Math = Love: Starting Grad School TODAY!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Starting Grad School TODAY!

I've told a few people about this decision, but I guess it's time to make this "blog official."  (That just doesn't have the same ring to it as "facebook official..."  :)

As I posted before, one of my goals for the #Next5 years of my life is to earn a master's degree.  This is something I've been thinking about since my days of undergrad, but I'd always thought of it in a "someday..." kind of way.  I guess the reason for this is that I didn't know what I wanted a master's degree for.  I think I wanted one just to have one.

But, if you don't really have a reason for pursuing one other than to have one, it's kinda hard to decide what type of degree to pursue.  One master's program will let you be a school counselor.  Another, a principal.  Yet another, an instructional specialist.  There were degrees in educational technology, math education, educational psychology, education theory, special education, etc.  The list keeps going on and on.  There is no one degree that lets one do it all.  And, I haven't even added the option of pursuing a master's in pure or applied mathematics to the list.  Then, there's always the option of going for a master's in an unrelated field.

In high school, I thought I would one day take the school counselor route.  After becoming friends with our school counselor, I see that the job isn't exactly what I envisioned.  I think I love the act of teaching too much to give it up.  I still think it would be rewarding to help students with the college application and scholarship process, but I know there is much more to being a school counselor than that.  It's true that I do love math.  But, I'm not sure if I love the idea of graduate level math.  I'm kinda glad to be away from proofs and all that fun stuff.  I look on those years of studying challenging math fondly, but I'm not eager to relive them.

I keep coming back to the fact that I love teaching.  I love being in the classroom.  School administration would take me out of the classroom, and I think I would miss it dearly.  This summer, I started thinking seriously about grad school for the first time.  I think this renewed interest was probably a result of the 5(!) different math teacher conferences I attended this summer.  When you surround yourself with people who love math and people who have graduate degrees, it inspires you to think about your own future.

I was able to have some conversations with people this summer about my thoughts/concerns regarding grad school.  Thanks to all those who listened to my ramblings/attempts to process my life goals and trajectory.  I remember one late night conversation well.  "Sarah, what are you waiting for?  Start the process now."  Well, I finally got around to doing that.

When I started researching grad programs, I came to the conclusion that I had a few options.  Pack up my life and move closer to a metropolitan area in Oklahoma so I can attend classes at night without having to drive an hour to and from class.  Commute back and forth to class and go insane in the process.  Put off grad school for a few more years until I can decide what to do.  Or, do an online degree program.

Ideally, I would prefer to take actual physical classes, but I live in the middle of nowhere.  I think I may have alluded to it in the past, but I'm going to just come right out and say it.  I truly believe that God led me to accept this job in this town.  Had I chosen a path to take after college, moving to a town without a stoplight where I didn't know a single soul would not have been how I wrote my story.  But, God is infinitely more wise than I can ever comprehend.  My experiences these past few years have reassured me that He has a plan.  I'm still not sure what that plan entails.  And, I have no clue how long He means me to stay here.  I have to trust that He will make it abundantly clear when it is time to move on.

Until that time, I've decided that I need to stop living my life on "pause" and start going after my goals.  This is the rationale behind my decision to do my master's degree online.  This allows me to pursue my goal of furthering my education while staying where I believe God is using me to make a difference for His kingdom.

The program I chose is a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a Math Education Emphasis through the University of Texas at Arlington.  One class every five weeks.  One week break in between classes.  Eighteen months from now, I will have a master's degree.  I'm slightly nervous about taking classes online because I've never taken an online class in my life before.  I have enrolled in some MOOCs, but I've never finished one.  This is NOT a good sign.  I think this will be different since the classes will be part of a degree program, and there's always the fact to consider that I'm paying for them.

Thanks to the federal government and a TEACH Grant, I will only have to cover 20% of the tuition costs in exchange for agreeing to teach 4 years after finishing my master's in a low-income school district.  I'm not planning on leaving the classroom anytime soon, so this should work perfectly for me.  I will end up paying less than $2,000 for my master's degree.  Seeing as I will get a $1,200/year raise as a result of the additional degree, I think it will be worth it.  Plus, I'm excited to hit the books again.  I miss the challenge of college.  Now that I've been in the classroom, I think the reading and assignments will be more meaningful to me than if I had gone straight into a master's program after graduation.

So, if I'm not posting as much as normal, I have a new excuse.  It's called grad school.  And, it starts TODAY.  :)      


  1. Congratulations! I got my Master's in Educational Technology and it was super rewarding. I was able to take about half my classes online, which saved me an hour plus each way commute. The trick is to get online frequently and stay active on the message boards. It can be a challenge, but it has it's rewards as well.

  2. I'm doing the exact same thing! I started 4 weeks ago, though. The work itself is doable but time management is *really* hard for me right now. Good luck and congrats!

  3. Congratulations! Do you have any advice about taking out the TEACH grant if my school is not low-income? I really want to stay where I am at.

  4. Congrats on going for your masters! I got mine 4 years ago. One thing you can do is double up on courses in teh summer. THat helps. I actually had to go to class, but we had a cohort sponsored by our school system. We attended classes 2x/week during the school year, taking 2 different classes. Then we did our electives during teh summer. ALso, we did not have a thesis, but an action research project. Research class was the toughest! Best of luck!

  5. Congrats! I got my degree in Curriculum and Instruction last year through WGU. I was able to do it in 12 months because you could go at your own rate. With 10 years of teaching experience I already knew a lot of the material through conferences and workshops that I'd gone too. I also did an action research project. I'm looking into applying for the teach grant to pay off my loan. WGU is nonprofit so my tuition was only $3000 every 6 months and I got a $7000 pay jump this year.

  6. You'll do great! I was wisely advised to get my Master's early in my teaching career (I was married but had no kids), and I did not regret it. It would have been much harder once our family began to grow. While the extra income is not what we're in teaching for, getting that extra amount from early in your career pays off in the long run. I got mine before anyone even thought about online classes, but I imagine that just makes the process more flexible and convenient. Can't wait to read your updates!

  7. Congratulations! In my state it's a requirement for teachers to get their masters degrees. I got mine before I started my official teaching career while I was still subbing (not by choice). I miss being in school. I know you'll enjoy it. :)

  8. I'm thinking of doing the same thing soon... How is it balancing work/prep/school/personal life?

    1. It's tough but doable. I'm definitely learning to manage my time better.