This school year has been rough. My full-time gig as a high school journalism and English teacher hasn’t been bad, but I have been swamped by course work. This is because I am working on a second master’s degree. My first one is in education from Fort Hays State University. I got it because it moved me across the teaching pay scale. Other than that, it doesn’t do a whole lot for me. However, this second degree is in Media Management (journalism) from the University of Missouri, which is one of the best journalism schools in the country.
Obviously, a master’s degree in journalism is more up my alley. I love journalism. That’s why I became a teacher in the first place. It just makes more sense for me and my focus, and it allows me to better pursue my ultimate goal, which is to teach journalism at the college/university level.
Of course, a doctoral degree in journalism would allow for this too, and I almost went that route. I got accepted to the University of Kansas William Allen White Doctorate in Journalism and Mass Communication program a little more than a year ago. However, the timing wasn’t great, and I was unable to jump on the opportunity. Do I wish it had worked out differently? Sure, but that’s life. Besides, through the course of the interview for the program, I quickly felt I was underprepared to do the necessary research the doctoral program entailed. The kind folks at KU said I would be fine, but I wanted to be more than fine.
Hence my enrollment in the Mizzou program, which will culminate in me writing a thesis. That’s something I didn’t have to do through Fort Hays.
The thesis will give me great experience with conducting research, and the degree will make me qualified to teach journalism at the college/university level I aspire to be at. However, I don’t plan to stop at this master’s degree. I want to earn my doctorate. I want to be Dr. Todd Vogts, and I will be, one day.
As for the degree at hand, as of this writing, I am halfway done (most major assignments and other course work have been done for a week or more, actually, but I had one lingering final I had to take). I spent the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters killing myself with 9 graduate hours each. My beautiful and pregnant wife Kendall has been a grad school widow. I’ve experienced stress I am not used to, and I’ve often thought I couldn’t do it anymore. However, I am lucky enough to have a great supporter in my wife, and she has pushed me to keep working hard and has been gracious enough to proofread the hundreds of pages of papers I have written through the course of my classes. I don’t know what I would do without her.
This summer, I am taking 6 hours, which again is a pretty good load considering the summer classes are 8-week courses instead of the 16-week courses during the fall and spring semesters. Then, in Fall 2017, I will take 4 hours in order to wrap up a few classes before taking my 9-hour thesis in Spring 2018.
If all goes according to plan, I will be finishing up this time next year.
My students know I am working on this, and they know what my career goal is. I don’t look forward to the day when I say goodbye to them, but when that times come and I have secured a job at a college or university, farewells will have to be exchanged. They get it, though I’m sure when the day comes, the students won’t be particularly thrilled. In fact, I know that’s the case based upon another teacher in my building recently taking another job. As I’ve tried to explain to them, though, they can’t expect someone to stay forever. Change happens. People have to do what is best for them and their families. Besides, the students will, theoretically, be graduating and leaving one day too, so it is unfair for them to hold the teachers to a different standard. I understand where they are coming from. Change can be uncomfortable, but sometimes it can be a good thing.
So, I don’t know when I will get to move into the next level of teaching. Until it happens, I am just going to keep plugging away at my own self-improvement and the improvement of my students. And I will continue to do so with as much transparency as possible.