Being a Lifelong Learner is Hard

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The master’s degree. Every teacher knows he/she will probably have to get it, but after 16+ years of being a student (and spending every day in the classroom as it is), making the choice to go back to school can be overwhelming. Picking the right program of study is important, and you can’t forget about all the other realities of going back to school: tuition, books, student loans you’re already paying on, the choice of taking out more loans or being broke and paying out-of-pocket, how many credit hours to take… it’s a nightmare, to say the least.

But I come to you with this as someone who is FINALLY seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I started my master’s program during the spring 2013 semester, and in just a little under two and a half years, I’m almost finished. I got my undergraduate degree from Ball State University, and I had a very positive experience with the school. So, when it came time to decide where to go for my master’s, there wasn’t a huge decision for me to make. I didn’t really want to “go to class” in person because my schedule is already crazy enough as it is; therefore, finding a program that was offered online was of the utmost importance. I also had to consider which program I wanted to do, and Ball State was the only one out of the three schools I was considering (Indiana University Southeast and University of Louisville) that had it: a master’s in curriculum and educational technology. I didn’t see the point in going back for something generic like a master’s in secondary education, but I also didn’t want to jump into an administration program because I’m honestly not sure it’s something I want to do. Also, I’ve only been teaching for a few years, so I’d rather get really good at something (creating awesome curriculum that best utilizes technology) rather than pretend to know what the heck’s going on at an administrator’s level.

The thing I’ve enjoyed most about the curriculum and educational technology program at Ball State has been that it’s mostly been all about application. I chose to do the technology track (the other option is curriculum), so many of the projects I’ve had to complete during the last two years have been things I’ve actually been able to bring back and use in my classroom. It’s been a lot less read the book and write the paper learning and more actually do something useful. Don’t get me wrong, there were still a couple of classes that made me want to run face-first into a wall, but I felt the majority were actually quite meaningful. I’d also like to give a shout-out to my advisor and professor of several technology courses, Dr. Ayesha Sadaf. Not only were her classes engaging (which is really hard to do when it’s all online), but she clearly has an understanding of how to use the online platform while not providing redundant discussion assignments. The two classes I enjoyed the most were these:

  • EDTE 660 Instructional Design and Technology (3 credit hours)
  • EDTE 665 Children, Technology, and Digital Literacy (3 credit hours)

All told, the program has taken me 2.5 years to complete, and it was 30 credit hours total. I’ve probably spent somewhere between $10,000-$11,000 to complete it—not including books—which is pretty awesome for a graduate degree. During the regular Fall/Spring school semesters, I took only one class for two reasons: first, I could only afford one class because I was trying to pay out-of-pocket, and second, I didn’t think I could mentally handle two classes… which turned out to be correct. I took classes over both summers that I’ve been in school, and those are the only times I’ve taken out loans because you have to pay your tuition up front rather than splitting up payments like you can do during normal Fall/Spring semesters. I did also take two classes during the Spring 2015 semester, and it was probably one of the worst semesters I’ve ever had. Not only were the classes absurdly time-consuming (I think this was just an individual professor-thing), but it was so difficult to keep up with my responsibilities at work. My students probably thought I’d eaten their papers because it would take me so long to get graded material back to them. As far as the money aspect of grad school goes, it’ll just have to be something you consider for your own family’s needs. If you’re only taking one class, it’s not even considered part-time for graduate school, which means your student loans WILL NOT be deferred. Obviously, this creates a tricky situation since I ended up having to pay on student loans and pay out-of-pocket for tuition at the same time.

Aside from plugging my alma mater, Ball State University, I mostly hope that my readers will take the time to consider pursuing a master’s degree (or even a +30 if you’ve already got one). It doesn’t have to be Ball State, but make it something you’re passionate about. Just spending money to get extra credentials isn’t really worthwhile if you aren’t getting anything out of it. As teachers, we’re all lifelong learners. We like to learn, and it’s usually not a pain in the butt for us (unless it’s math… just kidding!). Also, as a side benefit, you can use the “I HAVE HOMEWORK, TOO, SO STOP COMPLAINING!” argument with your kids when they start to whine about that 1-page worksheet.

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