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A career dilemma - M.A. vs. continue teaching
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 962

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:26 am    Post subject: A career dilemma - M.A. vs. continue teaching Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

A while ago I posted about studying for an M.A. via distance learning. I've decided against that as I don't think it would suit me personally. I would much prefer the classroom environment. Sorry for the following block of text, there's a lot of information.

I am currently trying to decide on what steps to take next. I'm torn between three options...each has advantages and disadvantages.

Firstly a little information about me and my situation.....I'm currently teaching English in China. I first found out about this career when handing in my dissertation at university (I have a B.A. degree in history). After researching this further I completed a CELTA course and have been in China ever since. I'm having a really good time here (just staring my 4th semester). However, if I'm honest with myself, there's not much of a future here for me. I love the job, I love the students, I love the university but realistically I could be doing the same job for the next 10 years and have nothing more to show.

So onto my dilemma. The way I see it, I have three options, each with their pros and cons:

Stay where I am

Pros

I like it here. I have a stable job, good students, good boss and relaxed lifestyle. I feel comfortable.

Cons

No professional development (I could be doing the same job for the next 10 years and little would change).
Low pay.

Teach somewhere else

Pros

I could work somewhere which would allow professional development. Somewhere with experienced teachers/teacher trainers hopefully.
I'd see a different part of the world.
Better pay(?)

Cons

The job may be terrible. The location may be terrible.

Study for an M.A.

Pros

Much better career prospects.
Become a better teacher.

Cons

Expensive.
I may not pass - this is my biggest worry, that my subject knowledge simply isn't up to it.

What I do know is that I would like to study for an M.A. sometime in the future, I just don't know when. I see an M.A. in TESOL (or related field) as not only the gateway to the world but as a providing for a stable future.

My main worry is that my knowledge of the English grammar is severely lacking. This may sound odd to those of you who may think, 'but you're teaching English', the thing is, that in China (as you probably know), the vast majority of English teachers focus only on Oral English. Which is why experience in China isn't counted for much elsewhere in the world.

Most M.A. courses I've looked at state 2 year's teaching experience as a requirement. I barely have that and in a part of the world which doesn't have the highest standards... I fear I may be rushing into things when I'm not ready. At the same time though I think it's fear that's holding me back (fear of failure - I've never been confident, at anything in life - I wanted to drop out of university as I thought I'd fail, but I got a first class degree).

So I'd really like to hear your opinions. Especially those of you on/have completed an M.A. in Applied Linguistics/TESOL (or related area - there's a lot of acronyms in this game!). And especially about your background (degree, experience, qualifications etc.) and your knowledge of grammar/English before the course began.

My next problem is deciding which, if any, M.A. would be best for me. I've already decided that I will return to my home town where my family is (to cut down costs - I've been saving for an M.A. for some time). Luckily I come from a university town which has two universities both of which have TEFL related M.A.s (one of which is where I did my CELTA course).

The two courses on offer are:
1) M.A. in English Language Teaching
2) M.A. in Applied Linguistics with TESOL

Both of these course have modules which interest me. I've been looking through the job adverts on Dave's and those that list an M.A. as a requirement usually say 'M.A. in TESOL', is the wording of the degree important? Or will employers not mind so much?

Thanks again for your time.
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tttompatz



Joined: 06 Mar 2010
Posts: 1951
Location: Talibon, Bohol, Philippines

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before you go down the path of a MA (and I am not trying to talk you out of it) perhaps it might better suit your future to decide what you want to do then look at the path to get there rather than spend the money and discover it wasn't where you wanted to go.

It you plan to stay in or move up in the tertiary sector then an MA leading to perhaps a PhD (along with workshop/seminar presentations and publications) will probably be necessary (see you at the AELF forum next Oct.)

If you want to work in a school (K-12) then a PGCE / add-on B.Ed and working toward QTS /teacher certification would probably be a better investment in the long run. End run will be M.Ed and working toward admin type jobs as you get older. The nice thing is that the remuneration packages can be quite lucrative.

If you are more inclined to classroom work or moving into DOS type positions in the private sector (k-12 or language academies, etc) then a DELTA / DipT might be more appropriate and let you move up a bit while still staying in the classroom.

An MATESOL is typically long on theory and short on practice so it won't necessarily make you a better teacher but you should better understand the field of TESOL (the whys and wherefores if not the how).

Picking the direction is up to you. The pathways to get there are pretty obvious once you get past the, "I need to get a better job to make more money," phase of it all.

.
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 962

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

tttompatz wrote:
Before you go down the path of a MA (and I am not trying to talk you out of it) perhaps it might better suit your future to decide what you want to do then look at the path to get there rather than spend the money and discover it wasn't where you wanted to go.

It you plan to stay in or move up in the tertiary sector then an MA leading to perhaps a PhD (along with workshop/seminar presentations and publications) will probably be necessary (see you at the AELF forum next Oct.)

If you want to work in a school (K-12) then a PGCE / add-on B.Ed and working toward QTS /teacher certification would probably be a better investment in the long run. End run will be M.Ed and working toward admin type jobs as you get older. The nice thing is that the remuneration packages can be quite lucrative.

If you are more inclined to classroom work or moving into DOS type positions in the private sector (k-12 or language academies, etc) then a DELTA / DipT might be more appropriate and let you move up a bit while still staying in the classroom.

An MATESOL is typically long on theory and short on practice so it won't necessarily make you a better teacher but you should better understand the field of TESOL (the whys and wherefores if not the how).

Picking the direction is up to you. The pathways to get there are pretty obvious once you get past the, "I need to get a better job to make more money," phase of it all.

.


You make some valid points. It's definitely something I've been thinking about a lot. I know I want to take the next step...it's just when and where that's the problem.

I have considered teaching as a career before (not EFL teaching, but I mean in a state school). However, I worked in a primary school in the U.K. for six months as a teaching assistant and pretty much found out it's not what I want to do. A valuable experience if nothing else. If I was to teach in a state school, it would be history (what my degree's in and a subject I love) but then I think of the students I went to school with and don't want to put up with that, so for the time being, teaching adults (university students included) is what I'm most interested in.

I've been looking at job offers at positions that interest me, and the M.A. seems to be the most desired. DELTA isn't mentioned as much (though I understand it's value and how it differs to an M.A.).

I'm quite interested in working in the middle east for a few years and saving up some money. That's where I'm looking mostly for jobs.

Thanks again for your words of wisdom, they're appreciated.
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 797

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What's the rush? You've only been teaching 3 semesters. You like your job, you're happy where you are, what's the hurry to be moving onwards and upwards?

My advice would be stay put until your current job doesn't seem so great anymore. Right now you don't really 'need' anything, so it's a big decision to make. You may well find things don't seem so rosy in a couple of years, and you'll be in a much better position then to decide. Maybe you'll still love the job but have had enough of China, so you'll know you need that MA to make the jump to the ME. Maybe you'll be sick of teaching English, so a History MA might be more appealing. Maybe you won't want to live abroad anymore and you'll need to decide which route to take (English or History) to break into teaching in your home country. Who knows which way you'll want to go?

If you are really worried about being stuck in a rut for 10 years set yourself a time limit, 2 more years, 3 more years, whatever you think is right for you. Aside from anything else, you'll get more out of a theory based MATESOL if you have more experience under your belt. So don't feel pressured to jump right now, just enjoy your current job until you are ready to move on.
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 962

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HLJHLJ wrote:
What's the rush? You've only been teaching 3 semesters. You like your job, you're happy where you are, what's the hurry to be moving onwards and upwards?

My advice would be stay put until your current job doesn't seem so great anymore. Right now you don't really 'need' anything, so it's a big decision to make. You may well find things don't seem so rosy in a couple of years, and you'll be in a much better position then to decide. Maybe you'll still love the job but have had enough of China, so you'll know you need that MA to make the jump to the ME. Maybe you'll be sick of teaching English, so a History MA might be more appealing. Maybe you won't want to live abroad anymore and you'll need to decide which route to take (English or History) to break into teaching in your home country. Who knows which way you'll want to go?

If you are really worried about being stuck in a rut for 10 years set yourself a time limit, 2 more years, 3 more years, whatever you think is right for you. Aside from anything else, you'll get more out of a theory based MATESOL if you have more experience under your belt. So don't feel pressured to jump right now, just enjoy your current job until you are ready to move on.


The trouble is with my current job, as much as I enjoy it, there's not much more (if anything) I can gain from staying. Apart from a relaxed, happy lifestyle. That does matter for me, hugely.

However, while I may not 'need' anything now, I know that it's not a long term solution. I'm still young, 24, single, with no responsibilities. A day may come when that changes, and I can't see myself in China and support a family with the job I have. An M.A. would at least give me a way to take the next step. I'd like to be prepared.

My original plan was to do what you suggest, have another year here. But I was travelling around China recently and those long train journeys give you plenty of time to think. As I keep saying, I''m happy here, probably the happiest I've been in years but at the back of my mind there's a big niggling feeling that it's not good for me (no future, no professional development - no prospects basically) in the long run.
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 797

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shroob wrote:

The trouble is with my current job, as much as I enjoy it, there's not much more (if anything) I can gain from staying. Apart from a relaxed, happy lifestyle. That does matter for me, hugely.


Are you actually teaching in your current position? (As opposed to a dancing monkey act). If you are, then you are gaining experience. Don't underestimate how important that is. If you aren't actually teaching, your next step needs to be a proper teaching job. There is a reason why most courses want 2 years minimum experience. You'll be investing a lot of time and money in that MA, make sure you have invested enough in your preparation first.


Shroob wrote:
at the back of my mind there's a big niggling feeling that it's not good for me (no future, no professional development - no prospects basically) in the long run.


In the long run, sure, but you are just starting your 4th semester. You aren't even close to finishing the short run yet.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9130
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm going to generally disagree with the 'stay put' advice. As you point out, teaching in China isn't a huge plus on anyone's CV in any case, so I think it's immaterial if you have 4 semesters or 8 or 52 behind you when you start to improve your qualifications.

I would also encourage you not to worry overmuch about your perceived lack of grammar knowledge. All the MA programmes I'm familiar with (mostly British, I admit) offer a range of basic work supplemented by opportunities to focus more heavily on aspects of the field that interest you the most. This implies that once you get the basics of the grammar behind you, there is probably no need to delve tremendously deeply unless you choose to do so. You should have plenty of time and opportunity to get the basics under your belt in the normal course of the study.

Overall, sometimes the moments for decisions and action on these things come and go - if you think this is the moment, and it's logistically feasible, I'd definitely go for it.
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 962

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HLJHLJ wrote:
Shroob wrote:

The trouble is with my current job, as much as I enjoy it, there's not much more (if anything) I can gain from staying. Apart from a relaxed, happy lifestyle. That does matter for me, hugely.


Are you actually teaching in your current position? (As opposed to a dancing monkey act). If you are, then you are gaining experience. Don't underestimate how important that is. If you aren't actually teaching, your next step needs to be a proper teaching job. There is a reason why most courses want 2 years minimum experience. You'll be investing a lot of time and money in that MA, make sure you have invested enough in your preparation first.


I'm trying to teach to the best of my abilities and in a professional manner. I make lesson plans, adapt and create materials, put what I learnt on the CELTA course into practise and take lessons seriously. I wouldn't describe myself as a 'dancing monkey' but I really only teach Oral English classes. Of course I incorporate other skills into lessons, but the main focus is definitely spoken English. Though I've no guidance or experienced/qualified teachers I can turn to for advice. I've been observed once in my time here. The teachers get given a text book at the start of the year and told to use that.

HLJHLJ wrote:
Shroob wrote:
at the back of my mind there's a big niggling feeling that it's not good for me (no future, no professional development - no prospects basically) in the long run.


In the long run, sure, but you are just starting your 4th semester. You aren't even close to finishing the short run yet.


I understand that, I know I've still a lot to learn. The trouble is I'm quite sure I can't do that where I am. If I wasn't having such a good time here, this wouldn't be so much of an issue.

spiral78 wrote:
I'm going to generally disagree with the 'stay put' advice. As you point out, teaching in China isn't a huge plus on anyone's CV in any case, so I think it's immaterial if you have 4 semesters or 8 or 52 behind you when you start to improve your qualifications.

I would also encourage you not to worry overmuch about your perceived lack of grammar knowledge. All the MA programmes I'm familiar with (mostly British, I admit) offer a range of basic work supplemented by opportunities to focus more heavily on aspects of the field that interest you the most. This implies that once you get the basics of the grammar behind you, there is probably no need to delve tremendously deeply unless you choose to do so. You should have plenty of time and opportunity to get the basics under your belt in the normal course of the study.


That's alright as I'm only looking at British universities. Other people have told me that I wouldn't be expected to know everything before the course. I'm definitely going to brush up on my grammar knowledge this semester in my spare time. Thankfully I brought my grammar books with me.

spiral78 wrote:
Overall, sometimes the moments for decisions and action on these things come and go - if you think this is the moment, and it's logistically feasible, I'd definitely go for it.


It's logistically feasible for sure, by the end of my contract I'll have saved up enough money (just) to fund the degree.


Thanks again to everyone, your insight and advice are appreciated.
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artemisia



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 867
Location: the world

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Shroob

I tend to agree that while there’s no immediate panic and you can afford to take some time, you feel the need to make a significant change and so should probably continue working towards that. You’ve been saving for a while and so have (or will have) sufficient funds to use to make a move.

I suggest talking to or emailing postgraduate course advisors, within the relevant department, at the unis for the courses you’re interested in. Ask them for some feedback on your situation. They should be able to give you an idea as to how likely it is you’d be accepted. They may be able to suggest some interim modules you could do before undertaking an M.A (if need be), but you probably won’t need that. If they’re any good, they should also be able to offer some guidance on planning your degree, as and when you decide to do one, and give you an idea of reading lists for whatever you’re interested in. I think it’d be good to make an appointment to see the p/g advisor when you’re back in the UK on hols. If you can get hold of books, you could make a start on reading (although sometimes lecturers change texts). It doesn’t hurt to ask for previous assignments for whatever paper/module you’ll think you’ll begin with as it can help give a focus to reading. You may have to approach the individual lecturer for old assignments and reading lists.

In terms of work elsewhere, have you thought of applying for work with British Council (anywhere)? It doesn’t seem to be easy to get work with them, but this is the kind of institution where you’d have proper professional development and further teacher training.

The places that offer the most in terms of PD and other good conditions tend to be the ones that can also be the most selective while recruiting. It’s worth a try though. I think it’s good to have a few options as long as you have the time to investigate them properly.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're in the honeymoon phase of culture shock, tipping into the "I hate this" phase. You admit you're not given much to teach and despite your professional nature, you seem to enjoy the country more than the job. You don't even seem to want to continue teaching English.

Set the next year as an escape year. Finish up business (including sightseeing), while at the same time pursuing whatever else seems to strike your fancy (teaching non-English courses). See where you'd like to go next, whether to study or to work (and study on the side). I think you simply need to decide what you want to do 10 years from now and start phasing into that.
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artemisia



Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 867
Location: the world

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spiral78 wrote:
Overall, sometimes the moments for decisions and action on these things come and go - if you think this is the moment, and it's logistically feasible, I'd definitely go for it.

Indeed. People don’t always know what they want to do in ten years’ time – even after trying out a few things. There’s nothing wrong with taking time and trying out a few different things if that’s what someone wants to do. However, I don’t think a clear pathway always evolves naturally. Sometimes you just have to begin with the here and now.
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 962

PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

artemisia wrote:
Hi Shroob

I tend to agree that while there’s no immediate panic and you can afford to take some time, you feel the need to make a significant change and so should probably continue working towards that. You’ve been saving for a while and so have (or will have) sufficient funds to use to make a move.

I suggest talking to or emailing postgraduate course advisors, within the relevant department, at the unis for the courses you’re interested in. Ask them for some feedback on your situation. They should be able to give you an idea as to how likely it is you’d be accepted. They may be able to suggest some interim modules you could do before undertaking an M.A (if need be), but you probably won’t need that. If they’re any good, they should also be able to offer some guidance on planning your degree, as and when you decide to do one, and give you an idea of reading lists for whatever you’re interested in. I think it’d be good to make an appointment to see the p/g advisor when you’re back in the UK on hols. If you can get hold of books, you could make a start on reading (although sometimes lecturers change texts). It doesn’t hurt to ask for previous assignments for whatever paper/module you’ll think you’ll begin with as it can help give a focus to reading. You may have to approach the individual lecturer for old assignments and reading lists.

In terms of work elsewhere, have you thought of applying for work with British Council (anywhere)? It doesn’t seem to be easy to get work with them, but this is the kind of institution where you’d have proper professional development and further teacher training.

The places that offer the most in terms of PD and other good conditions tend to be the ones that can also be the most selective while recruiting. It’s worth a try though. I think it’s good to have a few options as long as you have the time to investigate them properly.


I've already begun to contact some course providers, some have got back to me and given me a reading list (which I requested).

I have looked at British Council positions, but whenever I look at the jobs and their requirements I know I don't have what they're looking for.


Glenski wrote:
You're in the honeymoon phase of culture shock, tipping into the "I hate this" phase. You admit you're not given much to teach and despite your professional nature, you seem to enjoy the country more than the job. You don't even seem to want to continue teaching English.

Set the next year as an escape year. Finish up business (including sightseeing), while at the same time pursuing whatever else seems to strike your fancy (teaching non-English courses). See where you'd like to go next, whether to study or to work (and study on the side). I think you simply need to decide what you want to do 10 years from now and start phasing into that.


I do like teaching English, I enjoy the work that I do but I know I could be doing more. Where I'd like to go next.... that's the big question. I would like to do a stint in the middle east.

artemisia wrote:
spiral78 wrote:
Overall, sometimes the moments for decisions and action on these things come and go - if you think this is the moment, and it's logistically feasible, I'd definitely go for it.

Indeed. People don’t always know what they want to do in ten years’ time – even after trying out a few things. There’s nothing wrong with taking time and trying out a few different things if that’s what someone wants to do. However, I don’t think a clear pathway always evolves naturally. Sometimes you just have to begin with the here and now.


I stumbled upon this career, I had no idea it actually existed until I saw a tatty old poster on a wall at my university.

The way I'm looking at it now, is that I do enjoy teaching and would like to take the next step. If I do the M.A., even one year in the M.E. should be enough to pay off the cost of the M.A. so if I do decide down the line that teaching's not for me, nothing lost. Though I don't think that will be the case. I enjoyed the CELTA (as stressful as it was) and I enjoy teaching where I am.

EDIT: Thanks everyone.
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1202

PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Artemesia's idea to contact course supervisors and ask for reading lists / examples of old assignments is excellent: you'll know the sort of thing that's expected of you on the course.

I haven't done an MA, so I don't know the teaching level you'd be required to have - in practical as well as theoretical terms. However, what you said about you not meeting BC requirements is slightly worrying to me. I would have thought they were on a par (in terms of minimum amount of teaching experience / exposure to different types of student needs) but maybe my worries are unfounded. Perhaps others can chip in with their experiences of doing an MA.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 11710
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stay where you are.
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Shroob



Joined: 02 Aug 2010
Posts: 962

PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Teacher in Rome wrote:
I think Artemesia's idea to contact course supervisors and ask for reading lists / examples of old assignments is excellent: you'll know the sort of thing that's expected of you on the course.

I haven't done an MA, so I don't know the teaching level you'd be required to have - in practical as well as theoretical terms. However, what you said about you not meeting BC requirements is slightly worrying to me. I would have thought they were on a par (in terms of minimum amount of teaching experience / exposure to different types of student needs) but maybe my worries are unfounded. Perhaps others can chip in with their experiences of doing an MA.


Most B.C. adverts I've seen require experience of teaching young learners. for two years. I have limited experience doing this (privately teaching children). Additionally, my experience is mostly in China where spoken English is the primary demand of foreign teachers. I try and do mixed skills tasks, but when you're expected to focus solely on spoken English it can be hard to develop as a 'rounded' teacher.

I've never applied for a B.C. teaching position, so I'm unsure of if I'd be accepted or not.

Also, teaching children isn't something I look for in a job. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy teaching the private students I have, but that's only a few hours a week. To be doing that as a main job isn't for me.

scot47 wrote:
Stay where you are.


Could you explain why please?
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