In an average week, as I have experienced so far, a first-semester adolescence education graduate student needs to expect to do a decently substantial amount of reading and a little bit of writing. I am currently enrolled in 5 classes for a total of 15 credit hours. These classes are the ones recommended by the department for a first semester student: Foundations of Education, Strategies and Assessments, Foundations of Literacy, Methods of Teaching Social Studies (or whatever subject you are specializing in) and Contemporary Issues (the master’s level course). Each of these courses adds some very important experience for the aspiring high school teacher.
Foundations of Education is being offered online this semester and is quite reading intensive. While some of the reading is a bit dry since it is out of a textbook, it is all very important since it gives the background and history of the teaching. The class usually involves a weekly quiz on the readings and often an online video to watch, usually a speech given by a leading education theorist. The class then holds a discussion via forum online to address the issues raised in the videos.
Strategies and Assessments is also being offered online this semester and so far has been pretty math heavy compared to other classes because it deals with things like calculating grades and comparing students’ scores in the classroom and on standardized tests using basic statistics. The notes that the professor has offered online have been invaluable and I have found them to be more useful than the textbook which I have used primarily to fill in blanks with more details than the notes provide. There are a few problems to do each week, but not very many. The class so far has been very useful, but not very time consuming.
Foundations of Literacy is a class in which we discuss issues of student literacy and the importance of students being taught to understand what they read and write in all of their classes. As for homework, we often have response papers that address the week’s readings, which are rarely very long. As you will see, response papers are very popular in the department and tend to serve as the jumping off points for discussion. By organizing your thoughts before class, it leads to a more engaging and productive discussion.
Methods is also a class that relies heavily on reading and response papers, at least for the social studies variety. We read a lot of theorists on teaching history at the high school level and also prepare for the practical eventuality of having our own classroom by doing things like creating lesson plans and assessments. I find this class to be possibly the most rewarding since it is specifically in my subject area and focuses on issues I am likely to face firsthand in the future.
The master’s level course, Contemporary Issues, focuses on big picture educational problems facing American (and Canadian) schools today. This includes things like literacy, bilingual education and Race to the Top. Each week we have a few articles to read and respond to in order to engage in our discussion in class. This is not a class where we try to answer these big questions of education, but rather, where we try to understand them and how they will affect us as teachers and our future students.
This may all seem a bit overwhelming for the amount of homework expected each week, but it has proven to be quite manageable. Even the readings that are a bit dry and not particularly exciting all have had obvious reasons thus far and the classes have been very rewarding.