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Social studies education (initial certification) questions


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Hello everyone,

I'm currently in a PhD program in Classics, but lately I've been reconsidering my decision to continue my studies in that field professionally. Having been teaching a couple of quarters at my university, I've realized that I went about grad school all wrong, and that I want, first and foremost, to focus on teaching and pedagogy as opposed strictly to academic research. I'm looking for programs that would lead to an initial certification for social studies education at the secondary level. Once I've completed my MA, I also plan on getting certified to teach Latin as well. I'm hoping to find some perspectives from some of you guys on how to approach the application process and what programs I should consider.

I suppose some background info might help you out: As noted before, I'm currently in a PhD program for Classics, and I have BAs in History, Political Science, and Classics as well. I've recently been awarded a TAship by my university, whereby I will be responsible for teaching two sessions of a 200-level class per quarter (I'm currently in my second quarter of class instruction). I graduated summa cum laude as an undergraduate and I'm currently holding a 3.9 GPA in my grad program. Aside from my experience teaching at university, I was also a substitute at my hometown's school district, but it was nothing that substantial. There are also other on-campus activities and leadership positions I held as an undergraduate. I took the GRE years ago, and I'm due to retake them in late August (my old score was V: 640 Q: 650 A: 5.5). I imagine the additional years of Latin and Greek will have a positive impact. I would like to attend school in the NY metropolitan area. I've been considering TC, NYU, and even Lynch School as options, but I don't know what the funding situation is for any of these programs.

I would prefer to attend TC as I would like to work in more urban settings, but I don't know how much of a chance I have in being accepted. In general, though, are there any significant things I should look out for while applying? What should I emphasize in my application? Like I said in the beginning, I had been so focused on Classics programs that this all seems a bit alien to me, so any words of advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,


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So, in terms of admissability, you'll be just fine for ed master's. Your academic background is strong, and your old GRE scores would do the trick; if they go up when you retake, so much the better.

If your preference is to be in NYC, though, you should also be looking at the CUNY schools. In terms of getting initial certification, they are absolutely as good as TC or NYU, are significantly less expensive, and frankly may even be a little better tied into the DOE. Latin, remarkably enough, is one of the few areas that the DOE is looking for folks in, so another option might be to check out the NYC Teaching Fellows program and get into a classroom as an uncertified teacher (Teaching Fellows commit to several -- I think 3? Maybe 2? -- years and have the opportunity to earn certification as they go. It's an NYC version of Teach for America). As a social studies teacher, on the other hand, you'd be out of luck in the DOE -- they're not hiring external folks, unless you look only at new schools -- and would have to turn to charter schools. Not everyone loves charters, of course, so that's a personal decision.

In terms of applying, the most important thing is just to talk about why you've become interested in pursuing a teaching career. Talk about what excites you about teaching and working with kids, experiences that you've had (don't downplay substitute experience, even if didn't feel "substantial" to you), etc.

The other big question, of course, is what you're going to do about your Ph.D. program. You can't do two things at once, so I'm assuming you plan to drop out of the doctoral program. Can you be awarded a master's by your department so you have something to show for the time you've spent? Even if that meant spending another year there, it would likely be worthwhile -- and with a master's in Classics, you could also apply to teach Latin in private/independent schools (i.e., non-public schools; they are more interested in subject mastery than pedagogical qualifications).

I realize I just threw a bunch at you. Hope it's helpful; let me know if anything I've said is unclear or nonsensical!

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Thanks for the quick response. I was accepted to my university's Classics PhD program, which includes both MA and PhD work. Prior to "formally" moving on to PhD status, we have to go through the MA requirements first, which I'm slated to complete this year; and this requires both departmental approval and my consent to move on to the PhD track. So upon my completion of the MA requirements, I will have to inform the department that I do *not* plan to move on to PhD work, and I will be awarded the MA regardless. I opted to stay an extra year to do MA work because of my TAship (which by proxy includes more teaching experience) and so that I may receive stronger recs from my professors. Essentially, I had to decide this year whether the PhD track was the right one for me, and I didn't want to be in a position whereby I would have regretted committing so many years to doctoral work several years into it.

And thanks for the heads up about the NYC Teaching Fellows program; I was completely unaware of it, and it's definitely something about which I plan to research more.

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It sounds like you're in good shape, then!

I was just rereading my post and realized that I should have done some editing. What I should have said in regards to public schools:

- As a Latin teacher, you could be hired by the DOE at any NYC public school that's looking for one

- As a social studies teacher, your options would be a new DOE school (one fewer than four years old) or a charter school

If you are interested in private school teaching, there are no certification requirements, and the Classics master's you're earning this year is a solid qualification for Latin teaching; you could also make a case for it being a qualification for social studies, of course, but that's up to individual schools.

If you're interested in private school jobs, the National Association of Independent Schools keeps a job board on its website at www.nais.org.

Sorry I didn't proofread more carefully earlier!

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