Interview With Joshua Fleitas: Master of Elementary Education
Why did you decide to pursue an Master of Elementary Education Degree?
I decided to get my Master’s degree in education because I wanted something more out of life. I thought I would be a great teacher for a number of reasons. In the office, I had positive and memorable experiences as a mentor to junior creative employees. Also, I grew up with a mother who is an excellent teacher. Lastly, I used to head a daycare classroom at the YMCA and had fond memories of my time doing that.
What is your primary area of interest within the field of education?
Within the field of education, I’m most interested in working with under-served students who aren’t yet totally jaded and help them tap into their potential for greatness. I want to help foster confidence and self-respect in students who aren’t exposed to such qualities in their everyday lives.
Which Masters in Elementary Education Program Did You Select?
The MSEd program I attended was at Hunter College in Manhattan, specifically for urban elementary education, grades 1-6. It was typically a 3 year graduate program that I completed in 2 years by loading-up on classes full-time and taking Summer courses. I took out the maximum student loans I was able to. I also worked part-time as both a substitute teacher and a personal support worker for The Kennedy Center.
What did you like about the program?
There were a number of things about the program at Hunter College that I liked. My educational psychology classes were demanding, yet simultaneously eye-opening and stimulating. I learned a great deal in a short amount of time. Likewise, my teaching mathematics course was fascinating, though math is a subject I’ve never liked. My professor for that course, Bob Gyles, was a brilliant teacher whose passion for teaching, learning, and mathematics was utterly infectious.
What did you not like about the program?
Some of the required courses seemed pointless and I didn’t take much away from them. My Diversity in Education class was taught by an ex-radical who rambled endlessly about his past and had very extreme ideas about education and America. Additionally, the Educational Foundations class I took was given by a young, first-time teacher, whose style was to let us teach each other as she sat back and “moderated”, albeit usually silently. Thus, none of us were engaged nor learned much, other than how to take a topic and whittle it down into a 20 minute lecture that we’d give to each other.
Were you employed while taking classes? If so, how did you manage your time?
As previously mentioned, I worked part-time during grad school as a substitute teacher and for the Kennedy Center in CT. I worked on my days without classes, and the income these jobs provided was minimal, which meant that I still had to take out all the student loans I was able to in order to afford my education. If I was too busy with school work, I was able to refuse a day of subbing in order to study, and the Kennedy Center job allowed me to pretty much choose the hours I’d work.
What should a student look for when choosing an education program?
I think the first thing a prospective MSEd student should look for is the state of employment for where they wish to work once they graduate. I graduated in the Spring of 2009, and I have yet to find a job teaching anywhere in or near the city. Due to the hiring freeze at the NYC Department of Education, my peers and I have been unable to secure job. This leaves me with significant student loans to pay off. I’ve even applied for every charter school teaching position I could find, to no avail. Consequently, I would not recommend going to graduate school for a MSEd if you want to teach in NYC. The jobs are simply not available.
What do you intend to do with your degree?
I wanted to use my degree to teach, but that’s just not happening right now, so I really do not know what I will do with it. Eventually, perhaps I’ll move to a new area to find a good teaching job. For the time being, however, I’m going to continue to work in advertising, where my skills and experience always seem to be in demand.
Did you make use of your school’s career services office during your job search?
My school’s career services office was not very helpful for graduates who wanted to be full-time elementary education teachers. Part of that has to do with the fact that there really aren’t any new jobs for teachers who aren’t already employees of the DOE. The career services office sends me emails occasionally, but they are never for jobs that apply to me, unless I want to be a teacher’s aid or work part-time. Usually they’re just forwarded emails that the office gets sent, and many times they’re for jobs that I’m not even qualified for, such as ones that require at least 2 year’s worth of classroom experience.