Archive for the 'Grad School' Category

The End of Grad School!

I just submitted my last grad school assignment.  Graduation is on Friday, May 13th.

But instead of buying another cap and gown, taking a day off from school and getting up early to drive 2 1/2 hours to the university to walk, I’ve decided to stay with my students.  I’m not one for pomp and circumstance, and I’m not sure I feel that much smarter or experienced.  Maybe I’ll see if my mom wants to go out for dinner.  I’m mostly looking forward to all of the free time I’ll have now that there’s no more homework.

I’d like to thank my students, husband, family, friends and the internet for getting me through.

…mostly my husband though, for listening to all of the complaining.

The Good:

I really enjoyed my Algebra and my Geometry for teachers classes.  I had the same professor for both, and he was very good at taking the bite out of proofs.  I know that I have used a similar approach with my students after taking these classes, and I’ve seen improvement.  I don’t teach Algebra or Geometry, but helping students explain themselves has great merit in the Pre-Algebra and Physics classes.

I also enjoyed my Technology class.  I’m a bit of a geek, so I was worried that this would be a snooze like my Comp Sci requirements during my bachelors.  Even though I had this blog before taking the class, I found out that I was not quite as connected as I could be.  Sure, there were a few ‘gimmicky’ apps with minimal application that were presented, but for the most part it was a collective of teachers working together to use the technology available.  I’m sure if I took the class again, I’d find something new.  I’m not sure if I could say that about any other class I’ve taken.

It was also fun to meet other teachers and experience dorm life from the first time.  I met lots of people with different teaching styles, and it encouraged me to reach out of my comfort zone and be the type of teacher I wanted to be, instead of playing it safe and mimicking my coworkers.  That, in itself has worked wonders on my classroom management and my effectiveness as a teacher.

The Bad:

Thesis

This thing.  The Action Research Project.  Much like the comic I linked above, it went through 39 revisions.  (My goal was to keep it under 40.  Go Me!)

This project was plagued with little problems.

Because students move in and out of our school district, even though I had 40+ students sign consent forms at the end of Q1, I only had 22 students remaining in the project at the end of Q3.  The last two chapters were hard to write as a result of this small sample size.  Even though my data showed positive changes, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the small sample size was a limiting factor.

I became really sick of getting asked if I was flipping the class.  I thought my students would find the Khan videos boring, and there was no guarantee that students would have computer access outside of my class.  I used this explanation and even put it into my paper, but it still came up at every single meeting, and at the defense.

I also made the silly mistake of requesting to start my thesis project during my first year of graduate school.  I heard that sometimes the thesis takes more than a year, and I did not want to get caught doing my study during my first year in our new school building.  Turns out that my graduate program lost its funding last summer, and they decided to waive the thesis project for everyone who started the same year as me, but hadn’t started the project.  This means that people who started the same summer, not only didn’t have to write a thesis, but didn’t have to take classes during fall or spring (because they were related to the thesis).

I did have to take these classes, because I took thesis classes last year.  So I ended up being the last scraggler to finish a thesis project, one of 2 people in the fall class and the only person in the spring class.  The other students did a smaller project to make up for the credits they missed.  So I got to watch the other people in my program post their diplomas in December, knowing that I still had to take a spring class.  It didn’t work well for my motivation, but I made sure to maintain A’s.

With all of my colleagues being finished, my Saturdays this school year often boiled down to just me and the grad school requirements.  There was nobody working on the same thing to talk to.  I’d never been in such small classes, or so isolated with respect to education.  It felt lonely.

That being said, I feel that this is the most significant thing I produced during my grad school experience.  I might even be a little bit proud of it, and at the end, I’m glad I know how to do solid action research now.  I may even be crazy enough to do it again someday.  (Someday far, far away from today…)

So even though it was really frustrating to be the last one in ‘my group’ to fulfill the graduation requirements, and even though we all walk away with the same degree, I guess I’m happy to have the knowledge of writing the thesis.

The Ugly:

The first summer, we had a Calculus class and a Math/Science connection class that were taught by the same professor who would frequently ‘rage-quit’ problems halfway through.  If, in Calculus, he noticed something wasn’t working out, he became flustered.  Instead of troubleshooting the problem as teacher and class, he would get really angry, erase the board, tell us it was easy, and move on.  Closer to the end of the semester, several students in my class got so fed up with it that they demanded an explanation on a problem and did not want to let him wave it away.  He got so angry and went on an extended rant.  He pretty much told us we were all too stupid to be in the class if we didn’t understand it.

We had a test the next day.  Some students lost an entire letter grade for rounding.  The test never specified how to round or whether or not to take significant digits before.  I got lucky.  I rounded to 2 decimal places out of habit and got an A.

The Math/Science connection class was even sadder.  He simply photocopied a textbook (which I think was originally mathematics as applied to biological sciences) and had us popcorn read.  The class was 2 hours long.  Two hours, three nights a week of listening to other people popcorn read.  Occasionally we would get an assignment.  Regardless of how well we did those assignments, we all got 100% on everything.

When course evaluations came out during that class, he told us everyone was getting A’s before he left the room.  I don’t think offering grades as a bribe helped with his evaluations.  He wasn’t back the next year.

This spring, my biggest complaint is that it has been 42 days since anything has been graded in the class in which I am the only student.  It would be really nice to know if I’ve done well enough to maintain straight A’s before the gradebook closes at midnight.

My other complaint is that the content of the course is mostly busywork.

The Verdict:

Despite one crazy professor, one gigantic paper and some really boring homework assignments, I think that going to grad school was still a good idea.  It feels really cool to know I’ll get my master’s degree before 30, and I feel really lucky that I was able to be a part of a grant-funded program.

And every part of the experience, even the negative, has given me a lot to think about as I progress in my profession.

8/10, would go to grad school again.

Halfway there?

So today marks the halfway point of my summer semester in Grad School.  I’m thinking maybe 10 credits was a little much, and that maybe, just maybe math teachers will lapse into group insanity when confined to a classroom for roughly 9 hours a day, 4 days a week.

I should have known better, but I’ve always been ambitious.  My husband accuses me of complaining about not having free time, even though I immediately find more things to fill any free time that I DO have.  So here I am, trying to draft my thesis proposal.  Yes, they told me to wait until my second year.  No, I did not listen.

I’m not quite sure if my topic is going to stick, so I will wait until then to reveal my research topic here.  However, I did learn that this research isn’t quite as bad as I thought.  I looked over examples that had thirty to fifty articles in their literature review, while academic search engines yielded seven or eight valid articles, max.  I panicked!  How was I going to find that many articles?

Without knowing what to do, fearing a dry thesis, (but with a draft deadline approaching) I started to write.  And I realized that many of my articles had citations of their own…research that I could also find and use!  To a seasoned researcher (or English teacher) this might seem like common sense, but in my sleep-deprived grad-school state I felt as though I’d discovered something grand!  Strangely enough, academic search engines are very good when you know which authors or titles you seek.  Go figure!

Dorm life is a unique experience for me.  I lived off-campus in an apartment during my undergraduate degree, so I’ve never had to share so much time with classmates.  Luckily my suite-mate and I get along well, and are in most of the same classes.  I do know some of my classmates, because I’m not the only teacher from my school in this program, so that’s nice.

As I get closer to the new school year, being away from home has gotten harder.  For example, this week I’ve learned that I get to teach a class that I’ve always wanted to teach!  This particular class looks to be a little more cross-curricular than my usual fare, so it will be quite different.  This class also requires changes to my classroom layout, because it has different space requirements than my previous algebra classes.  I can’t wait to get home and tear through the textbook and start planning!

Life is busy, but life is good.