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Have any users of this site studied for an MA in TESOL or another MA within the same area? I am interested in doing an MA to improve my teaching skills and my career prospects but I have a number of questions about them and would like to find out more from people with experience.

My situation is that I am 27, have 18 months of experience in teaching adults in China and Middle School kids in Korea. I have just started at a Korean High School and have a CELTA certificate. I enjoy my job and am reasonably satified with my performance but I also experience the frustrations that come with working in a Korean Public School ( very large class sizes, poor facilities). I feel it is sometimes difficult to implement the methods and use the skills I learnt during my CELTA course.

I want to do an MA but am not sure if I should start it sooner or later. I am sure the MA would improve me as a teacher but I would feel more confident about starting one with more job experience. Is this a concern I should have or would it be better to begin an MA as soon as I could afford it? On one hand I could have my MA by the time I am 30 if I start it now (as a distance MA) but I would be hesitant to change jobs/ move to another country while doing a distance MA for fear of it being difficult to deal with the new job and my study. On the other hand, I could concentrate on my career and try to find work in a more rewarding environment, save up and start my MA in a few years, possibly with the money to do it in one year back home in the UK. In this case I would be starting with more experience as a teacher as well as more maturity. Is this something other people have taken/took into consideration?

I have many more questions in my mind but I don't want to bore people with an over-long post for now. Any opinions would be well appreciated.

Tags: korea, professional_development

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Wow, we are almost in the exact same boat. I have been thinking about the same thing. I think Ellen would know about such things.
Michael,

As you suggest (between the lines), it isn't a black or white decision. Meaning, there are a lot of individual considerations to take into account.

Overall - I'm of the opinion that a teacher should have 5 or more years of classroom experience before their masters degree. In order to fully get the prof. development from the courses (and contribute with your classmates, that's a large part of any properly delivered masters program - learning from each other like we do here ). However, it all depends on your personality - this 5 years can be more or less depending on how truly reflective a person you are.

Then there is the money. I really loath the fact that so many Master's cost so much. I do think we should pay for our education - don't mind that but hey come on - $20,000 + dollars for some M.As??? So that's another factor. One nice aspect of a P.S. English teaching job though, is you do have some extra time to undertake studies....

Then there is family! Not easy to do an MA and have family duties + the job. However, my own observation is that the most successful students in Masters programs are usually those married with kids. Go figure! But this has to be considered.

I know the CELTA is more geared towards adults but I'm sure a little of it has rubbed off and will hold you well when undertaking a Master's in Applied Linguistics. (maybe less so, if you go for a TESOL or Ed degree).

My suggestion then, given the little I know (and so take this opinion with a big grain of sea salt), is to bank a couple more years and then take a course. Start planning now and scoping courses and you'll be all set and better prepared with some more experience under your belt and some more reading too! (see the Teacher Training area I'm building - lots of the stuff there would put a standard Masters course to shame.....)

But I'm sure others will be able to chip in and give more perspective....
Thanks for your reply David, very helpful as always!

I am inclined to agree with you. I feel I have some good points as a teacher but I would like to increase my ability to use technology, create materials and my grammar knowledge before starting an MA. As I mentioned before I would also like to have experience of working in a place where I have more contact time with students before starting an MA. I am trying to learn and try new ideas all the time and this site is very helpful in allowing me to do that. Perhaps it would be better to continue with that and start an MA later.

The cost is a pain but there are some decent Distance MA's available and I think the cost of them is not too prohibitive if working in Korea at the same time. In an ideal world I would go back to the UK and do it in 1 year but we all know that will/would cost a lot of money.

Another factor I am taking into account is my restlessness! I am pretty satisfied with my position now but I also really want to teach in Japan within the next couple of years. It's an itch I will have to scratch and it might better to get that done before starting an MA. It would be better to be doing an MA from a settled position and I guess this is why you notice people with family commitments tend to perform better in their MA studies.

Yes, the CELTA has definately been useful and I am sure I will be in a role one day where I am using those methods more. I am trying to persuade my school to agree to let me do an extrar after school class at the moment (as opposed to classes containing 56 students) so that I can give the students more space to use and practice English.

I am going to check the Teacher Training area out and I was also wondering if anybody could recommend any books that could be of interest to me?
:D :D :D Gee Justino, I wish I knew more, but all I know is the Graduate program I attended. I found where I wrote about it, the last comment on this page. It is long, and like Michael, I am afraid of boring people, but it's pretty complete for what it was like, and shows why I respected the experience so much.

I think both of you (I am sure of this) have had an intensity of teaching experience that prepares you well for an MA program in education. You'll be ahead of many on that. What I wonder about is all that could be lost doing it in an online program. For me, being in a cohort, and practicing everyday in our own classes, as students, the theory we were learning about at night and later using in our student teaching, was invaluable, and what really made the program. Not one bit of it was fake- we might have been studying various theories (really methods with some theory to back it up) but our classes were anything but theoretical. I really hope you read my other post, as it gives a good picture of what a good graduate program is like here in the states. And then you can compare it with what you know about online programs.

One big advantage you both have is that you already know A LOT about managing students. That is one part of teaching that is hard to get a handle on without going through it yourself. Foot to the fire : ). I had taught for 5-6 years total before I entered the program, but not as a certified teacher, and not with groups of 30-35 students at a time, as it was in my first two years as a certified classroom teacher. Classroom management my first year ... sigh, not my favorite part of that year!

What you can't help but be missing, I think, is the intensity of getting to know and understand 30 individuals and being responsible for each one's growth. There's a pressure, and an obligation, and of course a joy to that that I don't think can come with seeing so many students for so little time each.

Michael, from what I've seen online in elementary education, England seems to be really on top of it best practice wise. One pro in the column of doing it back home : ).

I have got to go pick up my baby (21 years old) because he is having a hard time studying at school and wants to come home for the night. He is going to be a doctor : ))). By the way, I was 37, with three kids, when I started my teacher training program. I wish I had been able to start when I was a little younger, but I wasn't the absolute oldest in my class : ).

Also, I was poor. Borrowed all the money for tuition (from the government), I haven't regretted that.
David, why do you think a teacher should have 5 or more years classroom experience before getting their master's degree?
Hi Michael,

I strongly considered doing a MA in TESOL. In the end I decided to do a Master of Arts in e-learning - I'm doing it now. I'm really enjoying this course - a lot. Hopefully I will finish it by the end of this year. I had to do some core subjects for the MA (whether one majors in ESL or e-learning). I could have chosen to do ESL subjects as electives and get the best of both worlds.

I chose to do a subject in Research Design and another in Communication Management as my electives. However I'm focusing on ESL whilst doing the e-learning subjects. Recently I was chatting to an ESL-e-learning professional who trains ESL teachers to use Virtual Worlds for the purposes of teaching English. If you explore the 'Second Life' virtual world - you will be able to find out about SLanguages there - relevant to teaching English. (Unfortunately I'm having a bit of difficulty getting into it because I have to use a public computer and I can't download Second Life right at the moment!) I see David has started up a Diigo social networking resource site on this Ning - so I recommend having a look there to find out more about ESL websites too. Maybe these sites would interest you.

I generally have an interest in the Arts - so it suits me to do e-learning. Secondly, the ESL industry can sometimes be sensitive to a downturn in the market - plus I have worked in the health sector for many years. So I could return to the health sector later if I chose to do so - the e-learning course is more generic - so I could use my e-learning skills both as an ESL teacher or as a health educator.....or I could combine them - because there are a lot of health professionals / workers who may like to improve their English.

So I guess there's a lot of options to consider. In the end I guess it just depends on your interests at heart and at the time. Bye for now and best wishes,
Maija
Ellen Pham said:
David, why do you think a teacher should have 5 or more years classroom experience before getting their master's degree?

Ellen,

I think a chalk board should have lots of scratches in order to be seen as a "source" by students..... look at the crinkles on an old farmer's face. Experience + learning = wisdom.

People will argue otherwise but they are probably like I was once upon a time. Full of chutzpah and wind, believing I knew it all and thinking what I SAW, WAS. I had it backwards.

You get the point, despite my pencilessness. I'm sure.

David.

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