Break it down!

This one's animated, so click to view in a new window if you're gonna.
This one’s animated, so click to view in a new window to get the full effect of breaking it down.

My old plan is way out of date. Here’s a new version. I’m going to try to break down each month at least a week before it starts. I may post it here every month, I may not.

Week of 12/31:

  • Research Minneapolis Publish Schools and find 5 to apply to for my 100 hours of volunteering, including specific instructions on how to apply.
  • Write NY Resolutions (not directly related, but kind of)
  • Study Spanish (ongoing)

Week of 1/7:

  • Apply to 5 schools.
  • Contact program advisor (MM) to schedule a review of my undergrad transcript.

Week of 1/14: 

  • Interview at schools (?)
  • Meet with MM (?)
  • Research timing of MLTE and Spanish proficiency testing


  • Start studying for MLTE and Spanish proficiency tests


  • Start prerequisites?


  • Application due
  • Investigate scholarships, grants, etc.

January 2014:

  • Investigate grad student health insurance

February 2014:

  • FAFSA due for financial aid

April 2014:

  • Determine work schedule/school schedule balance. What jobs will I have to give up and which can I keep? (Do I need to move this up to August?)

June 2014:

  • Start school at U of M (ideally)
  • Application to St. Cloud State due (if needed)

So that’s the next few weeks, anyway. Like everything else, it’s a work in progress. I just hope I can fit the school volunteering into my schedule without too much shuffling.


Not much news

Please enjoy this kitten.
Please enjoy this kitten.

Not a lot has changed in the past week or so. I’m coming out of the closet as a career changer to more and more people. Everyone has been really positive. It’s funny, because EVERYONE is like, “You should talk to my dad/sister-in-law/friend/husband.” One good thing about teaching: everyone knows a teacher. (One bad thing: everything thinks they know how to run a school because they’ve all been to school. Might be something to blog about later.)

I’m getting used to the idea of ESL and actually getting really excited about it. I also know which school I’m going to start pursuing a volunteer opportunity at. Not until the new year, though. I don’t think anything would get done before that, anyway.

I did have a moment of wondering if working in a school is too dangerous, and maybe I’d be safer not doing that. This got dismissed almost immediately. Apparently, our society is set up so that nobody can be safe from guns anywhere, and statistically, my odds are no different at school. (Actually, I think they’re better being in the Midwest than other, more ragey places, but I can’t back that up with numbers.)  I’m not going to stop going to movies or salons just because shootings happened there, too. And maybe I can help someone so later on, they don’t hurt someone else. All I can do is try.

It’s pretty fucking awful to think, however momentarily, that I should consider not teaching because I could get shot.

Diversity/cultural experience

Skin tones ranging from eggshell to beige.
Diversity of skin tones ranging from eggshell to beige.

Part of my struggle with the grad school process is the application questions that ask me to describe my experience with diversity and difference. As a white person growing up in rural Wisconsin and now living in Minnesota, ethnic diversity is something I have to seek out. I certainly welcome it in kind of a passive way, but that doesn’t answer the question of what  the hey I’m going to write about.

Homework Hub might count. Most of the kids I work with are Somali. But it’s not like we’re sitting around talking like, “Hey, so how’s being Somali going? Good, right?” I mean, they’re just kids doing homework. One girl I worked with had to write about an issue that was important to her, and she chose the Somali civil war. That’s about as close as we’ve gotten to talking about it. Maybe I’m supposed to say something like, “I was able to look past their hijab and their skin color and see them for who they truly are,” but that seems like the bare minimum to qualify as a decent human being.

If I end up doing ESL/Spanish teaching, I’ll have to volunteer for 100 hours in an ESL classroom. Would that count? I guess so, although it’s kind of the same deal as above.

I did go to Mexico as a high schooler. It was my first significant amount of time in a city, and that blew my mind. I didn’t spend a lot of time talking to Mexicans when I was there, though. It was a different culture, but it was a long time ago. Have I really not had any other experiences since then? Have I really not traveled abroad since 1990? Jesus.

My better angle might end up being focusing on the economic disparities rather than the ethnic/language ones. Talking about the challenges of working with kids who, for example, had to have breakfast at school, or have to move around a bit due to some home insecurity.

Maybe I should wait and have the experience before I try to determine a filter through which to view it.

A good thing

This is what Google Images gave me when I searched for Elpenor. I think it's actually meant to be Alexander. In any case, kind of hot, right?
This is what Google Images gave me when I searched for Elpenor. I think it’s actually meant to be Alexander the Great. In any case, kind of hot, right?

I’m not sure how this fits in with the theme of my last few posts, but it’s been on my mind, so I’ll put it down.

I have worked with a girl at Homework Hub a few times. She’s one of the older kids (grade 7 and up). I don’t know her name; I should introduce myself next week if I see her, before it gets too the point where it’s too awkward. She seems bright, and she’s a hard worker.

I was helping her with some questions about Homer’s Odyssey the other day. We read the chapter where Elpenor fell off the roof and died, just before Odysseus traveled to the land of the dead. When he got there, Elpenor was hanging out by the river Styx, all, “Wassup?” The question was, “How did Elpenor make it to the land of the dead before Odysseus?”

So the girl looked confused, and I said, “Well, what happened at the end of the previous chapter?”

She looked it up in the book and said, “He died. Oh!” And she laughed a little. Like, a real laugh, by a thoroughly 21st century kid, over some crazy ancient Greek story.

The info session

Please enjoy this kitten.
Please enjoy this kitten.

I had the U of M info session this morning for the M.Ed in English Education. I have so much information that something is going to have to bail out to make room. Anna, if you’re reading this, I won’t be reminding you of Dad’s birthday in the future. Get a calendar like the rest of us.

First of all, the school requires 100 hours of observation in a public school classroom in your field of study before you start the program. That’s what that requirement is about. That’s a lot of hours, but it’s supposed to help people know that they want to be teachers before they get too far into the program. It’s really being a classroom volunteer, but slightly more structured. Completely reasonable and a very good idea. In January I’ll start looking for a teacher or school to connect with.

The idea of not starting until June 2014 seems much more reasonable to me now. I’m going to have a few prereqs to make up, mostly communications and other crap I should have take when I was dicking around with Chinese as an undergrad. (No regrets, I swear.)

I’m also signed up for the info session for ESL Education, which is next Tuesday. The advisor (who is great) is the same for both programs. She gave me the folder of information and said I can come if I want, but a lot of the information would be repeated.

I think I’d like to do both English and ESL. I’m thinking I should do ESL first because there’s more demand for ESL teachers and more grant money available. Then I can come back and add the English later. I’m more passionate about English, and all things being equal I’d do that first. But all things are not equal, and I have to get a job with better income potential.

I could also do ESL and Spanish at the same time. The advisor said that the requirement is “low proficiency.” Not totally sure what that means. My aunt had told me I probably know enough Spanish to teach middle school. She might be right. Or she might be confusing me with my sister.

I do think I want to attend U of M. Everything about the program just seems really well thought out, and the quality of education seems excellent. I know that U of MN graduates are in high demand, too. They accept about 30 students per session, which is small, but not tiny.

I am looking at St. Cloud State’s ESL program, which is entirely online. That’s good in some ways, but I don’t know if I’d get as much out of the program. Maybe that can be my backup if I don’t get U of M. I don’t know. I need to sit with this information for a little while.

Hamline is also an option, but I’ve barely looked at them. MSU-Mankato has a program where class is only Tuesdays 5-9, so I wouldn’t have to relocate. I would probably need another car, though, which is less than optimal. So much to think about.


A large proportion of my posts are titled Oops!
Should have looked more closely (BTW, animated gifs aren’t showing up unless you click on them. I don’t know.)

I was mistaken in my last post. If I apply to U of M late (after December 14) I’ll likely not get in. My application won’t get “full consideration.” And I won’t find out until April 1, maybe later.

Also, there’s some weird text on the page that one of your letters has to be from the supervisor of your classroom hours. Only, how am I getting classroom hours if I am a new licensee? It’s so confusing. And I’m so glad that info session is Wednesday.

But the options as I see them are:

1) Apply anyway. Not loving this one–my application probably won’t be very strong, and I’ll find out late and have a much slimmer chance of getting in.

2) Apply next December to start June 2014. Better. I’ll have a stronger application–more Homework Hub experience, possibly some school volunteer experience, more time to get good letters of rec and to work on my app.

3) Apply and attend another school. Leaning this way. Now that I have an idea of what I want to do, I don’t want to wait 18 months to get started. And there are a few options in the area that seem good. I’ll go through them (carefully this time!) but not right now.

If you’re reading this, thanks. It’s helping me. If you’re not reading this…waaaait.

Making statements

"jerri blank" is not a Google Images search you want to do if you're planning to enjoy your breakfast
I’ve got something to say!

New updates on the grad school front: I did some investigation into what school options exist in my area. I really don’t want to relocate unless it’s absolutely necessary.

My #1 pick is University of Minnesota. Well, guess what? Their application deadline is December 14. Yes, December. Because their program starts in June, not fall like you’d think. (It’s for a very good reason–you do 3 semesters, then have the second summer session to finish any credits so you can start teaching in the fall.)

Yikes! I was hoping to ease into the application process a little, not go HAM over the next 2 weeks. Now, granted, that’s the priority application deadline. I could apply later. But not much later, I guess, right?

I’m contemplating my 3 personal statements I have to write:

QUESTION A: Experience with difference

Please describe a specific experience in your life that required you to navigate through an environment or situation different from that which you are familiar. How did you approach this experience? What did you learn? Note that the experience you describe may reflect difference across dimensions such as race, socio-economic status, gender, language, religion, geography, sexual orientation, special needs.

QUESTION B: Educational disparities

Disparity in educational outcomes is a major challenge in Minnesota. How do you account for these disparities? How do you view your role as a future educator in addressing educational disparities?

QUESTION C: Becoming a teacher

Discuss your life and work experiences that have influenced your decision to become a teacher.

Not unreasonable things to ask. And that “under 2 pages” requirement is definitely doable. (Here is where the ghost of Mrs. Martz, my high school English teacher, comes in and says, “Sarah, you’re too concise.” As if that’s possible.) (I just realized that Mrs. Martz might be an actual ghost. Like, she might be dead now. Google google google…as of May 2012, she was alive and active online. Well, good for her. Anyway.)

I think Question A is going to be the tough one. I’m going to try to write these up as best I can starting this afternoon. My end goal for the whole app is December 31. I have an info session at U of M on Wednesday 12/5, which will answer a lot of questions, I hope to God.

On the plus side, the website says nothing about taking the GRE. Oh, man, if I could skip that step, this mad dash in December will be worth it. That’s not a silver lining, that’s a platinum lining.

I can do this. It’s just going to be hard. But that’s not a very good reason not to do something.