I spent a lot of time in grad school (with the loans to prove it), and I’ve been teaching exclusively grad students for the last 5 years. So, I fancy myself somewhat of an expert on how to be successful in grad school. Now that the new academic year is almost upon us, here are some tips for getting the most out of your grad school experience:
As a professor in the MAT@USC program, I occasionally get a question from a student that goes something like this:
“I enrolled in this program so that I could learn from the top-notch USC faculty. So why am I spending most of my time talking to my classmates instead of listening to YOU tell us what is important for us to learn?”
I appreciate it when a student asks this question, because I think it takes guts to speak up when you think a learning experience isn’t working for you, or isn’t being productive. I think it is an important question to ask. WHY, when I have a very expensive and hard-earned set of letters after my name, would I sit back and let my students teach each other? Why am I not bestowing this wisdom upon them? How are they getting their money’s worth out of a prestigious program from USC, when the professor isn’t the center of attention? Shouldn’t I be lecturing about Bandura and Piaget as so many of my academic predecessors have done? Lecturing is a time-honored tradition in academia, so why am I not honoring it?
As professors, how often do we thank our students? No, really. I tend to thank them at the end of the term (and I genuinely mean it), but I don’t tend to thank them when they’re actually in the trenches. So, to my students who are currently halfway through a term:
Today, as you are probably aware, is Teacher Appreciation Day. The desks of teachers across the country are filled today with trinkets that represent their students’ affection, parents’ gratefulness, and no small measure of sucking up. Most of this stuff will be trashed later on, because the sheer amount of CRAP that you collect as a teacher is immense; I always ended up bringing huge boxes of gifts home at the end of the year to quietly be disposed of in thrift stores or the dumpster, so my students wouldn’t see. One giant stuffed Betty Boop became a dog toy…
As a former classroom teacher, and a current professor of education, I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of current and future teachers. As in any profession, the people in it run the gamut from outstanding to how-on-earth-did-someone-award-you-a-degree. It benefits us all when we have strong educators in classrooms, because education improves society, not just the individual. I’m happy to say that in my time as a professor, I’ve run across very few students who shouldn’t be in the classroom. However, as a classroom teacher, I ran across quite a few more. In service of making sure that people who end up in classrooms actually should be there, here are a few reasons why you SHOULDN’T become a teacher.
I’ve been teaching in a fully online setting through the MAT@USC for just about 5 years now. It’s been an amazing experience, but I still encounter the same pervasive incorrect ideas over and over from people who haven’t experienced what online learning in the 21st century looks like (or should look like). I’ve often wished that I could include on my business cards as a tagline “Online learning really isn’t what you think it is.” So, here is my list of things I wish people knew about online learning:
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Do you know how to follow directions? Try out this hand-dandy flow chart to see!