Online Elementary Education Programs
The inside scoop from a current student
by Stephanie Small
Published March 16, 2011
Do you like children?
We’ve all had that teacher who clearly hated youngsters. Why was he/she there? Lack of other options, stagnation, or misanthropy? Either way, you should not be in a classroom, teaching kids, if you don’t inherently enjoy them. Do yourself a favor and become a lawyer.
Are you already teaching?
It’s not crucial, but if you’ve already spent some time in the field you’re able first to determine whether it’s a match for you. If you’re a disillusioned business major who’s decided you want to be of service to the world instead, at least spend some time volunteering with the young’uns before taking the graduate school plunge.
Do you plan to work while you’re in school?
Online academics may be your best bet. Think about it: no commute time and a flexible schedule.
And…if you’re a teacher, will your school help you out with tuition?
Not crucial, but it sure makes things easier if your school will support you in your graduate studies by footing part, or all, of the bill.
The inside scoop
Read on for some pointers from a teacher who’s making it happen.
Caroline Fiedler teaches first grade at Selinsgrove Elementary School in Selinsgrove, PA, but at nights she attends Wilkes University online, working towards her Master's in Elementary Education with a focus on Instructional Media.
Fielder states that she selected her program for the flexibility the online degree provides. “Each class is about 7 weeks, so you can spread them out if needed. With my degree I can take classes during the summer, but there are other degrees where you can only take classes during the school year because you need a class to do your lessons and experiments on. I wouldn’t want to do all my classes during the school year because it’s already so busy.” She adds, “by choosing an online degree, I was also able to pick the college that had the best program; I wasn’t limited by what was in my immediate geographical area.”
Fielder’s also got a sweet deal: “the school I teach for reimburses masters degrees based on the state university prices,” she explains. “In order to avoid paying more for the degree that I could get paid back, I went for an online degree that was completely within the range of money I would get back.”
Aside from the flexibility, Fielder says she’s really enjoying her coursework. “The text books have been very interesting- no dry dusty doorstoppers! I also like that my program has a lot of projects, not papers. I’m not stuck at my laptop for hours writing, I’m making projects that I can use in my classroom. The work is fun and educational for me, as well as great for my students because they are being exposed to new technology, too, which will help them in the future.”
But there are, she says, a few drawbacks too. “I know I am putting in way more time and effort than many people,” she explains. “It frustrates me that everyone usually gets the same grade. It’s pretty much like, if you do the work, you get a 100%. I do all the readings, from start to finish. I really think about what I want to write about the readings for the week, not just put down the first thing that comes to my mind. I respond to my classmates with questions, not just a fake “I liked your response this week” (yuck!). I feel that I put in a lot more effort than others and everyone gets the same grade! It’s been that way for every class I’ve had, and I’ve heard that the rest of the professors are similar.”
Fielder’s got quite a bit of advice for students considering an online Masters in Elementary Education. First, she cautions prospective students to make sure the degree is relevant to their chosen career path. She adds, “follow the classes in order if possible! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t feel intimidated by people who are over (or under) achievers! And learn how to manage your time. If you can’t set a schedule and stick to it to get a project or paper done, you’ll be in trouble. Ask for advice on how much work to do per day or week. Some people do a little work and reading per day, some people save it all for the weekends. Do what works for you!”
Stephanie Small is a Boulder-based psychotherapist, holistic nutritionist, and writer with a BA in English from Yale University and an MSW from the Smith College School for Social Work.