Why I am Earning A Graduate Degree in Teaching | Interview with Education Graduate Student Tom Petit

Interview with Todd Petit, Education Graduate Student December 2010

Todd Petit is a graduate student at Cabrini College in Radnor, Pennsylvania, studying for certification as a secondary English teacher. Like many other graduate students, Petit must work full-time in addition to his graduate school responsibilities. He works a third-shift data processing job for a large investment company. Petit has already involved himself with the world of education through his work as a lacrosse coach at a local high school. He managed to find some time to talk with GradSchools.com to discuss his studies, his plans and how he fits everything in.

GradSchools: What did you major in as an undergrad? Did it help your graduate studies?

I majored in psychology. It did help to have a background in learning and cognitive psychology, as well as human behavior, before taking education classes. Also, the heavy amount of research and human interaction in class helped prepare me socially for a career as an educator.

GradSchools: What is the most difficult aspect of the program/field? Most rewarding?

The most difficult part of the field is translating thoughts to a legible and official format. It is easy for me to imagine and react to students and conceptualize the information, but keeping it in an organized medium for others to view/read is challenging. The most rewarding aspect is the variety of experiences I’ve had. Education is a field in which every day brings a new and spontaneous challenge as students and co-workers represent multiple arrays of opinion, behavior and thought.

Why should I get a graduate degree in education?

GradSchools: What advice would you give students considering a graduate program in education?

I would advise students pursuing English and education to read as many classical literature texts as possible. I would also advise them to free-write and look to build vocabulary and communication skills however possible outside the graduate classroom. And to take up some kind of part-time job or volunteer work that puts them in front of students or children.

GradSchools: What degree do you expect to get out of the program/what job do you hope to get?

I hope to earn a Pennsylvania Teacher’s Certificate and eventually a master’s degree in education. Of course, I would like to secure a full-time teaching position at the high school level. I also hope to increase my knowledge of school law and my awareness of population diversity.

GradSchools: How do you view your future given your education choices? How will your degree figure in?

I see myself starting out in a contract teaching position or full-time substitute at first. My hope is to be a full-time teacher at least one year after certification is complete, and at least two years after that, earning master’s degree-level salary.

GradSchools: What interdisciplinary electives do you think might enhance your education?

Sociology, multicultural studies and law.

GradSchools: What is your biggest regret regarding your education?

My biggest regret is that I did not take a year off after high school before entering college [as an undergraduate]. I believe it was appropriate for me to work full-time and experience the responsibilities of living on my own and supporting myself prior to pursuing a degree. This would have made me more mature and more focused on my education goals, which were delayed a few years as a result of not taking this time to think about my life.

GradSchools: What are you involved with, outside of the classroom?

I am heavily into art and literature. I try to read as much as possible in my spare time, and I am an amateur artist. I am interested in creating all forms of media to help enrich my everyday experiences. I am also involved in fitness and sports, and I coach high school boys’ lacrosse in the spring as well as volunteer coaching in the fall and winter.

GradSchools: How do you juggle work and school?

It is very difficult. I work and attend class full-time. The hardest time is in the spring with one full-time job, three graduate classes and one exhausting part-time job [coaching high school lacrosse], in between balancing a social life and time for family. I am in a situation in which I cannot afford to miss work while also trying to stay ahead in my studies. I regularly experience a severe lack of sleep and endure occasional personal losses of focus  while trying to fit everything in. I am careful about time management and almost always have to “suck it up and deal.” Having to work every Friday night is the worst part of my life.

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