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MA TESOL - Columbia, Teacher's College
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Joined: 30 May 2010
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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2010 11:10 pm    Post subject: Teachers College Reply with quote

This thread is old but I thought I'd throw in my own experience for others taking a peep here... after all, I came here to look.

I spent two years in NYC completing an MA in TESOL with Columbia's fellowship program at Teachers College (2002-2004). The fellowship was for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. This probably deserves it's own thread as it is a pretty different experience as your entire cohort (mine was around 30-35) is all former Peace Corps Volunteers.

We all took classes together, most of us lived in the dorms together, and some of us were placed in the same schools. What happens is we went part-time to our grad classes at night and worked full-time teaching during the day. The MA would also lead to a teaching credential in NYC. For me, the community of my fellowship made the program very attractive. In a lot of ways we were a team and I felt like I had some family there. And that's the best way to get through any crazy experience!

It was two years of high stress working full-time in some of the worst schools and hard-to-fill positions... and then to have to study at night. We had our little study group of pals and we all helped each other through it. In retrospect, I'm glad I did it. And some of us weren't in terrible schools. Some of us were quite happy with our placements... and I guess I can say the same thing about how we all felt about the TESOL program.

We all arrived with high expectations of the Columbia reputation. Some teachers disappointed us and others were quite memorable. It was easy to be negative when you were under intense stress from teaching in some wild school... so there was quite a bit of negativity at times. Personally, I thought teaching in NYC was far worse than my PC placement in Eastern Europe. I just expected more from Americans. It was my first years of teaching in the states... boy was I naive, lol.

Since attending Teachers College I have received a 2nd MA, a teaching credential in other state... and I've taken misc. classes at maybe a half dozen other colleges. It's the same everywhere... all relative really. Some teachers are weaker and some are stronger. I didn't find a list of superstar teachers at TC. A couple were just plain terrible. I also thought their technology component in our classes in general was pretty weak. And considering my whole cohort was teaching in NYC... we often criticized strategies and curriculum that came our way at TC that simply didn't apply very well in an urban environment. A lot of the teachers hadn't even taught in the inner city at all. We used to joke that the MA in TESOL program was probably the ghetto program at TC.

But that was some years ago, and it is merely my own perspective. A school can change from year to year for lots of different reasons. My dad used to say that education is what you make of it... he was right. And we all come to the table with our own appetites. I got two years of NYC life, lots of crazy stories, teaching experience at sevral different schools... and the Columbia name on my resume.

Academically, I don't think it was any better than other colleges I've been to.. but hey, if it puts me on a short list for interviews, fine. I don't know that it has as employers haven't admitted that to me... but whatever.

If you love travel and want to take a shot at teaching in NYC... the geography alone is reason enough to go to this school if you can get in and pay for it. I was accepted instantly as an RPCV and had 75% of my tuition paid... how could I say no?? I did my two years and got my degree and decided NYC wasn't for me and went back home. But some of my cohort did stay (most were drifters or escaping Small Town, USA and had very little to go home to). Others went abroad again. Most of us were just looking for adventure, ya know?? For this reason I take the good with the bad and have no regrets... NYC was such a kooky (and often corrupt) place to teach that it was as different as being abroad.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just sent you a PM. I think the teaching component of my program is different (we student teach only) . I really don't want to end up in a crazy school - regardless of the economic status. Thanks for all your input!
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2010 3:39 am    Post subject: Columbia Reply with quote


Sorry, I'm too new to the board to reply by PM (5 posts are required before you can do that for some reason). But I was able to read your PM.

And yes... you are on a far different program. I guess I was just scanning about this forum and was in a writing mood and felt like sharing some of my experiences.

In my TC fellows program we all had some teaching experience through the Peace Corps so we weren't required to do student teaching. I don't remember all the logistics now, but we were all on track for getting a NYC credential and I guess there is some window you can teach in without being fully credentialed. So we were the only teachers on record.

I already had a credential from California myself. But even when I got my first credential, I did not do student teaching... I had been in the PC and opted for an Internship program and that gives you the title of Intern but you are still the only teacher on record and get regular teacher's pay. So I only had to take the NYC teacher and subject area tests and then did the MA. (A lot of states will have reciprocity with each other and you usually just need to pass some general tests and/or take an extra class or two to be able to teach in that state)

I can't tell you about what choices you will get as a student teacher. You should find out who is making those decisions and if you have some say in it. Ask if you can contact other student teachers going through the program... this should be available to you. Trust me, you aren't the first to ask all of these questions... there should be someone in your program prepared to answer all of these questions.

I do remember meeting other grad students at TC who were student teachers and all of them said they were at good schools who were used to working with student teachers. They were simply horrified by some of our stories, lol. So placement is probably a well-established thing and Columbia most likely has some ongoing relationships with schools there. There are plenty of teachers who go there who don't plan to stay in NYC.

I saw a lot of terrible things teaching in NYC myself and it almost made me leave teaching completely. I came home to a nice suburb in the Bay Area here in California and had to get used to a room full of respectful, civilized, college bound kids, lol. I lasted 3 years in that nice suburb before I got my travel bug again... and pretty much wander from school to school in California myself just for kicks. For me, this is adventure... though I will glady stay at a school indefinitely if it is a healthy place to work. If it's not... bye bye. NYC definitely taught me to say bye bye if I'm unhappy. If you are mobile and willing to take pay cuts.... there will always be a teaching job... somewhere. If you have a mortgage, kids, and are attached to a geographical location... you might have to tolerate anything to stay because there is a lot of dysfunction in schools out there. And teachers seldom leave spots open in the good places.

I do know that when you've been in a really bad school, or have bullies for admin, or wild kids or staff that hate each other (I've seen it all)... or whatever the dysfunction may be... ya gotta find some reprieve. Leave that school if you can. Otherwise you won't last in this profession or you will go crazy or corrupt. And trust me, there is A LOT of dysfunction out there in schools. So hopefully you will have a sane student teaching experience and that will give you a good attitude in your core of how things can be... I have been in a few good schools that I always hold onto when things are crazy.

I have been thrown to the wolves since I started teaching and never got the student teacher experience... I could never afford to be a full-time student and went the Intern route. So if you get that kind of opportunity to be a student teacher... I say go for it. It will be less traumatic for you and you will have so much more support.

As for me... what can I say... I guess I just like those wolves!

I'm just not wired for a normal job and this year I am finally looking to go abroad again. I'm still interviewing...
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:05 am    Post subject: peace corps Reply with quote

Dear "I" who sent me a PM,

Since I am considering going abroad again, I would probably do the Peace Corps thing again if I had a big nest egg saved up, but I don't. I think they are a pretty safe way to live abroad for your first time, and you have this big cohort of Americans to reach out to if that's important for you. But if you've lived abroad and know the deal... maybe you don't need that.

I just don't want to live like a complete peasant again. And why should I? I now have experience and qualifications that I didn't have back then. They pay a living wage but they do not pay any salary... but at least your school must pay for your housing. I mean, that wasn't bad... I had enough to buy books, and travel around the country during the summer and even enough to support a native I had living with me the second year (life was cheap). I never went hungry... um, except maybe the first month I was there, lol. But I never had any money to go home or visit other countries or buy any real clothes or luxuries (including a lot of fresh fruits/veggies)... I went with exactly $100 dollars in my pocket. My parents sent me the occasional care package but a lot of items were usually removed or stolen by the time it got to me (I mean it was stuff like candy and underwear!). I'm also not too crazy about the idea of living with a host family again... which is what you do for your first few months in the PC while you are in training.

The school you are assigned to will usually appoint people to "look after you." That can mean a lot of different things of course. But I never lacked company and I almost always felt safe. Most of the safety issues come from PCV's putting themselves in dangerous positions (hitchhiking, getting drunk all night with strangers, etc.)

I went in the PC in my late 20s and didn't even have a teaching credential or an MA at that time. I think the most difficult part in getting into the Peace Corps was getting cleared medically and dentally... and since I was totally healthy, no prob. You don't have to be a particular age. But you should have a BA (unless you have skills they want) and they are big on your health.

I had read the average age of the PCV was 27 years old. In my group of 60ish volunteers the majority were in their early 20s and fresh out of college. There were a couple of retired couples and a few retired single guys.

I felt older than a lot of the PCV's and most of them spent a lot of their time getting drunk and hooking up with each other. A number went home because they'd never been abroad before and felt very isolated (hence the sleeping around and getting drunk).

Some hooked up with the natives and kind of just disappeared into their world (that's what I did, pretty much).

So at your age (40s)... you may be disappointed by the company of Americans you'll have... they'll be pretty young and partying quite a bit... um, unless that is your thing, lol... which is fine. And, as a male, you'll certainly never lack the company of native females. I want to say that what I'm saying is only my perspective from the country I was assigned to (to some extent it is, I guess)... but having been a fellow with Columbia's Returned Peace Corps Volunteer program... I met RPCV's from all over the world who pretty much said the same thing.

I wouldn't bother coming to California to get your teaching credential anytime soon... it's pink slip city around here and hard to get work. I've had a few interviews this month and one told me they pulled my name from hundreds of applications. I think the only reason I am being called at all is because I don't teach just English... but am experienced with ESL as well (around here we say ELD - English Language Development)... and I have a lot of experience.

But when you do, look into an Internship program (I think it may also be called an "alternative" program). This will get you work at a regular teacher's pay while you get a credential... basically you have experience and you'll just skip the student teaching bit. But it may not be full-time. Depends on their needs. I can only speak for the Bay Area because I live around here... Cal State East Bay Univ. has a pretty big internship program with places in the East Bay. You can have your credential in a year.

As long as you have an MA in TESOL and some experience... it seems like finding work abroad is not a big issue. But maybe things will improve here in CA in a couple of years when you're done.

As for me... I always wanted to get a good amount of USA teaching experience and then disappear abroad indefinitely at a number of different countries. This seems like a pretty good time to finally do it.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

info good !
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2010 1:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought I should bump this thread as I have a few questions regarding the MA TESOL/Applied linguistics program at Teacher's college.

I am applying to go there next fall and I was wondering about the differences between the Applied linguistics program and the TESOL program.

1. Does the TESOL program have a thesis requirement like Birmingham's distance program? I noticed on their website that an "exit essay" is required but would that be considered a thesis? Or is the TESOL program simply a "course work" program that could not be used as a base to apply for a PhD program at other universities later on.

2. The applied linguistics program mentions a "project" not an exit essay. Can anyone comment on how these are different?

3. How many credit points are you taking per semester? 12?

4. How is the work load?
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