Going back to school…

So, after 5 years of not being in school, I’m seriously considering taking the plunge and going back to get my master’s in elementary education.

This is one of those things that has been sitting in the back of my head forever. Well, kind of. I went to college thinking that I wanted to work in business because I love the logistics of getting business done. But, that’s really vague and not really degree worthy when you don’t really care about the means to the top so long as you get to the top. Seriously folks, “hire me and I’ll get your shit together” doesn’t work so great when your resume is lacking in usable details.

In any case, the Comm School at UVA is one of those that you apply too after you take the pre-requisites while an undergrad. After my dismal experiences in accounting and economics, I didn’t really want to apply anymore, but I did and got rejected. No hard feelings.

This was all during my 2nd year, which is when you have to declare a major. Since I’d spent my first 3 semesters going along the Comm School route, I had some pretty random classes under my belt, but was like “Hey! I’ve got a lot of history classes and a Geology of Virginia class here, let’s declare history and environmental science and apply to the education school! I’ve always liked to help my friends with their homework!” They rejected me, too.

But, I really did like the idea of being a teacher! It is one of my automatic soapboxes and I enjoy reading homeschooling and teachers blogs to know what’s going on in that world. And then I remember that in 9th grade my science fair project was about whether reading aloud, reading silently, or being read to lead to the best reading comprehension results. Yes, I suffered my extended family to participate in this as my research subjects. It is the only actual experiment I developed on my own. I kind of wish I had remembered this in college, but it’s something I hadn’t really thought about except in passing.

Anyway, I kept my random double majors because I knew that one day I would want to go after that teaching degree, once I finally got over my fear of public speaking. I haven’t done anything recently to really tackle this, but I have explored (mentally) what it is that I don’t like about public speaking. I gave one of our graduation speeches in high school without a problem and have done a few projects that involved presenting to the class over the years with mixed results, usually based on how comfortable I was with the subject matter and relationship to the teacher.

I also didn’t like the idea of me standing in front of a classroom of 30 kids and being expected to speak for 6 hours. That would exhaust me! But in the past few weeks, it’s finally hit me that in elementary school, at least, kids need to spend most of their time experimenting and exploring  and not being talked at. I figure that really I’d spend maybe 2 hours total per day actually standing up there talking and most of that would be reading from a prepared piece. Otherwise, it’s answering individual questions that may or may not be directed at the whole room. I spend 6 hours per day doing that already! And I don’t have such luxuries as spring and winter break to recuperate!

So… going back to school. I know that I don’t have to get the full blown master’s degree, but I will because I know myself and I want to be fully prepared for anything. I plan to rely on a lot of what I inadvertently learned in elementary school, especially in math. I remember being in like 4th grade and was told that I was doing fractions wrong because the teacher wanted us to write them “vertically”

1

2
+
1

2
——
2

2

But my dad had already taught me to write them out “horizontally”

1          1         2
–    +   –   =   –
2         2         2

(that was actually easier than I thought to write out!)

What pissed me off about the whole ordeal back then was that after struggling all that year to not get confused with that crappy “vertical” system, I never saw it again! I mean, I can kind of understand the idea behind it, but really, it’s just stupid! But, I’d teach both ways at the same time in my classroom because hey, one way works for some students, the other for others! There’s not one way to solve a problem (usually). This happened a lot in elementary school, where my dad would tell me one thing and my teacher would say something else and I would have to defer to the teacher or I’d just get confused further down the line.

My dad’s favorite saying: “fractions, decimals, money: it’s all the same thing!” I think this FINALLY  made sense to me by 6th grade! Which is kind of ridiculous, when you think about it! I’d totally teach this in 4th.

And I shall DEFINITELY teach algebra in 3rd grade! I was in high school, flipping through a workbook long ago bought for my brother when he had trouble with math in elementary school and was surprised to see a chapter titled “Algebra”. In that chapter were problems such as 3+__=7 and 9-__= 2. It was in this moment that I wanted to punch every elementary teacher I had ever and never met!

During these years of middle and high school, I spent half my time whilst helping with homework trying to get my friends to understand that x’s and y’s in math problems are just numbers that we don’t know yet, but if we manipulate the equation a little bit, the variable will present itself. There was a lot of push back because x and y MUST mean something specific and it was confusing because in one question x is 4 and in another x is 7. So, when I came across this workbook and realized that students SHOULD be taught about x’s and y’s in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL instead of that damn BLANK…ooh…I’m STILL livid! Yes, a blank is helpful in elementary school to begin learning about manipulating the equation, but it should NOT take 3 years for the BLANK to be replaced with an X! Seriously–pre-algrebra is the exact same thing as 3rd grade math! This is ridiculous!

So, every kid in my elementary class is going to learn algebra and they’re going to KNOW they’re doing algebra and that will be that!

And word problems are LIFE. All I do at work all is word problems:

If the customer wants 250 sets of a form and each set is 3 parts and you can print the form 2-up, how many sheets of paper do you need? 250*3/2=375 sheets.

But…thinking about my classroom and how I’d teach math won’t help me pass the GRE or MAT if I decide to go that route. I’ve already emailed ODU asking for information on their online master’s degree for elementary education with initial license (because that’s the full name for what I want) and got a helpful reply. I did send back an email to that adviser asking whether he’d recommend the GRE or MAT and will take his advice seriously.

I’ve heard of the GRE and looking at it, it’s a lot like the SAT on steroids, which would have been fine 10 years ago when I’d been fresh out of calculus. But I spent the next 4 years struggling with math in environmental science classes (because the transference didn’t click) and otherwise avoiding complicated math. And then I spent 5 years avoiding equations in general except for those word problems.

I’ve never heard of the MAT, but it looks like a straight forward knowledge test…he he. he…okay, not really (I just researched further). It’s a straightforward ANALOGIES test, which means you need to know content as well as their relationship to one another. But, you know, it’s a lot less scary looking than the GRE! I was always good with the analogies section on the SAT (did I mention that I took that test and the Pre-SAT about 8 times in total between 7th and 12th grades? If it was offered (ideally free), I took it because I actually enjoyed taking it and improving my score) and these words are all in ENGLISH!

So…back in elementary and middle school we took the STAR Reader test at least twice a year. It was supposed to test our reading levels and each of us got a different test depending on our score from the previous time. I remember vividly sitting at my computer come September cheering because my test was actually in ENGLISH! This was because the May test from the previous year had been full of 6 syllable words that I could only guess at the meanings of. I’d peek at my neighbors’ screens and whine that I couldn’t get words like “atrocious”! I’m not sure if anyone else ever looked at my screen and wondered why they’d given me a test in Portuguese! Come May, every year after I’d probably nearly aced the September test, it was back to Russian. Sigh. But, it did prepare me for the SAT where most of their analogies are in Hebrew. Not prepare me as in I could actually understand the analogies, but prepared me to snicker to myself and move on because skipping questions doesn’t hurt you.

Apparently in 4th grade my reading tested at a “post-college level”–I’ve been in college and NEVER SAW THE DAMN WORDS THAT I FACED ON EITHER THE STAR READER OR THE SAT!

Yeah…I think I’ll be taking the MAT unless the adviser suggests otherwise. I’d definitely shell out $30 for a practice test before taking the real thing, but I think it’ll be a lot more pleasant experience.

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