Michael Grether

Seventh grade social studies teacher Michael Grether describes how obtaining a master’s degree earns a teacher the respect of his or her peers, in addition to the respect of parents, students, and administrators.

Michael Grether loves history.

He loves the fact that it’s living, breathing, beautiful, ugly, vibrant, and personal, with countless connections to the present. But during his first year of teaching social studies at Leesville Road Middle School in North Carolina, he realized he wanted more. He wanted to be able to approach the subject of social studies with rigorous efficiency and professionalism.

To reach this goal, Grether enrolled in the online master’s in curriculum, instruction, and assessment program at Walden University.

“What I found when I got in was all the information I wished I had learned in my bachelor’s program,” Grether said. “I feel I learned more in my first course than I did in my four years of college.”

A master’s program in curriculum, instruction, and assessment centers on learning how to respond to a student’s individual learning patterns, and then adjusting instruction and assessment techniques to meet a student’s needs.

Curriculum, instruction, and assessment?

In today’s educational landscape, teachers need a wide range of skills in curriculum, instruction, and assessment to meet the educational needs of their students.

Read more about focusing on curriculum, instruction, and assessment…

Earning a degree online first appealed to Grether because it allowed him to maintain a full-time teaching schedule, while also attending classes. As a teacher and a coach, his online degree program was flexible enough for him to fit class time into the nooks and crannies of his schedule. Even though some individuals believe that online classes might be less demanding, Grether says that isn’t the case.

“In an online program, you need to answer every question, do every reading, complete every assignment,” said Grether. “It’s 100 percent work from everyone – no time to slack off if you want to earn the points.”

Walden University sets their schedule into five-week blocks, where students take one class for five intense weeks of study. Each week, students watch a video or lecture, participate in reading and response exercises with classmates, and then write papers making connections between the readings and discussions once or twice a week.

Grether says that his program reshaped his mindset on teaching. Now, he feels confident when dealing with multiple intelligences, breaking down which lessons speak to which students, and planning out his curriculum on a macro and micro scale.

“It revolutionized me as a teacher,” he said. “It took my game to a whole new level. It was like jumping from the minor leagues to the major leagues in terms of teaching techniques, abilities, and the levels of external rewards that have sprung forth.”

When instructing social studies, Grether loves to make connections between the past and the present. Using the skills he’s gained through his master’s program, he is able to cater to individual student interests more efficiently, bringing the history to life in front of his class.

Other than the teaching skills and confidence he’s gained, Grether believes that the largest benefit of a master’s degree in education is the level of authority it affords him.

The world of education today is becoming increasingly standardized, where policy makers require teachers to teach their students to the test. Grether notes that this standardization is stifling some of the creativity that once defined teaching.

Earning a master’s degree is beneficial for teachers who wish to fight against some of this standardization, allowing them more wiggle room and providing them resources to back up curriculum changes they wish to make.

Grether says the level of respect and authority a master’s degree gives him allows him to argue researched-based methods of different teaching techniques, giving him opportunities to speak with his school administrators about curriculum adjustments.

“It gives me the knowledge and level of authority to stand and advocate for [my students], and do what’s best for my classroom,” Grether said. “And it’s doing it in a way based on theories and ideas. I’ve found much more openness and acceptance from the administration because of that.”

It’s widely accepted that one of the greatest challenges of teaching is dealing with parents. Grether says holding a master’s degree earns an automatic level of respect from the parents he speaks with. Of course, methods must be backed up by results, but he says he doesn’t have parents talking down to him, or telling him how to teach.

Grether believes this respect will also transfer over into the world of politics eventually.

By earning master’s degrees, teachers can move up into administrative and educational policy positions, where they can make a true difference, Grether says. As more experienced teachers enter the professional realm, Grether hopes policy makers will step away from the standardization of learning that has become so prevalent.

“If we want to regain our position that we should have as leaders, advocates, and cornerstones to build a solid future, we have to be taking steps to show why it is we deserve it,” Grether said. “We can’t just throw a textbook in front of a kid and say, ‘do this.’ But if we have these degrees and show the extra effort and the art behind the teaching, we earn the respect of leaders and the community.”