Exit strategy?

Discussion in 'Education and Academia' started by Jacen McCullough, Apr 10, 2009.

  1. Jacen McCullough

    Nov 23, 1998
    Maryland
    I'm nearing the end of my 4th year in the classroom. Four years ago, I started with a bunch of 9th graders. This year, I have many of those same students as 12th graders. I now find myself in a quandary. Should I leave now, or give it one more year?

    Here's the situation: I applied to three graduate schools in December. I was rejected by one, waitlisted (then rejected) by another and accepted with funding by the third. It's not full funding (50% tuition waiver, plus $3,500 Fellowship stipend and $2,000 work stipend for manning the writing lab for 10 hours a week). I have ten days to decide.

    Here are my pros and cons:

    Pro accepting:

    * I start Grad school (a long-time dream)
    * I escape the new, mandated English 12 curriculum (contemporary essays and other such nonsense)
    * There is no guarantee that I would be accepted, and certainly no guarantee of funding next year (the competition is fierce at the moment).
    * I felt like the school and the department REALLY wanted me in the program.
    * I escape the tandem of my department chair and principal, who create a really unhealthy, non-positive work environment.
    * I get to leave with the same kids I came in with (sounds dopey, but I like the idea).
    * I end on a really positive season with my soccer kids (we had a dream season last fall).
    * The university has already told me that I would be working with their most distinguished (by far) scholar, who might not be there too much longer (I've been assured that he would stay at least two more years, but if I wait, I'm worried that he might not be willing to commit)


    Pro rejecting:

    * I would be in a better financial situation next year, with some more savings built up.
    * I would be working with next year's 12th graders, who are a really nice, well-behaved group of kids.
    * I would have a chance to go to Europe this summer (no way I can justify spending that money if I'm off to grad school).
    * I might have more options in terms of schools. The one I have the offer from isn't a bad school, but it won't get me into R1 research PhD programs. It's a small private school that will more likely get me admission to a tier 3 PhD program.
    * If I put in a 5th year, I will be vested in the retirement program, thus keeping the matching contributions.
    * It will give me more time to start learning French (I have to have a language at the translation level, and the expectation is that I learn it on my own if I don't already know one).



    Those are the broad strokes. I really don't know what I'm going to eventually do. For those interested, my field is English and my focus area is Shakespeare and Renaissance pedagogy (researching Renaissance schooling and how that can illuminate education scenes in the plays).

    Any thoughts/suggestions/recommendations/random thoughts?
     
  2. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

    Oct 11, 1999
    Chicago
    Club:
    Ipswich Town FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    You should go do the grad school thing, because it's your dream. There aren't that many people who get to follow their dreams.

    That said, what are you going to do after you get this graduate degree? Go back into the classroom? Do you have a plan in mind for that?

    If things don't work out in grad school, you get to go back to teaching. If you have to switch schools, it's probably no big deal, as I'm starting to think they're pretty much all the same.

    But once you learn about renaissance pedagogy........ what's next? Penniless research? Teaching college? Are you going on after your masters, or is that where you're stopping?

    There's also the distinct possibility that working with the great scholar might suck. He may be an arrogant prick that is too close to retirement to care about you.

    Also... there are some pretty cool contemporary essays out there.

    But I still want to know what happens after you get the graduate degree.
     
  3. Jacen McCullough

    Nov 23, 1998
    Maryland

    The plan is to continue on at the PhD level and eventually research and teach at the college level. The school I have the offer from is a Masters only, but the program I've been accepted to is a pre-professional track program, designed for people to apply to PhD schools in two years. I have a short list already for PhD programs that I would like to apply to down the line.

    I did wonder about whether or not the super-scholar might be an arrogant prick, but I can deal with that if it comes to it. It's a two year program, and I've dealt with strong personalities for longer spans than that. Plus, from all indications, he's a good guy who loves working with grad students. I was told that the program is designed to help me pursue MY research interests rather than use me to pursue theirs.

    Regardless of the economy, I don't think I would have too much trouble getting a teaching gig in two years if the PhD options don't work out on the first go. That said, I plan to see if I can get an official sabbatical in my current county as a safety net.

    As far as the contemporary essays, they are all within a textbook titled "Mirror on America." Some of the essays are: "i-Pod Nation," "Rugby and the Gay Male Body," and "Three Cheers for Reality TV." Bleh. I'm a Brit Lit nerd.

    Most of my concerns about accepting this offer are fiscal and/or neurotic in nature.
     
  4. Iceblink

    Iceblink Member

    Oct 11, 1999
    Chicago
    Club:
    Ipswich Town FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Do it. That's what I think. Your reasons for not doing it are not as compelling as your reasons for doing it. And you answered my concerns and systematically shot them down. You know the answer already. And financial issues? Bah! Debt is the American way!
     
  5. Ismitje

    Ismitje Super Moderator

    Dec 30, 2000
    The Palouse
    Club:
    Real Salt Lake
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Re the super scholar: what is the two year rate of completion for the people who begin a MA under him?
     
  6. Via_Chicago

    Via_Chicago Member

    Apr 1, 2004
    Bay Area, California
    Club:
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I'm in 100% agreement with Iceblink here. Do it. While it's a financial commitment of sorts, which makes the whole decision making process tougher, this seems to be your dream. What would you regret more? Passing up the opportunity to pursue your dream in grad school, or quitting your job at the high school?
     
  7. Jacen McCullough

    Nov 23, 1998
    Maryland
    I talked it over with my family over the break, and I'm going to do it! I'm both terrified and excited at the same time.

    Question for all of you language gurus out there: Has anyone ever used Rosetta Stone to learn a language? I need to learn French independently in about a year (at a translation level). The program seems prohibitively expensive. Does it work? Is there a cheaper way to get it?
     
  8. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Club:
    Chicago Fire
    I can't speak for the quality of the Rosetta Stone programs, but I can tell you that I passed two language requirements by getting really good with a dictionary. I first got through a French Ph.D. translation test, relying on my two years of college french from over a decade before. I then passed the Spanish test based on my one year of 9th grade Spanish, and a couple hours per week for about six months translating Spanish poetry that I liked, and comparing my translations to those of good poet/translators.

    Everyone I talked to has a similar experience with their proficiency exams: you're basically asked to translate a scholary article. By the time you're taking that exam, you've read hundreds if not thousands of scholarly articles. Therefore, it shouldn't be too hard to make your translation sound like a scholarly article. Do so, and you'll be fine.

    So like I said, this says nothing about the quality of the Rosetta stone, but it might be able to help you decide whether or not you need to shell out for it.
     
  9. uclacarlos

    uclacarlos Member+

    Aug 10, 2003
    east coast
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    I know you've already decided, and congrats on being in this quandary. For what it's worth, I don't advise losing that vested retirement money.

    Having said that, I gotta say... The vast majority of my friends and family who "made the proper economic decisions" in their 20's are ragingly jealous of what I've been able to do w/ life by following my gut and my heart.

    And that is priceless.

    So... you "should" delay entrance for a year. But follow your gut.
     
  10. uclacarlos

    uclacarlos Member+

    Aug 10, 2003
    east coast
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    Rosetta won't help you for a translation exam.

    You could always take a community college or university French 101 class this summer. That'll get you a head start, and then if possible take a graduate French translation course offered at most PhD granting universities.
     
  11. bojendyk

    bojendyk New Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    South Loop, Chicago
    I don't want to pour water on your dreams or anything, and I think it's awesome that you're pursuing the MA, but you should go forward with both of your eyes open: the college teaching field is ridiculously overcrowded, highly competitive, and ultimately very discouraging for many, many people. If you do decide to pursue the PhD, you should be very vigilant about watching for career opportunities outside of academia.

    Also, do not underestimate the burden of debt you may accumulate after a PhD, especially if you attend a private university. It's not $100,000 of debt, or whatever your tuition bills total; it's $100,000 plus interest, paid over ten or twenty or thirty years. You have to ask yourself what your opportunities will be after graduation and whether you could shoulder those loan payments.

    I'm taking a class taught by a behavioral economist right now. An anecdote from that class: when budding entrepreneurs are asked what percentage of small businesses fail, they usually answer with something close to the actual rate--say, 80%. When they're asked to provide the likelihood that their business will fail, well, the rate is much, much lower. They only see, say, a 10% chance that their business will fail, even though they understand that nearly all such businesses die. This result is common across different fields, different vocations, etc. It's why the majority of people believe that they're above-average drivers. Almost nobody is immune from this kind of thinking.

    So again, congrats on the MA plan. I think it's awesome. But before you push toward a PhD, do your research and consider whether it's really worth it.
     
  12. Dr. Foosball™

    Dr. Foosball™ New Member

    Dec 23, 2006
    Hot Springs, AR
    Club:
    FC Dallas
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    ^^^^^
    good points.

    I have a professor who took a $6,000 pay cut after she received her doctorate to go from a middle school to a university.

    I also have a history professor who is looking for a new school but says that finding a history position in higher education is almost impossible right now.
     
  13. Jacen McCullough

    Nov 23, 1998
    Maryland

    All true and all research that I have done. The key words to me are "right now." I had an undergrad prof who was fond of joking that University profs weren't only "Publish or Perish" they were "Publish until they Perish." Right now, the boomers are just starting to consider retirement. By the time I have a PhD in hand, the boomers should be on the way out. On top of that, my chosen field is Early Modern English with a focus on Shakespeare and pedagogy. Every university has a Shakespeare class. Finally, if I finish up a PhD and there are NO jobs anywhere, I still have my teaching certificate. I don't hate teaching high school. I want to move up to the college level, but if that's not possible, I'm perfectly content with going back to the high school level with my masters +30 all taken care of.

    As for the money issue, much like my masters option, I will not do a doctoral program unless I can get funding. I will be living on the cheap, but my loans will not be close to 100k. Between my Fellowship, the work allotment, savings and anticipated money earned over the summer and subbing, I don't plan on taking out more than $5k for the two year masters.
     
  14. uclacarlos

    uclacarlos Member+

    Aug 10, 2003
    east coast
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    Spain
    That's thinking short-term.

    The thing is that at university you start off as assistant prof, then associate, then full, and a full prof makes a hellovalot more money than a middle school teacher... in general. (I know that there's some friggin' disgustingly cheap unis out there.)

    I came ever-so-close to getting a tenure-track gig at a community college in Cali (chosen, by committee as top choice in a search for 2 profs, chosen by the pres and vice pres as top choice, undermined by department chair who invoke an arcane by-law in contract to put me as #3). Anywho... one night I did the calculation of what I would have been earning in 2020 and what I would have earned from 1999-2019 as a K-12 teacher, community college prof, Cal State prof and University of California prof. I used the pay-scale published online for LAUSD, LA Community College District [/spit], CSU and somehow managed to get a hold of UC pay-scale.

    While CSU and especially UC start off lower than K-12 (at the top of the education scale, of course) and community colleges, the jump from assistant to associate and then full professor was significant enough that around 11 or 12 years into the profession a full prof at UC (research intensive) makes significantly more than anybody else and by then will have made up for the years of making less money.

    In my projection it would've taken a Cal State prof about 10 years to catch up to the community college prof, but by year 16 or so would have made up the difference of the years of making less money.

    To give you an idea, Cal State profs are currently being offered btw $58-64K.

    UC profs? non-science, non-business $54-57K.

    So you actually start off earning less at, say... UCLA than at Dominguez Hills. :eek:

    But then you can go from UCLA and pick your destination and salary, so it pays off in the end.

    I know somebody who rejected a Cal State job at $64K last year and took a research institute job for less money ($62K after an initial offer of $55k) b/c w/in a few years the money at the research institute would far surpass that of the Cal State.

    I was a finalist last year for a job at a disgustingly generous CC in SoCal where I would have made minimum $91K with chances to earn up $110,000+. Didn't get it. :(

    Sorry for the rant, and sorry for the imprecise numbers. I'm going purely off recollection of a late-night "what if" pissed off bitch-fest.

    For history, you've got to graduate from a top 5/10 program in your field. And stay away from the glutted sub-fields.

    And the job market is going to SUCK SUCK SUCK for at least 2 years. Next year will be catastrophic. We had it good from 2002-2008. No more.
     
  15. Friedel'sAccent

    Friedel'sAccent Member+

    Jul 7, 2006
    Providence, RI
    Club:
    Reading FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I'm just starting to think about my dissertation, and I'm in absolutely no rush to graduate. Our department only had one postdoc this year and no one else got jobs. :(
     
  16. royalstilton

    royalstilton New Member

    Aug 2, 2004
    SoCal
    Club:
    Liverpool FC
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    if you don't need to be able to speak any French, just read and write it, then Rosetta Stone is pointless.

    if you don't have a Romance Language background, you're in for a battle. French is chock full of quirks, including a literary past tense that isn't spoken.

    you're going to have to do a lot of grunt work.

    i majored in French in college, after taking three years of HS French. i eventually changed my major to English.
     
  17. roadkit

    roadkit Greetings from the Fringe of Obscurity

    Jul 2, 2003
    Fornax Cluster
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Do yourself a huge favor and get vested. It's not like your chosen area of expertise is a road to riches (or even modest financial security).

    You'll thank yourself decades from now.

    And good luck - you are to be applauded for taking such care in making such an important decision.
     
  18. Michael K.

    Michael K. Member

    Mar 3, 1999
    There or Thereabouts
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I would say "thanks for the cheery thoughts," but yeah, I'm feeling this right now, unfortunately.

    I'm still ABD (but getting there!), with a year of successful and well-received teaching at a good small East Coast liberal arts college behind me, and being back on the market sucks out loud right now. There's almost nothing I can/really want to apply for - just an arid market right now. I've got a couple applications still out there, and attempt to bolster my own morale by remembering that I didn't get the call to interview for this school until June last year. I've got that thin strand of hope - and a pressing need to make contingency plans.
     
  19. Ismitje

    Ismitje Super Moderator

    Dec 30, 2000
    The Palouse
    Club:
    Real Salt Lake
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

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