Tips for Getting Your Master’s Degree While Teaching

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Happy Thanksgiving week!  There is so much that I have to be thankful for.  One thing that I am thankful for and really appreciate is the calm in my life.  I definitely did not always have this calmness!  I finished my master’s degree a couple of years ago, and while I am really glad to have my M.Ed, I do NOT miss the craziness of getting my degree and being a classroom teacher!

When I was getting my master’s degree in literacy (and my bilingual endorsement at the same time), I taught full day Kindergarten in the suburbs and had to commute into the city after school 2-3 days a week to take classes.  My program was very good…but also challenging and time-consuming.  I would be exhausted from teaching my Kinders, and by the time I sat through class at night and drove home, it was time to go to bed.  I also got married and bought a house during the last year of my program, which added to the craziness!  I thought I was going to lose my mind at some points.  One time during this crazy phase, I left one of our gas burners on ALL night and ALL day, not realizing it until I got home from work!  The house and cats were fine, thank God.  Another time I planned a trip for my husband and I to go visit my grandfather, and didn’t realize until the night before that I had bought a plane ticket for him, but not for myself!!  Other people go through much more difficult things than this in their lives, but this was definitely a challenging time for me.

I am really thankful that I have my degree now, though, because it’s enabled me to become a reading specialist.  In the spirit of giving, I want to share with you some things I did that helped me survive teaching full time and getting my degree.  If you are a teacher getting your master’s degree or considering it, read on for tips about managing your time, finding time to cook, and maintaining your sanity.

1.  Be sure you want/need the degree you are getting.  When I graduated from my undergrad program, I knew I wanted to eventually become a reading specialist.  But I still taught for several years before starting my master’s program.  I’m really glad I did this for a few reasons!  First, being a new teacher is exhausting by itself, and I wouldn’t have wanted to make life crazier (or impede all of the learning I was doing as a new teacher) by piling coursework on top of teaching.  Second, I think it’s important to be sure that you are getting the degree that you want.  If you get your master’s degree right after finishing your undergrad, you might realize that there’s something else that you love about teaching/education even more than what you originally planned to study.  Graduate courses can be really expensive, so you want to be sure you want and need the degree you choose!

2.  Accept that you can’t do it all.  I am a perfectionist.  Sometimes to a fault.  When I do something, I want to do it well – REALLY well!  It was hard for me to adjust to the idea that I wasn’t going to be able to do everything perfectly while getting my degree.  My bulletin boards weren’t always going to be frequently changed…or ever changed… šŸ™‚  I wasn’t going to be able to reread my assignments 5 times to make sure that they were perfect before turning them in.  It just wasn’t going to happen.  In order to survive those 2.5 years, I had to lower my expectations for myself.  I still gave everything that I could to my students and my program, but it wasn’t perfection.  And that was okay!

3.  Don’t take on “extras.”  When I was getting my degree, I got to school when my contract required me to, and left almost immediately after my students did.  I didn’t volunteer for extra duties, committees, or clubs.  I sometimes felt guilty when I would see my coworkers getting super involved in school activities.  But you know what?  It was okay.  My principal knew I was getting my degree.  No one suffered because I didn’t lead a club.  I focused on work, school, and, well…surviving.  I didn’t need anything extra to worry about then!

4.  Become BFFs with your casserole pans.  Getting myself and my husband fed during this time was a challenge!  He was working long hours and generally doesn’t cook during the week, so I wanted to make sure he had food at home when I was at class until 8.  Each weekend, I would make a few different (large) casseroles that we could eat all week.  I often brought some of a casserole to work so that I’d have a little something eat before class, rather than waiting until 8:30 to eat dinner.  Was my cooking always incredibly healthy, fresh, and exciting?  No.  But we managed to survive!  

5.  Plan ahead.  This one pertains to food as well!  On Sundays, I used to make sandwiches and prepare other lunch items for the entire week ahead of time.  Then it was just a matter of throwing things in my lunchbag each morning.  I still do this with my husband’s sandwiches today!  Also related to planning ahead – plan your meals, make a grocery list, and go to the store the same day each week.  This will help you avoid the It’s-9pm-and-I-have-nothing-to-eat kind of moments and will help you avoid getting fast food.  

6.  Set timers, use a planner, and write EVERYTHING down!  As a result of being so busy, I became verrrrry forgetful.  Things that I ordinarily would have remembered instantly flew out of my brain.  I had to train myself to write down every little detail of any work or school requirements, counting on the fact that I wouldn’t remember a thing about them the next day or even a few hours later! 

7.  Take walks.  This one is kind of random, but as much as time and weather permitted, I would take a walk around the block immediately after school ended or immediately before my master’s class started each day.  Those few minutes helped me clear my head and regain some energy.  Don’t take your phone on the walk, and just focus on being calm.  You will eventually look forward to those few moments of peace each day!

8.  Take one day off a week.  Every Saturday, I would (usually) avoid during any work for school or my grad program.  Sundays kind of sucked, but having that one day to look forward to after a long week was a saving grace!  Do something for you – even if it is as simple as cleaning up the mess in your closet that has been bothering you for weeks.  You may not be able to manage it every week, but try to take as many Saturdays (or Sundays) off as you can.

Above all, keep the end in mind!  My graduation ceremony was super boring, but I can’t even describe how happy I was to be there – and to be FINISHED!  I am thankful that I have my degree, I am thankful for the friends I made in my master’s classes, and I am thankful that this crazy time in my life has passed.  Now, about getting my PhD…….kidding.  Sort of.  šŸ™‚

Have you gotten your master’s degree while teaching?  Did you do it with kids to take care of at home?!  (God bless you!)  Share your tips below!

Alison

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Anonymous
7 years ago

I want to get my masters as a reading specialist as well just nervous and scared because I’m a single mom

Reply to  Anonymous

That would be a big challenge for sure. Maybe you can take one class (or try an online program) and see how it goes? Good luck!!

Laurie Wangerin
7 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

You can do it! I am a single mom and I am doing it! It is a great example of the importance of education for you children to see! GO FOR IT!!!

Nicole Herrera
4 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

I am on my last year of getting my bachelor’s of education and I am working two jobs while being a single mom to a 6 year old and I am already considering getting my master’s degree after and I too am scared but it’s my dream as a mom and a woman. Go for it! If you ain’t scared, you’re not dreaming big enough!

7 years ago

I’m going through this right now as I have one more semester to go!! Thanks for this post

Good luck with your last semester!! The end is near! šŸ™‚

Nicole
6 years ago

Thanks for the post! Gave me the little pep talk I need to continue through this! Should be finished by December, fingers crossed! Excited to read more of your blogs šŸ™‚

Vitha
6 years ago

I decided to take the master of education too… The interview is held this May and I’m on my half way there. I’m not married yet. I’m still 22 ^_^. Thank you for the post. It’s really inspiring for me.

Jennifer
6 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing this. I am a second year teacher who recently got moved to a new school at a new grade because of high classroom sizes. I am feeling very overwhelmed trying to adjust and I was going to begin my masters program this month but realized that I just can’t do it right now. After reading about how newer teachers need time to adjust, I do not feel as bad in not starting my masters right now. But I know that when I do, I will know how to manage my time. Thank you!

Ashley
6 years ago

I teach 1st grade right now and have a five year old. I am starting my Masters program in October … I think I’m crazy, but reading this helped thank you šŸ™‚

Whitney
5 years ago

Going through this right now, and it’s killing me! In KY it’s a requirement to get masters and 50% complete in 5years to remain certified. I’m so over classes and feel like my focus and time is so much on the classes that I’m not the teacher I should or could be for my kids. :/ SOS ????

Cathryn
5 years ago

I am so glad I came across this post! I recently was accepted into a masters program in English with a teaching certificate and I’m really nervous, but having these tips will really help! šŸ™‚

Varughese Thomas
5 years ago

Thank you so much for your advice. I”m teaching full-time and am doing an MA in ELT, and I have had great difficulties coping. It’s great to be able to get some ideas on how to manage work, family life and studying. Cheers!

5 years ago

This is really helpful advice. I am going to begin my masters in the spring, so still some time away, but I am already thinking about how to manage both teaching in the classroom and attending my classes. I am really happy I came across this post.

Elizabeth
5 years ago

I loved your post !…I’m currently being offered a position, which would be my first year teaching Pre-k. I’m also going for my masters in education. I need to make a decision and I’m going back and forth on this being the right choice

Esther Kwon
5 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Hi Elizabeth,

I also loved Alison’s post, and I read your post and was wondering what you ended up deciding. Graduate school or your first teaching Pre-K job? I’d be curious to know–I’m researching different programs that would allow me to do both but also weigh full-time graduate program options as well.

Esther

Eliza
4 years ago

I am getting ready to start my first year in the classroom but plan to go back and get my master’s in a couple of years. I’m curious-when did you take the GRE? Would you recommend waiting or taking it soon after undergrad?

Ashlee
4 years ago

Your blog was really inspiring. Do you have any good online classes you can reccomend? How much was the pay raise?

Raven G
4 years ago

I LOVED reading this article as I searched how to manage my time while teaching SPED full time and being a graduate student getting my Master in Ed in School Counseling. The one thing that stood out to me was your lowering my expectation of self. I feel just like you with wanting everything to be JUST right but having to recognize it will not always be perfect and THAT IS OKAY! Thanks for this šŸ™‚

Heather
4 years ago

I really enjoyed reading this! I am currently a sophomore in college working towards my Masters in Elementary Education. I have an option to do a 4+1 or go somewhere else for a graduate program closer to home and my fiance. Everyone keeps telling me to just do the year and worry about moving back home later, but I think my heart would rather teach close to home and get my Masters while doing so, even if it would be more work. Reading this gave me a lot of insight, thank you! šŸ™‚

Kelly
4 years ago

This really helped me, I’m currently taking two courses right now on top of teaching 7th and 8th grade science. I’m in my second year of teaching and I am really struggling with a history course that was an elective that I needed to fill. How many courses did you typically take a semester?

Angelica
3 years ago

I’m in my first year of teaching second grade, as well as my first year of grad school, I feel like I’m drowning! I needed this article, congrats on finishing!

Michelle
3 years ago
Reply to  Angelica

So am I! I feel like Iā€™m drowning, constantly exhausted and have zero free time at all. We can do this.

Lauren
2 years ago

Hi there, I just came across this article as I prepare to begin my first graduate courses. I’m currently a first-year teacher and am eager to get my degree- I’m enrolled in 2 courses. Do you think 3 would be too many? Thanks!

Melina Aponte
2 years ago

I’m just filling out the application today for this fall. I keep telling myself, do it now, no kids, no husband, no house. This is the moment, plus a scholarship. Just have to be organized.

Sherifa Samuels
2 years ago

Hello, thank you for your story. I started my masters in Early Childhood and Special Education right after my undergrad degree. I was 7 months pregnant and was teaching fulltime.I gave birth by C-section in November while I still had classes. I studied online because I was pregnant and couldn’t do the commute. I was given a litte time off to bond with the baby, but had to pick it back up by January. I barely completed that semester. It was a challenge. I registered for Spring semester and did exceptionally well with A’s and B+while teaching 3K fulltime, working… Read more »

Jordan Akin
1 year ago

I am so torn because I am almost halfway through my Masters program but also trying to transition to online teaching. I have been talking to some recruiters to travel and teach. What do you think about travelling abroad and teaching while earning a masters degree?

Editor
Reply to  Jordan Akin

Hey there, Jordan! I think that you should do what you feel you can handle. If traveling and teaching are something that you are passionate about then you should do it! Like I mentioned in my post, just make sure that the Master’s degree program that you are enrolled in is in a focus area that you really want/need. I would say make a plan and be realistic about what you can/cannot accomplish. I wish you the best of luck! šŸ™‚

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