I met with a counselor at Wayland Baptist University on Tuesday to see whether WBU or Texas Woman's University would be the right fit for me. I already knew (mostly) the particulars of how the Master's of Arts - Teaching program works at TWU, but I wasn't sure all the requirements, deadlines, etc. at WBU. I quickly realized several things about WBU that - although I was aware of - I hadn't thought through all the ramifications. For the following reasons, WBU just won't work for me.
- Because they are on a quarter system, they have four short (11 week) class periods a year. They also start earlier than other programs. The first class period is Aug. 16 - Oct. 30. I would be required to do 30 hours of classroom observation during the first class period. But, I'm out of vacation days and they don't reset until Oct. 4. This would make it difficult to fulfill the classroom observation requirement without blowing through all my vacation days in the first month I'm eligible. This doesn't work for me.
- They do not have a spring break and don't observe most federal holidays. This means on most days when I typically have a breather and just enjoy spending time with my kiddo, I'd instead be in class or on the computer in an online classroom. Jamie needs my attention as much as possible, so this doesn't work for me, either.
- They administer their financial aid in such a way that I wouldn't get any refunds until halfway through the semester. This would make it very difficult for me to be able to afford books and supplies I typically use financial aid funds to cover. Again, not working for me.
- They are a private university, which means that they are more expensive than TWU (which is a state university). They offered me less financial aid than TWU and are more expensive than TWU, meaning less money back in my pocket. Hmmm, still not working.
- Due to when their courses are offered and the required courses for the program, it would take six semesters before I was able to start student teaching. Not. Working.
So, I've decided to attend TWU's Master's of Arts – Teaching program and pursue certification in English/Language Arts/Reading (ELAR) 4-8 and 4-8 Generalist (you have to have both to teach elementary level classes. Sixth grade is still considered elementary education in Texas, even though the students are in a middle school). This means I can teach ELAR to anyone in grades 4 – 8, and also sets me up nicely to go back later and get my Master Reading Teacher/Reading Specialist certification, which is a critical shortage area.
Once I get my initial ELAR/Generalist certification, I can then take the exam for any other certification I want to add. Under NCLB, I am required to have enough credit hours of study in a core subject area to be considered "highly qualified" in order to teach that subject. "Highly qualified" typically means you have had 24 credit hours of study in that subject. Core subject areas are ELAR, Social Studies, Math, Science, etc. This is where all those years of indecision on a major have come in handy. I am "highly qualified" in both ELAR and Social Studies.
There are other certifications in which you do not have to be considered highly qualified, but in which you must have had at least 12 hours of study in order to be able to reasonably pass the certification exam. I will easily be able to add EC-12 certifications in Theatre Arts and Technology Applications (a critical shortage area). If I take the PPR exam for 8-12 grades, I can also later take tests qualifying me to teach Sociology and Criminal Justice at the high school level. In other words, I will be qualified to teach several different subject areas, making me more marketable.
Also, another good thing about the TWU program is that there is a possibility I can be in the classroom teaching by August 2011-2012. The program requires either 6 hours of student teaching (supervised teaching with a different teacher of record for the class) in one semester or a 12 hour internship (the graduate student is actually the teacher of record but has a mentor teacher assigned to them and has a team from their graduate program overseeing their progress) over the course of one academic school year. Interns are paid by the school district at a somewhat lower level than a certified teacher, and then the intern pays their master's program of record a fee to cover costs associated with their oversight.
All the school systems down here participate in internship programs and student teaching. It is more likely one can get a position as a student teacher, but internships are often used in areas where a teacher is needed for a class but there is a shortage of teachers available to teach the subject area. If I take 3 classes this semester, 3 classes in spring and 2 classes in the summer, I will have all my hours to be able to start an internship next fall, if one is available.
I will be talking with my TWU advisor and the school districts down here to try to line an internship up now so that I can begin teaching next year***. If there isn't a shortage and they aren't needing an intern to cover ELAR 4-8 (you have to student teach or have an internship in your initial certification area), then I will instead take 3 classes this fall, three classes in the spring, take the summer off, take two classes in Fall '11 and do my student teaching in Spring '12. Either way, I'll be in the classroom teaching in whatever capacity in a very short period of time. I'm so excited!
***UPDATE: I called my advisor this afternoon while my boss was out eating lunch. She said that internships are hard to get right now, but that student teaching posts are easy to find. She said it has to do with budget constraints. So, I will still try to get an internship, but am putting my back-up plan in place to student teach. If that is the route I wind up going, I will take the summer off from my degree plan and take some web design and computer programming classes to help me when I take the Technology Applications test. Also, that means I can finally design the company web page like my boss has been wanting me to do (but which I have been too unsure of myself to do).