I decided to take time away from teaching to learn about becoming a better informed, more daring, and less complacent teacher. And honestly, I am glad I made the choice I did. While it’s only been half a semester so far, taking this time off for graduate school has provided me with a chance to reflect and clarify. Attending graduate school at this time has given me a plethora of experiences that drive my technology quest.
In my graduate classes, I’ve been able to make connections between what I experienced teaching, and the information about which I’m reading. I have been able to pursue what I believe would be most helpful to actual students I have known. I’ve learned about new resources, written my own technology blogs, and am even building a webpage that I will be able to take to my next teaching position.
I think that had I gone straight from college to graduate school, I would not appreciate what I’m learning as much. Right now in my studies I have my past experiences to guide me. My students led me to pursuing Educational Technology through their own interest in the subject. Each project that I start begins with some lesson or student or concept from my previous two years of teaching. Everything I do has an added meaning, because one day it will be used by students like Sydney who always needed to know why, or Michael who could listen all day, but needed to feel the math to understand it. I think about all my students when I am creating a new online learning tool or classroom website– is there a Spanish option for Ingrid and Edgar? Does it have enough videos to keep Davouz entertained? Is it difficult enough to engage Abbie, but interesting enough that Orla wouldn’t roll her eyes?
These questions, and students, and experiences are what keep me engaged in my classes when I go weeks without having a single assignment due. Three of my classes have zero required readings. Without my constant reminder of why I am in graduate school, I could see myself detach from my courses and do only the bare minimum. Instead I find myself reading more than ever about teaching, technology, web resources, and software. I have subscribed to online newsletters, created an entire Pinterest board called, “Educational Technology”, and have attempted projects that I never would have thought possible during either my undergraduate or teaching experiences.
I truly believe that entering the workforce and gaining practical knowledge before graduate school was the best course of action for me. Often people see graduate school as the “next step” that will lead to a well-paying job. Sometimes students head to graduate school immediately after college because they are too nervous to join the workforce, don’t believe they can find a job, or don’t know what they want to do. These men and women use graduate school as a way to delay that decision. But I think this is a mistake.
Most employers value experience over more schooling. Some entry-level positions are even reserved specifically for students graduating with a bachelor or associate degree. Plus many organizations will subsidize their employees who want to take graduate courses, or even pay for an advanced degree if it matches the interests of the company. Graduate school should not be used to experiment, but rather further your advancement in a specific field.
College is the time to figure out where your career interests lie. Use your time in college to find internships, work different jobs, and take classes in fields you might want to work in later. The only way to know what a job will be like day-in and -out is to spend some time in those positions. You have four years to experiment with different career options, and even after you graduate remember that you are young. It is much easier to change jobs three times when you are 22, with twenty thousand dollars of student debt than when you are 25 with one hundred thousand. So save your money, figure out your priorities, and make a decision based on your career goals.
Now, I understand that I was lucky. I picked a job I loved on the first try, had saved enough working in college and beyond that I am not drowning in debt, and found a program that fit into my life schedule without too much rearranging. However, I think I used my time in college wisely, which helped lead to my career success. When I was in high school and college, I babysat, waited tables, assistant taught, volunteered at an afterschool program, and worked at a daycare for learning challenged students. By the time I graduated I knew exactly what teaching entailed, had experiences to put on my resume, and knew how to budget both my time and money. I left college prepared for my future job, and used my experiences from that job to plan the future of my career.
Allison Pawlowski is currently a graduate presentation intern at the University of Delaware Career Services Center. She graduated with a degree in Elementary Education at the University of Maryland in 2014 and has spent the past two years teaching in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Allison is currently pursuing a Masters in Educational Technology at the University of Delaware, planning to graduate in May 2017.