ESL teachers help people achieve success in American society, where mastery of English is necessary for almost all employment, educational and civic situations. This program focusing on effective instruction in the use of written and spoken English, vocabulary for education and job skills, success on the TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language) as well as civics education in preparation for the U.S. Citizenship Test.
Why did you decide to pursue an M.Ed. degree?
I did not do my undergraduate degree in Education. I studied Public Relations and Government & Politics, and never expected to pursue teaching or the field of Education in my future. It was during my first job at an International Development non-profit that I knew an office job was not going to work for me, and that I would be most happiest teaching. I spent a summer in China during college, during which I taught English as a Second Language to young children. It was a life-changing experience, and when I thought back to this period in my life, I knew I had to return to teaching. After teaching at two different English language institutes in Washington, D.C., I decided to pursue a formal education in teaching so I could get a solid foundation in the field and further my teaching career.
What is your primary area of interest within the field of education?
My focus is teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). I have been teaching low-income adult immigrants for the past two years and also tutoring children in ESL, literacy, and organization. I love teaching motivated adult students who rely on their ESL classes to better their lives and the lives of their families.
Please describe the M.Ed. program you chose to attend
I studied TESL at New York University. It was a 34-credit program aimed at those pursing teaching adult students in colleges or universities or for a community-based program, like the one where I teach now. I studied full time, and completed my coursework in one year. This included a 6-credit study abroad program in Brazil, which was a highlight of my program. The classes in the NYU program were taught by professors who had experience teaching ESL in New York City public schools, abroad, and in special programs at colleges and universities.
Why did you choose the ESL Masters school you attended?
My application process started with location. I was living in Washington, D.C. at the time, and I wanted to move up to New York. I applied to NYU and Hunter College. In the end, I was accepted to both schools, but Hunter did not send me the final confirmation information until after I had accepted my offer from NYU. I received a small scholarship from NYU, so the price difference between the two schools did not seem too extreme. Looking back, especially as I pay my monthly loans, I wish I had made more financial considerations.
What did you like about the program?
I had a few really wonderful professors who, one of whom I still keep in touch with. I enjoyed the three-week study abroad program I did in Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It gave me a first-hand look at inequalities in education and how the Brazilian education system functions. The trip’s pedagogical focus was centered on the teachings and philosophy of Paulo Freire. This has h2ly influenced my teaching and my classroom atmosphere, which I would describe as student and goal-centered.
What did you not like about the program?
The vast majority of my classes were theoretical. I found that I wasn’t taught how to teach. For example, I did not learn strategies for teaching reading (questioning, predicting, etc.) or any of the other main modalities of ESL – listening, speaking, writing, and grammar. Even though I have my Master’s degree, I still have to teach myself how to teach. I do not think I was provided with a h2 foundation. That being said, the classes I did take were not particularly challenging. I found them almost too easy at times.
Were you employed while attending ESL graduate school? If so, how did you manage your time?
I did not work full time while taking classes. My fall semester I babysat 12 hours a week, and my spring semester I babysat 20 hours a week. It was not difficult for me to manage my time. I would do homework in the morning, babysit in the afternoon, and then go to class at night. I had plenty of time Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to complete any other homework.
How did you pay for your graduate degree?
I took out federal loans and am paying them back every month!
Did you participate in any research or special projects while in school?
What should a student look for when choosing an ESL Masters program?
I think students need to talk to current students to see if they are happy with the program. I wish I had talked to students at the two colleges I was considering. I think one can learn the most from the students and/or the alumni, not from the program director or professors.
What do you intend to do with your ESL Masters degree?
I am teaching full time for a multi-service community-based organization. I teach low-income immigrants and feel proud of my role in the community.
Did you make use of your school’s career services office during your job search?
I only use my department’s listserv and the career services office’s website of job postings.