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Pursuing a master’s degree is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. You’re excited to take on a new challenge, climb the pay scale, and hone your craft. But, the reality is that successfully completing a program requires a careful balancing act of your time and talents.
At The Art of Education University, we have a lot of support in place to help you through the process. From assigning each student an academic advisor to offering the most relevant coursework for art educators anywhere, we’ve got you covered. But, regardless of the program you choose, you’ll need to be conscious of how you’re spending your time.
Of course, there will be moments that will feel overwhelming. Take a deep breath, develop a plan, and do one thing at a time.
Select a day of the week you’ll set aside thirty minutes to an hour to develop a clear and detailed plan for the following week.
Don’t just write that you’re going to do grad work. Write how long you are going to work on assignments. In fact, you should be specific with the amount of time you’re going to do all of your tasks throughout the week. If you like Google Calendar, schedule everything on your calendar. If you prefer pen and paper, write it down in your planner.
It’s easy to think you’ll be able to teach full time, grade, work out, spend time with your family, walk the dogs, clean the house, and do graduate work. Once you see everything plugged into your calendar for certain amounts of time, it becomes clear what you can actually accomplish.
Schedule your non-negotiables first, then fill in your priorities. Keep going down the line until your schedule is complete. Realize that you may need to let go of some things. It’s okay not to do everything. Be up-front with yourself, instead of always feeling disappointed or like a failure when you don’t get everything done.
For example, my clothes often do not get folded and put away. My socks rarely match. That’s okay. I’m not a failure. I buy clothes that don’t wrinkle and don’t care if my socks match. But I do get my work done on time, walk my dogs every day, and give my students timely feedback on their work. You can’t do everything. Period.
If you’d like to try this system, use the handy planning sheet below.
Here’s what I mean.
If you want to dive into the nitty-gritty details of how you spend your time, consider using a time tracker like Noko. It will create pie charts, showing you exactly how you spent your day. If you’d rather not pay for an app, the timer on your phone and a good old fashioned paper log can give you insightful info as well.
I call this the double-dip rule, and it’s the perfect way to save time. Everything you do should count for at least two things. This is where AOEU’s program shines. Everything you do in your coursework will be relevant to what you do in your classroom.
Connect with your instructors. Take advantage of what they have to offer. Be open to learning from them, being challenged by them, and asking them questions.
Develop a system for saving resources. You don’t have to use or read every recommended resource right away. Determine a system for saving and organizing them for future reference.
In short, leave your comfort zone. You’re spending time and money, don’t play it safe. Dive deep into class assignments and, ask for help when needed. Review the course resources to make sure you’re not missing out on great tools.
With the fast pace of balancing your life and your graduate program, time for reflection can get lost. However, reflection is an important part of the learning process. Reflect on what it feels like to be a student, and think about how your students feel.
Don’t just learn from the content; learn from how the content is delivered and organized. Observe how your instructor gives you feedback.
Grab yourself a journal and make time to record your thoughts, feelings, and ideas. What do you like, what don’t you like? Where do you have blocks, how do you overcome those blocks? How do you respond when something feels too hard?
Earning your master’s degree might feel overwhelming. Take it one step at a time. Start with a clear plan for when you’re going to do your work, and observe how that work will impact both your personal and professional goals. Last, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Spend some time talking to other teachers who have earned their master’s degrees. Asking about their experience and recommendations could inform your own experience.
What makes you the most excited about earning your master’s degree?
What’s your secret weapon for getting everything done?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.