Considering a Master’s Degree?

I get a lot of questions on this little Blogcito about my Master’s Program…so I’d like to tell you about it and all the reasons I loved it!

I earned a Masters in Arts of Spanish Language Teaching, through Southern Oregon University back in 2010. What makes this program outstanding, and the reason I chose this one, is that the courses are held at the Universidad de Guanajuato, in Guanajuato, Mexico during the summer. It’s a fabulous program designed for teachers who want to teach during the year, then spend their summers in Mexico, taking classes, improving their language skills and most importantly, eating tacos and tlacoyos and tortas and molletes and enchiladas mineras and… you see where my priorities are 🙂 

We should be clear: this is a totally unbiased review. I didn’t get paid to write this and no one asked me to endorse the program. However, this is not a totally selfless recommendation: Anne Connor, if you’re reading this, I am still serious about wanting to teach a Pedagogy course in GTO. Just give me the word and I’m THERE!!

The program:

Every summer, Summer Language Institute offers 2 three week sessions in Guanajuato. It takes 5 sessions to earn the Master’s Degree but you can arrange the sessions however you want. I did it straight through in 2.5 summers but it’s up to you!

There are core classes- Second Language Acquisition Theory,  Assessment, Teaching for Proficiency and Action Research- which are taught in English. Especially for people like us, teachers who are interested in loading up the Little Darlings with Comprehensible Input, the courses are awesome! I was a CI teacher before I did my masters but it really gave me a good foundation of Language Acquisition research and the reasons we do what we do.

Then there are electives classes that are paired with pedagogy classes. So, for example, you might take Mexican Cinema as an elective, paired with Teaching with Film or  Bilingualism in the United States paired with Teaching Heritage Students or  Mexican Literature during the 19th century paired with Reading Strategies for the classroom. The elective/ pedagogy classeschange every session and are taught in Spanish.

You can choose to live with a host family or make other housing arrangements. I was so blessed to be assigned a great host family my first summer. Loyida and Javier were outstanding hosts and I ended up returning to their home every year until I graduated. The second summer when I arrived my picture was on their fridge—Really brought the expression Mi casa es su casa to life! My host mama is an outstanding cook and in addition to earning my Masters, I also left Guanajuato with a notebook of handwritten recipes and an informal degree in Mexican Gastronomy from Dra. Loiyda. #priorities

Guanajuato is so quintessentially Mexican! It’s a colonial city in the mountains of Central Mexico, which is famous for it’s tunnels- the majority of the city’s traffic flows below the city- leaving the streets and alleyways void of cars and full of pedestrians. The colors are unreal, the people are warm, there’s delicious food everywhere (again, #priorities). Everything is picturesque: street musicians, parades, fireworks, fountains, churches, plazas… I can’t even begin to describe it, so I’ll leave you with a few photos. If you want to immerse yourself in Mexican culture, I can’t think of a better place to go!

The benefits:

First of all, I got an advanced degree, which means more $$$. And since I took classes each summer, every year I moved over one step on the pay scale. In my district, each step’s pay raise was equivalent to tuition costs for the following summer! You guys, after my first summer, my degree paid for itself!   And I didn’t really have to pay for the first summer either! It’s such a cool story of God’s provision: I really wanted to start my degree, and I wasn’t sure how I would pay for it- you know, being a brand new teacher and all.  I was praying about it and applied, still unsure if I could afford it.  Just as tuition was due that first year, our teacher’s union negotiated a sizable pay raise, and we got paid retroactively, and would you believe it? The check I got was exactly how much I needed for my first summer’s tuition payment!  How’s that for an awesome story?! 

Better than the financial benefit, my Spanish (ability and confidence) improved SO MUCH! I had studied a year in Costa Rica during my undergraduate studies, so my Spanish was pretty decent but I really didn’t feel confident speaking Spanish to real people!  I don’t have any quantitative evidence (I wish I would have taken the OPI right after I graduated to compare it to my OPI score I submitted with my application) but trust me, my Spanish got a lot better. And now I’m not afraid to talk to real people in Spanish! And I’m confident enough to put teaching videos of myself on the Internets, even with mistakes in my Spanish. That’s confidence 😉

And perhaps the best benefit of all…you become really close with a small cohort of teachers who you study with during consecutive summers…Nearly a decade later, I still frequently communicate with my colegas. We regularly collaborate and support each other from across the US. Some have become some my dearest friends!  Like the (soon to be world famous) author, Rita Barrett, for example!

Did I mention I ate really well (and adventurously) in Guanajuato?

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows:

Yes, I highly recommend the program. Yes, it was the best professional experience of my career. Yes, you should apply! But, I have a few caveats:

It was a LOT of work. I don’t know about your experience, but in my experience University Education classes are kind of a joke. Not so with this program! The course work (and homework) was INTENSE! A regular semester course is condensed into 3 weeks- papers due every day, a novel to read in two nights- INSANITY, I tell you!! 2 summers ago, I took my hubby to Guanajuato. While we were there, he asked, “So, what’s fun to do around here?” I was like, “ummm…. I don’t know. I only did homework!” Granted the homework was done from a hammock with an incredible view, but still…

I survived the homework and you will to. Just know it’s coming and it’s serious!

My only real beef with the program is the pedagogy classes that are paired with the elective classes. The elective classes were fabulous, taught by experts in their fields: professors of literature and linguistics and all sorts of other fascinating academic specialties. The problem is that the same professor taught the accompanying pedagogy course and few (actually none of mine!) had any sort of experience teaching teenagers in a middle or high school settings! It was hard for them to teach us how to incorporate it into our classrooms, other than assigning “create a lesson on how you would teach X”…This was 9 years ago, mind you. Hopefully things have improved! Anne Connor, if you’re still reading, please hire real secondary teachers to teach these courses!! And, did I mention, I’ll volunteer?!? Pick me! Pick me! I’m short a PhD but I’ve got a masters degree in Spanish Language Teaching from a reputable university 😉

What about French Teachers:

French teachers- they’ve also got a program for you, in Angers, France! I don’t have any experience with it, but it’s enough to make me want a Masters in French, too! As soon as I can score Advanced Low on a French OPI- I’m doing it. I’ll see you there! (I started Duolingo French last week, so any day now, I expect!)

If you’ve been kicking around the idea of getting a Master’s Degree (or another one!) I highly recommend you check out Southern Oregon University’s Summer Language Institute. If you’ve got other questions, hit me up!

4 Comments

  1. Yes! I affirm everything AnneMarie said about the SOU program. She and I met through the MoreTPRS list before we started our first summer and it was encouraging to know there would be someone else there who “got” the way I taught. We soon discovered we were “uña y mugre” and our summers in Guanajuato led to all kinds of fun collaboration. Meeting this friend was definitely worth the price of admission and we were delighted to find other classmates who were also interested in CI teaching.

    She is right that the program is intense, so plan to arrive early or stay late so that you can enjoy some of the sights. But the wonderful thing is that the university is situated right in the heart of historic Guanajuato, so you can´t avoid being immersed in the culture and sounds of Mexico. Guanajuato, your street music and the tolling of your bells will always be in my heart. And Anne Connor, you should absolutely have AnneMarie teach a class!

    Like

    1. And Anne Connor, if you’re still teaching, Rita Barrett will also teach a pedagogy class!! Meeting Rita might be the best and longest lasting benefit of the program! Te quiero, amiga!!

      Liked by 1 person

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