English, but I talked to my dad who observed admissions at his university, and he said they never knew what to make of that written score.

2) Your experience teaching totally counts for something. I think you'll be leaps ahead of undergrads if you take classes with them. Which isn't to say it's not an option. But I don't think you necessarily need all the classes. I think a year would totally be enough to back up some common sense ideas you've probably come up with on your own (at least, that's how it felt to me!). If that makes sense.

3) Dec. 1st is super early! UT's was Dec. 17th and I whined about it.

4) Zhu: it's fun to pronounce it gree. I think only I and one of my dorky friends do that though.

au soleil levant said...

Jennie - you almost gave up linguistics for public health? I'm shocked, you love linguistics so much! Guess that's why you never actually gave it up. You know all my secrets, I'm sure you know exactly what schools A and B are :)

Mary - thanks for stopping by. I'm good with the education thing, I think I'll stick with that.

Eileen - Wow, lots of thoughts! I've looked at the GRE online a little bit, but I'm so unmotivated to take this test I think a class is the only way I'll do any preparation! Also, it's been eight years since I last took a standardized test, so I'm hoping a class will help me get back into that groove of timed test taking and being forced to respond to questions I think are dumb. And I'm SO BAD at math that I'm going to need all the help I can get! We'll see though. Thanks for the thoughts. I also appreciate your input on the masters vs more complete baccalaureate issue. Nice to have confirmation of what I was already thinking.

Andromeda said...

I just decided this week that I want to try and do my required internship in the states this Spring, and forgot with most big museums you have to apply online and the deadlines for Spring are like, tomorrow, lol. Okay, more like November, but still, super soon! And I just let drop anything that needed letters of recommendation, just not enough time to wait for people to write and then translate. Some of the sites have online submission only, so it's like, they'd have to write in English so I had to forgot those right away, oh well. There's still some interesting ones that don't need letters!

Good luck working on your application!! I love the feeling of possibility when applying, but the reality of the paperwork is always a bit stressful, so bon courage, especially for the GREs! Hopefully we'll both have good news this Spring :-)

Ksam said...

Oh wow, how exciting - I've often toyed with the idea of going back to school myself. There's a very interesting masters in translation that I'd like to do, and I just discovered there's a university here in Paris offering a licence and a masters in Finnish. Both would be fascinating, but impossible to do right now because I travel so much for work.

pro said...

Nice blog! I like your writing way. I'm doing practice GRE here: . I hope it's useful for GRE test takers.

au soleil levant said...

Andromeda - wow, back to the States, huh? Good luck and hope you get a good internship!

Ksam - hope your schedule clears up so you can do one of those programs at some point. I'm nervous about going to school after being out for so long though, hopefully I haven't forgotten how to study!

Pro - thanks for stopping by and the tip

Emily said...

I'm so glad to hear your going back to school news!! I'm going to echo what Eileen said that you will be fine with the book and the CD, but of course you know yourself best and the need for motivation is strong! I'm so happy for you, it's great to be making plans and thinking forward.

Mary Harvest Kitchen said...

It can be terrifying and exhilarating when decisions you thought would come up gradually end up falling into place really suddenly. But, as the Quakers say "way opens", and you know it's the right thing. Best of luck on this venture!

getyourselfconnected said...

Wow! Good luck on those tests, they can be tough. Very exciting news.

au soleil levant said...

Em - thanks! I told my mom that a lot of people think I can just study with the book and she said "no, I know you, you'd never study." Hahaha.

Mary - It's a little overwhelming that it's happening so quickly, but I think it's better overall. I don't have any time to think about anything too much, I just have to get it done.

GYSC - Thanks! I am excited!

Monique said...

so legit!!! I, too, just filled out an application to go to Arizona State next year :) Masters in French... maybe I'll teach junior college French? Or simultaneously get a credential and teach HS French?

It sounds sooo appealing :) Good luck! I can't wait to hear how it goes.

au soleil levant said...

Monique - thanks! Good luck to you too! Maybe we'll be maters buddies next year?