|Young, Questioning Faces|
|I walked into the classroom, looked around, and saw all the young, questioning faces. The students behind these faces are so much younger than I am, and I know that they look to me to lead and assist them. As I sat down, one of them moved a little closer to me and asked why I decided to teach.
Though his level of interest and curiosity are what I hope to see in my future elementary students, this particular student is a classmate in one of my teacher education courses. He is the “typical” student, while I am the “trending” student—a middle-aged adult, changing careers, entering a master’s degree program alongside students young enough to be my children.
As an older student returning to school, I’ve come to realize that no matter where in the degree program the “more mature” student like me is, he or she is expected to know better—or more—due to life experiences. We are visibly older, which means that we ultimately become mentors and peer-editors for the younger generation sitting next to us. These younger students learn with us and from us. Yet teaching is new to us. We came from other professions, ready for a change and a chance to give back to the world around us through teaching.
My personal journey was not as far afield as some; before my career change, I worked as a paraprofessional in a school district. In that role, I assisted classroom teachers with instruction, small group work, and modifications. These teachers had told me I was good at being able to detect the small struggles of each student, and I accommodated each one of them with appropriate tools and teaching techniques.
One day a Special Education Teacher with whom I worked took me aside and told me that she thought I should apply to a Master’s program in Education. Though I had considered going back to school, I was set in my life routine of going to work and returning home in the evening, so adding homework and a drive to campus seemed out of the question—until I began receiving letters of recommendation and program applications. Soon I was on my way to graduate school and its various courses like the one with the young man who wondered about my path into teaching and was awaiting my response.
“I am not sure whether I chose teaching or it chose me,” I told my classmate, “but my resolution came in the form of a boy in my third-grade classroom.” Danny, as I’ll call him, had been diagnosed with Asperger’s and functioned well below grade-level. He especially struggled with math. And then one day something changed. Following a lesson I taught that introduced division using Skittles and the book The Doorbell Rang, by Pat Hutchins, Danny came up to me, smiling. “Mr. DiLeo,” he said, “I just wanted to tell you, I understand it now.”
“That is why,” I said to my younger classmate, “I am a teacher.”
MS Elem Ed Candidate
Eastern Connecticut State University
President of Epsilon Nu Chapter
|Learning to Appreciate the Little Things|
|I have to confess. I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed. The holidays are approaching, the 2010–2011 school year is in full swing, and I can’t seem to find any time to sleep! Over and over the same thoughts enters my mind . . . teachers are overworked and underpaid—what was I thinking getting into this profession?
Every day I work from six to four, drive an hour to get home, and then spend the night correcting papers. On weekends trudge off to my part-time job. My day off is Sunday, which I spend planning for the coming week. I live for vacations—to get some much needed rest and relaxation.
But the other night, I logged into Facebook to complete my nightly cyberspace checkup, and a post from the KDP Facebook group popped up on my news feed. It was a quote that cleared up all of my stress induced self doubt:
“Dad?” Immediately catching himself, he said, “I mean…Mr. Ruiter . . ..” and continued with his question. Though he was obviously embarrassed to have called his teacher Dad, to me it was the ultimate compliment. That my students might view me on the same plane as their parents is monumental. It made me realize just how much I am loved, trusted, and relied upon by the 20 9-year-old children who walk into my room every day. They expect me to be there, just as they expect their parents to be there for them when they get off the bus every afternoon.
Later in the week, a colleague was telling me a story about her daughter, who recently was hired as a school psychologist. She explained that her daughter struggled in school and many of her teachers gave up hope on her. But one teacher worked with her and pushed her to succeed. After getting her job, she wrote an e-mail to that teacher, explaining how his love, confidence, and unwavering faith in her helped her get where she is today. Apparently he was so overwhelmed with emotion, it too him several days to respond. I hope, many years from now, my own students feel that way about the time they spent with me.
As stories often do, I was prompted to think about my own experiences as a student and why, among all of my Christmas cards to be addressed, was one for my 7th- grade English teacher. She is the woman who taught me proper grammar and how to write responses to literature. More important to me personally though, she also helped me through my parents’ separation. She allowed me to stay after school with her every single day of the school year, lending an ear to listen and a caring heart, no matter how busy she was. She got me through some of the toughest years of my young life. And here I was, 15 years later, a teacher myself, still in touch with her and, I hope, emulating the same compassion to my own students that she showed me.
When we became educators, we willingly signed up for what many people call a “thankless job.” The thankless part is probably what was getting to me. Feeling overworked and underpaid, just as the poem said, my focus was on what was hard and seemingly unrewarded. But then I took a closer look and began to appreciate the little signs, the glimmers each day that make what I do worth it.
Every time there is a “Dad” slip up; a student has an “Ah-ha!” moment or a student flashes a smile my way, I will remember that poem and just why I do this job. Teaching is not about standardized tests and meeting AYP alone, it is also about the support, love, and consistency that every child needs, expects, and secretly appreciates, which I can give them each and every day.
Second Grade Teacher
|Staying out of the Bog|
|Most of us are well rested and relaxed after the summer vacation and ready to approach the new school year and all of the work it entails. After the first few weeks, this refreshed feeling slowly begins to wear off as we become bogged down with all of the schedule demands and deadlines of the semester.
If you are a master’s level student working on your thesis or a doctoral student preparing your dissertation, you are probably all too familiar with this feeling. Often the very times we need to buckle down and write, we find it the most difficult. The tips that follow have helped me maintain focus, use my time wisely, and allow time for productive distractions and breaks.
Set Daily Goals
If you set clear, concise, and specific goals, you remain on track with your writing and preparation. Too frequently students set vague and peripheral goals that really don’t provide a clear course of action for their work. The more explicitly stated your goals, the better. For example, I generally set a goal for a certain number of pages I will write or journal articles I will read. Having that number in mind helps me to stay focused on the task at hand.
Work Early in the Morning When You Are Refreshed
Many of my friends like to get up, run their errands, and then start their work. I have found that I work best on thesis or dissertation prep work early in the morning while I am refreshed and ready to begin the day. Knowing that I have accomplished my goals for that morning or day makes it easier to relax and enjoy other activities, because I don’t have work on my mind. It is also helpful to train your body to focus and get work done at a particular time. For example, set your alarm for 8 a.m., have a full breakfast and cup of coffee, and make sure you are ready to work, free from distractions by 8:30.
Find a Quiet Place to Work
The more distractions in your surroundings, the harder it will be for you to stay focused. Even if you like to stay home and get your work done, you may find that you are too tempted to turn on the TV or take naps throughout the day. Recognize your distractions and alter what you do or where you work. It may be that making the trip to a library is worth the effort if the environment generates your most focused and productive work. Just knowing that a particular, distraction-free setting is your “work zone” keeps you engaged with the work, rather than focused on your surroundings.
Don’t Push Yourself beyond Your Limits
Of course, there will be times that it’s not always feasible to reach your daily goals. Perhaps something unexpected came up or you just can’t seem to concentrate. When that happens, don’t force yourself to complete the task, nor should you punish yourself. Getting derailed sometimes is unavoidable, so it’s best to turn to another activity or assignment and return to the work when your mind is clear. You will do your best work when you are motivated and ready to complete the task.
In addition to my suggestions, the tips and ideas from the following online resources may help you accomplish your work in a timely and calm manner.
Stop Procrastinating to Complete Your Dissertation
Completing Your Dissertation: Strategies for Success
All-But-Dissertation Survival Guide
Good luck writing!
M. Philosophy, Educational Psychology
The Graduate Center of The City University of New York
|Pursuing an Advanced Degree|
|Most master’s and doctoral students are full-time classroom teachers. Many of them seek these degrees primarily to improve and hone their craft, though there are financial incentives as well. To augment their learning experiences, navigate through their coursework, and gain maximum benefits for their own teaching, advanced-degree seekers—in whatever program they have chosen—need to develop a “practitioner’s lens.”
With this valuable lens, practitioners can focus on their craft and create connections between newfound knowledge and their practice as classroom teachers while, as students, they are challenged to consider a number of theories, points-of-view, and methodologies, and to write complex papers and complete assignments.
Professional Learning Community
Teachers often feel enlightened as they get into their coursework and discover the latest cutting-edge, best practices. However, many feel they do not have a voice in their building or district-at-large for sharing what they are learning or have learned. Sharing knowledge can be conducted in various ways through a Professional Learning Community (PLC). Advanced-degree seekers (and others) can go ahead and form a PLC around one of the practices learned and invite other teachers to participate. Most states require earning professional growth units or continuing education credits, so turning newly discovered passion into an opportunity to collaborate and share with fellow teachers is sure to benefit everyone participating.
Becoming a presenter at the local or national level is another way to solidify and share newly acquired knowledge—and it is not as intimidating as it sounds. Most professional organizations, such as National Council of Teachers of English or International Reading Association, look for teacher-practitioners to share insights and research at their regional and national conventions. Potential presenters not quite ready for the national stage can, instead, offer to lead in-house workshops. Given that most school districts have become cash-strapped, they quite often welcome expertise from local sources.
Though the term “reflective practitioner” is a bit overused, its power in the life of the classroom teacher is strong. Having a “grad student journal” or “doctoral diary,” along with a commitment to writing in it at least once each week, captures those “aha” moments all teachers experience during their coursework and classroom teaching experiences, and solidifies connections between theory and practice.
Commit Learning to Practice
The best way to apply knowledge is to put it into practice on a regular basis. While earning their degree, teachers should commit to incorporating what they have learned into classroom instruction. Depending on the level being taught, the frequency might break out into weeks, months, grading periods, or semesters. So much recent educational research is imparted and shared in graduate level classes, but the primary way these findings make their way into the regular classroom is through the graduate or doctoral students who are true classroom practitioners.
When teachers who are seeking advanced degrees develop a practitioner’s lens for viewing their coursework, they can draw from their expanded learning to focus in on their craft and create immediate connections between that knowledge and their practice as classroom teachers. Trying out these suggested steps helps develop the practitioner’s lens for a clear focus on learning that educators can apply right away in their classroom instruction.
Vicky Tusken, Ed.D.
7th Grade Language Arts Teacher
Geneva Middle School South
Geneva, IL, and
Northern Illinois University
|KDP: A Community of Educators|
|It is August already! In just a few weeks, we will find ourselves back in school, sharing the same destiny—taking our places in a learning community. Whether we sit in a lecture hall or stand in front of students, we are about teaching, learning, and developing relationships within an educational setting. Yet, our teaching and learning connections can extend further, growing us professionally, inspiring us personally, or simply offering us a sense of belonging. One of these important connections is your honor society, Kappa Delta Pi. So, as you step onto your college campus or into your classroom this year, I urge you to keep KDP close to your heart. Focused on our studies and gaining certification, many of us view our membership in KDP mainly as an academic achievement. It is something we worked hard for and were proud to attain while in college. Following graduation, though, many KDP members let their membership lapse, thinking that it is only for people involved with university study. This simply is not true. Too often, graduating members see KDP only as an honor society, and they overlook its benefits beyond their undergraduate years. I know from my personal experience—as well as from my colleagues on the National Graduate Student Committee—that Kappa Delta Pi truly is more than an honor society for undergraduate and graduate students. It is a community of professional members as well, and making this message known is important. There are many benefits to retaining membership in KDP during graduate study and even after graduation. Here are a few assets I found through my continued membership:|
|•||As a graduate student, I found tons of online resources to take advantage of—and they are free only to members!|
|•||For both graduate course work and my classroom, I accessed teaching resources and podcasts on topics applicable to my studies and teaching needs.|
|•||Through my involvement in the Graduate Student Committee, I explored publishing opportunities that resulted in collaborative authoring of four articles with one of my KDP colleagues.|
|•||Using tips and examples available at the online career center, I polished my résumé.|
|•||Both as a student and an educator, I have had access to funding possibilities through scholarship opportunities and Classroom Teacher Grants, again available only to members.|
|These are the benefits I realized; you may find many more. Explore the vast wealth of information, resources, and opportunities through your professional association at KDP Online.
Stick around after you graduate; professional members enjoy plenty of benefits! Apply for a Classroom Teacher Grant and get mentoring advice. When you have three years of teaching under your belt, apply to become a KDP Teacher of Honor.
As a grad student and a teaching professional, you may continue to access the Career Center and add to your repertoire of teaching skills through professional development opportunities. However, beyond these benefits, being a member of KDP is valuable because you are part of an international community of educators where collaboration, networking, and professional growth abound.
Not only do I urge you to continue to enjoy the benefits of KDP, but also I ask that you talk about KDP to your colleagues. Encourage your graduate student peers and faculty members to join KDP. Let the teachers in your school know about the valued resources you find at KDP Online and how they can join KDP as professional members. It is never too late to join.
Visit the About Membership section of KDP Online for more information and a membership application. Help the Kappa Delta Pi community grow and flourish. Make it known that KDP is more than an honor society—that it is an ever-expanding resource for graduate and professional members.
Keon T. Ruiter
M.A. Elementary Education
3rd Grade Teacher
Stanley M. Koziol Elementary
|Scrapbooking Your Research|
|A little something here, a little something there . . . a little something everywhere and soon any graduate student can be buried under notes and behind on writing or coursework. Then, to top it off, when at last the grad sits down to write, it seems half of the time is spent looking for a particular article or note jotted down a few days earlier. It’s easy to find oneself in that situation. Yet there is hope and help! Even the organizationally challenged can incorporate steps and strategies that will help bring their materials together without enrolling in a project management class.|
Linear organization works for some, but certainly not for all. Ideas and plans can occur randomly, so the trick can be finding the best and most “organized” way to capture them. For example, one of the greatest things a professor ever did for me was to bring into class her “dissertation scrapbook” that she compiled during the process of developing her dissertation.
This huge dinosaur of a three-ring binder represented this professor’s dissertation work. It was somewhat cluttered, and its clippings and idea-punctuated pages throughout the overstuffed volume probably made it seem more like a wedding-planner notebook than scrapbook. However, it contained all of her thoughts and findings. Research can be a messy process and this was what worked for her. It let her capture the various items that she thought would be useful to her work. Scrapbooking your research, notes, ideas, and next steps can be a good place to start. Grad students craving a greater degree of organization may find themselves fine-tuning their scrapbook as they move through the dissertation process.
Divide and Conquer
Whether a grad student’s preferred research is qualitative, quantitative, or mixed method, it’s best to create a sectioned notebook right away. It becomes the established repository for notes-to-self, thoughts to explore, ideas to consider, as well as gathered articles and researched facts. Then, when it is time to sit down and write, all the materials are in one place for quick access, as well as categorized. Sections grad students may consider include:
Save transcribed interviews, field notes, e-mail contacts, and surveys.
House collected peer-reviewed articles and lists of authors’ literary works that may be useful later in the process.
Store historical photos, notes, yearbooks, assessment instruments and other documents needed for reference for the thesis or dissertation.
Important Upcoming Events
Keep critical conference, seminar, or Webinar information handy. This section also is a good place to keep semester schedules and a grad’s degree plan that highlights the expected graduation date!
Track contact information carefully. Since research likely needs privacy protection and confidentiality, this section is an excellent place to keep forms for the institutional review board (IRB), independent ethics committee (IEC), or ethical review board (ERB). Place consensual participation or privacy forms here as well.
Extra Notes or Ideas
What about those ideas jotted down on the napkin during dinner with friends or the sticky-note reminder written after talking with a professor? Any and all can be kept or rewritten and saved in this section of the scrapbook. A divided scrapbook or neatly categorized notebook can be the first step to the hands-on approach needed to focus and organize the process of researching and writing. Of course, grad students do not live by hard copy alone!
It is a good idea to invest in an external hard drive or—at the very least—a flash drive, to back-up “digitally scrapbooked” research. Either one can store important Web links, critical data to be analyzed, scanned documents or images, interview recordings, etc.
Be sure to purchase plenty of storage because some files, especially graphics, are quite large and can use extremely large amounts of memory. I prefer the Seagate FreeAgent portable hard drive because I learned it was easy to use from computer to computer (i.e. from work to home to laptop to university computer lab and back home) without having to install anything on every computer along the way. Now, whenever I come across something I need, I simply pull out my hard drive that’s a little larger than my cell phone and viola—it’s saved! With one full terabyte (1,012 gb) of memory, I also have plenty of room for a relaxing playlist of music or even a comfort food recipe to keep me stress-free throughout the research process!
Jessica M. Hester
M.A. Ed., Early Childhood Education and Instructional Technology
Doctoral Student in Educational Leadership
Texas A&M University–Kingsville
|The Grad Student and the KDP Community|
|In 2005 I was initiated into the Mu Chi Chapter at Texas A&M University and immediately took on the role of Treasurer. That role marked the beginning of my relationship with and service to this organization. That year I attended Convo for the very first time—in Orlando, Florida—and what an impact it had on me! I was overwhelmed by the sheer grandeur of the event.
There were so many eager young teachers, college students, and faculty at this conference! Surrounded by so many enthusiastic educators, you absolutely could feel the love of education in the air. Later I became president of my chapter and a member of the Graduate Student National Committee, which works with KDP Headquarters to bring more focus on the graduate sector of membership and improve the resources for these students. It was great to work with other graduate students to create a strand of graduate-student workshops at Convo.
The opportunities to work with a community of educators and expand my experiences in the field of education continued as I was elected in 2008 to serve as Student Representative on the KDP Executive Council. My very first Council meeting, held at Headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, was an eye-opening event. I went back home to Texas with a new appreciation of how “big” KDP actually is! Headquarters is staffed by amazing people who care about the organization. I truly have to say that serving on the Council was a privilege. KDP serves more than 45,000 members, which made me realize that my position on the Council was a huge responsibility—my votes and decisions would affect all members! To best serve these members and address their needs and concerns throughout their lifetime career, the Executive Council carefully weighs every issue. Actively supporting educators and increasing the vitality of education excellence for members and the profession is the impetus behind many of the Council’s decisions.
To sum up my experiences over the past five years, I have learned that as a member of KDP, I am (as you are too) part of a huge family. Each one of us can play an active role in this community, and each of us has an important responsibility to the field of education. We owe it to the school children of this country to stay active in our professional development and to constantly seek ways to improve education for all children. As a graduate student, you have the power to do amazing things with your education! You can research and present your findings at Convo, pursue publication in one of KDP's journals, volunteer to be an officer in your chapter, run for a position on the Executive Council, or serve on the Graduate Student National Committee.
I encourage all graduate student members not to take this role lightly! Remember that you are a part of a long history and legacy of excellence. You, like John Dewey, are a KDP member, and that is pretty inspiring! Thank you to KDP, the staff, the Council, the committees, and my Mu Chi Chapter, as well as the professors who guided me and encouraged me to be a member. I enjoy every second of this experience and feel honored to have served both locally and nationally!
Heather K. Caldwell, PhD
Student Learning Center
Texas A&M University
|On Your Mark, Get Ready…Write!|
|You are in graduate school, pursuing a master’s degree or a doctorate, and only one semester or a few credit hours away from the completion of your coursework. Thanks to the help of your faculty advisor, your thesis or dissertation topic is narrowed down and your committee has accepted your proposal. Now it’s time to get started writing. I suggest breaking up your work into manageable chunks and trying the following tips to help you through the process and ensure timely completion of your project.|
While conducting research, gathering data, and writing your thesis or dissertation, you will spend hours in front of your computer screen. For that reason, you may want to consider investing in a comfortable office chair. Trust me, you do not want to deal with back pain to completing your project.
In order to complete your project in a timely manner, you must have a clear plan of action. I have found the University of Minnesota’s dissertation calculator to be a very useful tool when planning to write a thesis or dissertation. Simply enter your desired completion date, and the calculator breaks down the tasks that you need to accomplish into separate stages. It’s a great organization tool.
Check into all that your university library offers. You may want to meet with a librarian or media specialist when you enter grad school to not only learn the full scope of the library’s collection, but also how to best use the library in person and online. Library personnel are there to help you learn how to request books or journal articles from libraries across the nation through Interlibrary Loan (ILLiad) and Digital Interlibrary Loan.
|Organization—The Key to Success|
|Can’t find the syllabus from the beginning of the semester? Have you lost your list of ideas for your thesis? Not sure what time you planned that meeting with your advisor? You are not alone, but wouldn’t you feel more in control if situations like these occurred less often?
Graduate school teaches academic information significant to your future career, but little guidance is given regarding the true key to career success—organization! At first thought, organization may not seem that important. You may have made it through most of your school years without being organized; however, you’re on a new level now, and without preparation, you will waste a lot of time that you probably won’t have. Time spent searching for the notes on your thesis eats up the precious time you have to work on it. There’s no question, it is well worth making time to get organized, no matter where in the thesis, dissertation, or teaching process you are. The following tips can help you organize for school, as well as for your future career.
Make a To-do List
You know that list in your head of all the tasks you need to carry out? Write it down. Mental do-lists work at first, but as more items are added, the different tasks begin to float around. You may forget one or confuse their priorities, and then it becomes hard to get anything done!
I know because I’ve been there. During the semester my mind seems to run in circles thinking of all the things that I need to accomplish. When I make a to-do list though, I am left with a concrete plan of what needs to be done. Listing tasks from most to least important provides a visual of what must be tackled first. Once you start crossing off to-do items on your list, you will find great relief and a great sense of accomplishment.
Keeping papers in labeled folders that are kept in a designated area of your room or house, simplifies and eases your search for whatever item you need at the time. I find it very helpful to have one folder for each class, as well as separate folders for research, class schedules, and various important documents.
Put Class Notes in Order
Figure out what works best for you in class. Is it a binder or a notebook? If your teacher or professor distributes a lot of handouts, consider using a binder. With a binder, you can punch holes in the handouts and add them to the notes already in the binder. Adding dividers to your binders allows additional options for organizing.
Organize Work Spaces
Your work space is where you go to get things done! Optimize it by making sure that the space is comfortable, well-lit, and has every item needed to complete the given job at hand.
If you would like more information on getting organized, check out “Organization Tips for Graduate Students.” More tips for getting through graduate school can be found in the Grad Lounge Tip Archives and through Graduate Study Resources.
Master’s in Special Education
|Tackling the ABD (All But Dissertation) Ghost!|
|Full-time educators who pursue Master or Doctorate degrees face the constant dilemma of finding sufficient time for thesis or dissertation writing. Even with the best intentions and plans, chunks of time to devote to writing never seem to materialize. Most graduate students in education must juggle the responsibilities of their own classrooms with personal life responsibilities, which leaves little room for the challenging process of writing a thesis or a dissertation. How does one to get it done?
First, quit looking or hoping for that “magical” chunk of time to appear. It simply won’t happen. Instead, shift your thinking to setting aside a specific piece of time each and every day. It isn’t the length of time that is important; it is the simple fact you set the time aside: five minutes, fifteen minutes, a half hour, or whatever the day allows. Make the commitment to set that time at the beginning of the day and stick with it. Remember, it isn’t the amount of time, but the fact you set the time aside.
In Writing your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, Joan Bolker fine-tunes the approach of writing every day with what she calls the “many pages method.” In other words, pick a reasonable number of pages and write that same number of pages every day. Begin, she suggests, by arbitrarily selecting a daily number of pages—between three to six pages—and then try to write that number of pages each day for a week. Through this process, she says you will “hit” the natural number of pages you can realistically produce daily.
Whether one uses the “time” method or the “page” method, the point is to stop waiting for hours of time to write. For most people, that simply won’t happen and, as a result, writing won’t happen. Make the time and use it every day; you will complete pages in the process. Set your timer today, and you can prevent being overtaken by the ABD ghost!
Vicky Tusken, Ed.D
7th Grade Language Arts Teacher
Geneva Middle School South
|Peer Mentors: Guides for the Grad Journey|
|Beginning graduate school is an exciting endeavor; yet it can seem a bit daunting. To assist new graduate students, most graduate programs assign them an advisor. However, many advisors are busy professors who deal only with the academic plan of study. After a few semesters in a program, therefore, most students try to locate a faculty member to act as a formal or informal mentor.
How can new graduate students find someone who can give them insight into the unwritten expectations of graduate school, alert them to sensitive issues in departmental politics, and offer suggestions as to the best professor with whom they should study? One possibility is a peer mentor—an individual who assists new graduates students to settle into their program, aids them in negotiating departmental relationships, and provides support in dealing with the rigors of graduate life. Though peer mentors are invaluable assets to new graduate students, few programs assign them.
Yet, a graduate student does not have to travel far to locate a peer mentor. A new graduate student should take note of students in his or her classes who are one to two years further along in their programs. Attending social events and becoming involved in campus organizations are additional ways to meet other graduate students and potential peer mentors. Graduate students also may ask an advisor or trusted professor to recommend another individual who might be willing to serve as a peer mentor.
Though working with a peer mentor can be a formal association, usually these relationships are informal and often grow into long-lasting friendships. Peer mentors can provide information on how to acquire teaching or research assistantships, and they can direct a new student to the appropriate university personnel for completing paperwork. They also can relay tips and suggestions on the “ins and outs” of graduate study in a particular department or college. Peer mentoring can make the difference between an average graduate experience and a meaningful, enriching endeavor.
Deborah L. Morowski, PhD
Department of Curriculum and Teaching
Auburn University, AL
|The ABC’s of Creating a Syllabus|
|Grad students often are asked to teach a college course once they’ve received a graduate degree. That certainly was true for me. My first opportunity to teach at the university level came up just a couple of weeks after I received my master’s—and only a few days before the class began.|
|When the College of Education at my university asked me to step in to teach a summer class in my area of expertise, I realized that one of the first items on my To Do List was to create a class syllabus. Looking back, I wish someone had sat me down and said to me, “Now this is how you make a really good syllabus.”
As an elementary and junior high school teacher, creating a syllabus was not in my realm of experience doing, so I found myself in a real pickle of a situation. Luckily, I rummaged up an old syllabus from a prior instructor, used university guidelines for assistance, and quickly threw one together just in the nick of time.
But that is not my style! I am not a throw-it-together-just-to-get-it-done type of person. Yet my lack of expertise in creating a syllabus, as well as minimal advanced notice for teaching the course, left me no other tangible option. Since then, I’ve learned the elements of a good syllabus that I’d like to share with others so that they can avoid hot-off-the-copier syllabi that leave students less than clear on your expectations.
The basic elements of your syllabus should remain consistent with university policies, but you certainly can personalize pieces within the syllabus to make it uniquely yours. Have you ever received a syllabus that was about as easy to read as hidden words in alphabet soup? Remember that, to students, your syllabus represents a first impression of your class, and it is always important to make a good first impression.
Though you will find many new methods and helpful Web resources for making a good syllabus, here are a few tips I found particularly helpful. They are good starting points for your first syllabus.
|•||Find out what resources your university already offers. Many universities offer their own syllabus-building sites that include templates. There are some great choices because more and more schools are requiring you to publish that syllabus on the Web.|
|•||Empower your students. Some universities encourage professors to involve students in creating the syllabus. Working with students on a syllabus gives them partial ownership in the goals of the course and helps build rapport right away. Having students assist means the syllabus won’t be ready on the first day of class, so be sure to check with university policies first.|
|•||Study Judith Grunert’s Six Techniques for Creating Learning-Centered Syllabi:|
|1.||Do some scholarly reflections in advance by asking yourself questions about the learning you want to take place.|
|2.||Set reasonable expectations for your students.|
|3.||Look for a conceptual framework that can serve as an organizing structure to tie together the course’s information.|
|4.||Choose reading materials carefully; consider quality over quantity.|
|5.||Strive for congruence between goals and methods by carefully asking yourself whether your methods of instruction are compatible with your goals.|
|6.||Now you are ready to make your syllabus.|
Read more about creating a learning-centered syllabus.
|Even if you are not yet teaching a college course, it’s a good idea to brush up on your syllabi-creating skills. A smart, prepared syllabus, with a well-planned agenda, helps students plan ahead and aids your teaching throughout the semester.
Remember, though your course syllabus is not as important as your résumé, it should be viewed in the same light and prepared as professionally, because it is a direct reflection of you as a teacher—even before you meet your students. After all, you never know when you might get a phone call asking you to teach your first college-level class. Take my word for it, though, creating an ace syllabus is a skill that is certain to kick-start a successful semester.
Jessica M. Hester
M.A., Early Childhood Education and Instructional Technology
Texas A&M University - Kingsville
|Mastering Your Publication Manual, Sixth Edition|
|‘Upgrade’ Successfully! Graduate students, get ready for a change! For the first time in almost 10 years, the American Psychological Association is releasing a new edition of its Publication Manual. Used frequently throughout the field of education, this “formatting bible” serves as a critical guide for theses, dissertations, and published articles. If any edition of this manual is unfamiliar, you will be pleased to know that you can get the basics of APA style through an online tutorial. It’s a great place to start when writing research papers or teaching students how to document research reports. Learn structure, how to cite references, and the best ways to incorporate others’ research in your work without plagiarizing.
With the summer release of the sixth edition, there appears to be trepidation from graduate students and faculty planning to use the newest manual in their fall classes. In my work with both master’s and doctoral students, I am hearing concerns about changes made to the manual and its organization. Many students want to know how to hasten the learning curve. To quell these concerns, I have found several practical Web sites that should help them—and the readers here—get a jump-start on this new publishing bible.
These sites include chapter-by-chapter changes, free tutorials, guidelines for blogs, keys to learning APA style, as well as products for purchase. Graduate students and faculty alike will benefit from these online resources, quickly identify what’s new in the sixth edition, and ready themselves for a successful “upgrade” this fall!
|•||What’s New in the Sixth Edition?|
|•||All About the Book|
|•||APA Style Blog|
|And for those who use Chicago Manual of Style . . . Established in the 1890s by the University of Chicago Press and now in its 15th edition, the Chicago Manual of Style remains the publishing guide for scholarly books and journals. It is, in fact, KDP’s referencing guide for its books and journals. If you plan to submit manuscripts to KDP Record or The Educational Forum, you may want to look over CMS’s citation and reference styles. For example, unlike APA, CMS does not place parentheses around the publication date in the list of references. Incidentally, CMS also includes style guidelines for various other publications, such as magazines, corporate reports, and electronic publications.|
|•||CMS Citation Guide: Check this site first for citation guidelines.|
|Tackling either manual is only a few keystrokes away! Keep these links in mind as you successfully format your thesis or dissertation and future publications!
Elizabeth A. Wilkins, Ph.D.
Northern Illinois University
|Lazy Summer Days, Not So Lazy|
|The summer months are ahead of us and, like many others, I am looking forward to warm days at the beach, family picnics, and fun vacations. However, from experience I have learned how valuable extra time can be and how to use it productively. The following tips for summer activities can bring you through to September feeling rested and accomplished.
Get a jump on class: We all know how hectic the school year can be. You may feel like there is barely time to breathe given all that you must accomplish. Therefore, if you already are enrolled in graduate classes for the fall, see what you can do to prepare for the work requirements in any or all of your classes. In my experience, professors are more than happy to send you a tentative syllabus so that you can begin to prepare for their classes. Find out the textbook and chapters to be read and take it with you to the beach! Getting a head start on assigned reading will free up a little time in the fall.
Look into programs: If you are not enrolled in a graduate program, summer is a great time to look into a program that suits you and your goals. Check out our Graduate/Doctoral Programs section for aspects you should consider when selecting a graduate program. You also may want to search for programs using different criteria through Gradschools.com. It is a comprehensive source for graduate school information. It is important to take that extra summer time and use it to find a program that is perfect for you.
Make time for you: Most importantly, be sure to take time for yourself. Summer should be rejuvenating and enjoyable. Pursue the things that make you happy and refreshed.
Enjoy your relaxing and productive summer!
|Have you ever felt stuck when doing your research?
I know I have! Because I was at a relatively small, remote university
in South Texas, and the library was slow getting journal and reference
requests, I tried a multitude of resources to gather data, especially
My solution was to find online databases for quality research. My favorite research tool was HighBeam™ Research www.highbeam.com because it is loaded with millions of articles. That’s not an exaggeration! Also, it is easy to use and an annual subscription is not very expensive.
Named the “Best Online Reference Service” by the CODiE Awards, HighBeam is a fabulous online library for research, facts, and articles. Resources include newspaper articles from The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, magazine articles from publications such as The Economist and Newsweek and journals such as the Journal of Research in Childhood Education, all in a single Web site. Its archive of newspapers, journals, and magazines are current and date back more than 20 years, which is great for research purposes! New articles are added daily to HighBeam.
In addition to articles, HighBeam provides an in-depth library of reference works. You can research online dictionaries, including Webster's New World Dictionary and The Oxford American College Dictionary, as well as encyclopedias from Columbia and pictures from Associate Press Images.
I would recommend this site to any friend. You can bet that I’ll renew my subscription when I begin my dissertation research.
Jessica M. Hester
M.A., Early Childhood Education and Instructional Technology
|The Graduate Student National Committee Works for You|
|Happy fall, Graduate Students! This month, many of us are gearing up for Convocation in Orlando, which takes place October 29–31. Many exciting opportunities are available for graduate students, including a grad student lounge, interesting workshops and sessions, and networking opportunities. For those of you going to Convo09, please visit the Graduate Student Booth to pick up program materials and meet your colleagues. It will be easy to spot the Graduate Student Committee members—just look for a green sofa on our name tags. Say hello or ask a question; we would love to visit with you!
For those of you not attending Convo, you still can say hello and ask a question! Simply send an e-mail to email@example.com . A committee member will get back to you. Committee members communicate regularly as a group to brainstorm and carry out ideas for KDP and its graduate student members. We want to meet your needs, so please look around KDP Online to see all that is available to you. You should find links on finding a job, alternative education programs, graduate work and classroom teaching resources, research reports, scholarships, publishing, and presenting. Start your search in the Graduate section, and venture from there to find what you need most.
KDP is a family of professionals that will support you throughout your career. So, check out what KDP has to offer post graduation.
You may even think about starting a professional chapter in your area or school. A professional chapter is perfect for post-grads and professionals who still want to network and share ideas. You can learn more about it here, or contact KDP for more information.
As always, I am proud to serve as a representative on the Graduate Student Committee and as your elected Student Representative on the Executive Council. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch with me!
Heather K. Caldwell, PHD.
Student Learning Center
Texas A&M University
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org | Web slc.tamu.edu
|A Personal Glimpse of Convo and KDP|
|Greetings fellow Graduate Kadelpians! Convocation 2009 was a huge success—in general and for me personally. Destination Inspiration was my first Convo, and it was truly a wonderful experience. Not only was Convo a learning experience with a plethora of workshops on a variety of topics, but it was also enjoyable because I had the opportunity to meet and network with so many people.
The KDP Graduate Student Committee worked very hard over the past two years to provide a valuable resource for graduate students in KDP. Hopefully you stopped by the Graduate Student Booth in the main concourse at Convocation to check out resources and chat with one of the Graduate Committee representatives. If you were not able to get to Convo, try visiting the Graduate section. You can find resources related to finding jobs, scholarships and grants, tips for writing and publishing, and links to other helpful Web sites. Start looking for what you need.
If you missed Convocation, keep your eye on the KDP Web site—highlights of Convocation as well as workshop supplements and presentations will be posted soon. Whether or not you attended the workshop, these members-only downloadable documents are great information sources to assist you in the classroom. For example, I attended the workshop, What’s in Your Strategic Reading Toolbox?, and immediately brought the strategies and techniques into my own teaching repertoire. I hope you find these resources as useful as I have.
Another resource I urge you to take advantage of—the eChapter Webinars. These one-hour online and phone-in meetings cover a wide range of topics. Many of the Webinars focus on current classroom issues and practices, so I can put the ideas and strategies to use right away. For example, one recent eChapter Webinar focused on RTI (Response to Intervention), a method of helping students who struggle with learning, which my school district is implementing this year. I found the information presented pertinent and helpful, and it couldn’t have come at a better time!
You can find the 2009–2010 Webinar calendar in the eChapter section. Get to the calendar by choosing Communities from the KDP menu on the left-hand side of the Web pages, or simply click on the eChapter graphic on the KDP home page. Attending the Webinars allows you to ask questions; however, if you miss a Webinar, you can listen to its podcast after the presentation; they are all posted to the eChapter Webinar section.
KDP is a wonderful resource for graduate students and post-graduate students. Take full advantage of the opportunities offered through KDP. If you ever have any questions or would simply like to chat with a KDP Graduate Student Committee member, visit the Graduate Committee page where you’ll find a link to contact us via email.
Second Grade Teacher
|Put Punch in Your Presentations|
|By Marisa Cohen
Winter break and the holiday season are quickly approaching. While many of us are looking forward to that much-needed break, others will be working hard to catch up on work they simply had to put off during the hectic semester. For those of you who want to get a jump start on lesson planning and course preparation for the spring semester, here are some useful tips.
I have taught classes ranging from 7–180 students. Though I try to incorporate as much discussion and group work as possible, I often must lecture to share key ideas and important information. I have found? PowerPoint® to be one of the most useful ways to communicate effectively with my students. Here are some tips that you may find useful. Follow these simple rules when using PowerPoint in your classroom:
|•||Provide students with the slides. It is often helpful if you post the presentation on a class Web site, such as BlackBoard, or send the PowerPoint slides to your students via e-mail. Making the slides available helps students follow along and listen during the lesson, rather than spending time copying down the information.|
|•||Keep it simple! Don’t overload your slides with information, or students will spend more time reading the slides than listening to you. Just highlight necessary points and concepts.|
|•||Do not read directly from the slides. Reading the information directly from the slides bores students, and their minds begin to wander. Because key points already are presented, sharing anecdotes and examples enhance your instruction and drive home those key points.|
|•||Be creative. Make the most of the technology by adding pictures, video clips, and sound bites to connect your students with the lesson and motivate them to learn.|
|I hope this information has been helpful. I wish you all a happy, healthy holiday season!
M. Philosophy, Educational Psychology
The Graduate Center of The City University of New York
P.S. Below are some useful links to help you create fabulous and effective presentations:
University of Wyoming’s College of Education: Technology Tutorials
PowerPoint Tips & Tricks from a bit better corporation
Microsoft’s 12 tips for creating better presentations
Microsoft’s PowerPoint Heaven tutorials
Making PowerPoint Slides, The International Association of Science and Technology
|•||The first sentence must identify the name of the job to which you are applying. Include the type of position (e.g., tenure-track or adjunct instructor) and other identifying criteria, such as a reference number.|
|•||Mention where you saw the position advertised (e.g., newspaper, Chronicle of Higher Education, or the job site of a professional organization).|
|•||Describe in 1–2 sentences why the position is a good fit for you. For example, explain how your experience as a public or private school teacher aligns well with the job description and/or how the institution fits well with your philosophy or past education.|
|•||End the paragraph with a transition sentence that tells the reader you next will elaborate on your teaching, research, scholarship, and service to detail how your skill set fits well with the position advertised.|
|•||Describe your teaching experiences. Be sure to include the grade levels and names of courses you have taught, as well as the length of time you have taught them, and the type of students you have instructed. This description should highlight your skills and experiences that align with the position advertised.|
|•||Strongly consider including 2–3 sentences about the pedagogical approach you typically use in the classroom (e.g., instructional methods, ability to differentiate lessons).|
|•||Conclude this paragraph with a succinct sentence that defines how your teaching experience fits well with the job description.|
|Research and Scholarship Paragraph|
|•||In this paragraph, elaborate on your research and scholarship: thesis or dissertation topic, action research completed in your classroom, or collaborative research projects with colleagues.|
|•||List the names of conferences where you have presented your work and the focus of each of those presentations. Local venues, such as regional workshops as well as biennial Convo workshops should be included.|
|•||Add 2–3 sentences that describe the foci of your current research and plans for future research projects and/or articles.|
|•||This section is also the place to mention articles you have submitted to various journals, including KDP’s New Teacher Advocate, Record, or The Educational Forum.|
|•||Conclude this paragraph with a sentence that relates how your research/scholarship adds to your credentials for the job you seek.|
|•||Describe your service to the field of education (e.g., membership in KDP, committee work, school and district service-related activities).|
|•||Mention how your work has impacted student learning, preservice, and/or inservice professional development.|
|•||Include 2–3 sentences that illustrate your future service goals (consider opportunities at the state, regional, and national levels).|
|•||Conclude this paragraph with a sentence that describes how your service fits with the job description.|
|•||Your closing statements should concisely explain that your teaching, research/scholarship, and service experience make you well prepared for the advertised position.|
|•||Follow with how you believe you can contribute to the department and college at large.|
|•||Conclude with a statement that you are forwarding all required information for consideration (e.g., letters of recommendation and transcripts) and that you look forward to hearing from them.|
|This five-paragraph letter gives the search committee a clear idea of your strengths and how your experience and skills as a professional educator fit the position advertised. It is your first impression. Therefore, a strong letter of application fortifies your chances of being considered for the position and getting a job interview!
Elizabeth A. Wilkins
Department of Teaching and Learning
Northern Illinois University