For Administrators

Most Important Courses for Teachers to Take in Graduate School

By Brian Gatens February 20, 2014

I always encourage new teachers to pursue a master’s degree as soon as possible. Enrolling in a master’s program can help you build upon both your pre-teacher classwork and your classroom experience to craft a really powerful resume and develop your instructional skills.

But not all graduate programs are the same, so you should be diligent in choosing the program that best prepares you to keep building a strong professional foundation. That means choosing your coursework carefully.

A strong “course map” — built with forethought and with professional goals in mind — enables you to grow as a professional and sends a strong signal to employers about your capabilities. Keep these points in mind as you choose graduate school courses:

Your resume needs balance

Today’s work environment and culture often leads to multiple job changes over the course of a career. While I think that education is largely immune to that trend, you still need to choose graduate courses with both your present position and future job opportunities in mind.

Your coursework selection should build and balance your resume by “filling in the holes” from your undergraduate years. For example, if you’re missing courses in special education practices, make it a point to take several. Also consider courses such as:

  • Working with Diverse Learners
  • Technology Applications
  • Innovative Classroom Practice

These are the keywords hiring committees are looking for when they review resumes.

Lessons can be applied immediately in your classroom

Graduate work is important as it enables you to build your general base of understanding about student learning and classroom pedagogy. Adding to your overall understanding is a fine thing, but you also need to take the lessons of your graduate courses and immediately apply them to your classroom practice.

The benefits of this are twofold: You’re offering an immediate improvement to your classroom practice and you’re developing talking points for job interviews. Nothing impresses a screening committee more than when a candidate can speak directly and specifically to what she would do immediately in the classroom.

Stay technology focused

American classrooms are, for the most part, loaded with technology. From tablets to SmartBoards to laptop carts, teachers and students are awash in learning tools that can play a strong role in improving the classroom experience and enhancing student learning.

You should try to take several graduate-level courses in educational technology. It’s important, though, to take courses that go beyond a general overview and show how to specifically connect the teacher and learning to technology. On an added note, don’t hesitate to use this technology in preparing your resume. I recently received a resume with a QR code that took me to a candidate’s online portfolio. Don’t know what a QR code is? Do an online search and see how impressive that is.

Plan to work with diverse learners

The trend of bringing special education students back into school districts from out-of-district placements is continuing to grow, driven primarily by three factors:

  • Parents increasingly expect their child to be educated in their home community and with their child’s peers.
  • School districts now realize that they can design local programs that meet the child’s needs.
  • General education teachers are getting better at effectively teaching children with a wide diversity of needs.

This ability of the teaching staff is possible only because of graduate-level work that offers specific training on how best to deliver instruction. Definitely look through your school’s course catalog to see if similar courses are offered.

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