Teaching and Graduate School

Saturday, January 27, 2018

How to Handle Teaching and Grad School Like a Boss

It's not required of every state, but many states in the U.S. require teachers to obtain their Master's degree so within a given range of time once they start teaching.  Here in Kentucky, for example, you have to start your Master's degree within 5 years.  The demands of teaching layered with the demands of any graduate-level coursework will most definitely take a toll on other parts of your life.

I hate to brag, but I may very well be a professional at teaching while handling graduate school.  I started teaching in 2011 and started my master's degree in 2012.  Since then, I've obtained my Master's degree in Literacy, taken additional graduate classes in the field of literacy as part of a district initiative, obtained my Rank 1, and am currently working on my Educational Specialist in School Leadership and Administration.  I've been in graduate school for the last 6 years and have only taken one year off of school since 1994.

It's okay, you can laugh.

You can call me insane.

The truth is, I just love school.  I love learning all that there is to know and getting better at the job that I love to do.  I have learned, however, that if you aren't organized and purposeful about how you spend your time, your life can come crashing down.  All. Around. You.

Okay, maybe that's being a bit dramatic.  But seriously.  

Navigating Teaching and Graduate School

There are ways to survive keeping full-time teaching job as well as a graduate course load and still have a life, however.  Below are my top five tips for thriving through life if you're going to graduate school and teaching simultaneously.

1. Invest in a good planner.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but I don't know how I would survive without my planner.  I've used a planner since I can remember but prior to this year, I've only ever used it for keeping track of school work.  I usually buy the cheap planners you can get for under $10 at Target.  This year, I switched to a Happy Planner and it is the best decision I've ever made.  My planner has three sections, which I use to organize my personal life, teaching responsibilities, and graduate coursework and homework.  This planner has literally saved my life and helped to keep me on track.  Before, I would forget even the simplest things. 

I got my Happy Planner during a back-to-school sale at Michael's for 50% off, but you can find one similar to the one I got on Amazon using this link (affiliate link).  I also know several teachers who use the Erin Condren Teacher or Life Planner.  You can find them at www.erincondren.com.


Using a Happy planner to manage school, work, and personal items.


2. Get ahead of the game.  More than likely, you've got a syllabus outlining your assignments for the semester.  I usually try my best to get ahead in my classes, especially with the reading assignments.  Got an extra few hours one weekend?  Read ahead for a couple of classes.  That way, all you have to do is go back and skim your notes the day before.

I always write notes in the margins of my books and highlight throughout.  My absolute favorite pens for writing in my books are the Papermate Inkjoy Gel Pens and fat Sharpie highlighters (affiliate links).  The ink is super smooth and vivid in both of them.  As a bonus, they don't often bleed through paper unless it's very thin. You can pick up some over at Amazon.

I use Sharpie highlighters and Inkjoy gel pens to take notes in my books for my graduate school classes.


3. Choose a field that you are passionate about and fits with your current job.  Also a no-brainer.  I got my master's degree in Literacy because I truly believe that changing the trajectory of my students' lives and future depends on their ability to succeed in a literate world.  I loved my master's program because I was learning about ideas and strategies I could immediately take back to my classroom and implement.  This not only made it easier, it made it relevant.  I knew that my coursework mattered because it was making me a better teacher, day by day.  

If you're passionate about what you do, it doesn't feel like work.

4. Connect with other teachers on social media.  There's something special about connecting with teachers who understand what you're going through on a daily basis.  I gain inspiration and understanding from my Instagram and Twitter PLNs, both from teachers in my district and those across the world.  The primarily visual aspect of Instagram gives you a peek into other classrooms, while Twitter chats give you the opportunity to hold discussions and collaborate with others.  Check out this link for a complete list of Twitter Education Chats.  The list below highlights some of my favorite hashtags on each platform.

teacher hashtags to use on social media, instagram and twitter



5. Schedule time to take a break and do something for YOU.  If you only commit to doing one thing from this list, make it this.  As a former workaholic who unabashedly loves her job, I have only recently come to recognize the importance of taking time for yourself.  Before I met my husband, actually, I had no problem working my tail off at work then coming home and working some more.  I enjoyed it, but I also realize that it wasn't healthy.  It stressed me out to be in that mode 24/7 and my mental and physical health suffered.  

Take at least one day off a week.  Don't work on the weekends or, if you can't avoid it, limit it to only one day.  Also, find something that you love to do outside of work.  My husband and I love to play tabletop games with our friends, spend time with our families, and cook together.  We also love to pull out our paint and sketchbooks and get creative together.  I know that it's easy to say, "I don't have time for a hobby!"  But it's vital to your sanity that you MAKE time.  Write it down on your to-do list so that you can mark it off.  Schedule it a week in advance.  Just don't skip it.

I hope these tips will help you manage and stay organized while navigating through graduate school and the teaching profession.  Do you have other tips for thriving during this time in your life?  Leave us a comment below!  


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