“Nothing can prepare you," says Marc Perniciaro, an 8th grade social studies teacher in Horry County, South Carolina. Perniciaro, who earned his Master of Arts of Teaching from Coastal Carolina University (CCU), thought he understood the definition of an IEP and 504 plan when he graduated. But in real life—like when he needed to offer a professional opinion on a student he knew for only six weeks—Perniciaro’s experiences have been quite different from his grad school preparation.
“It was nowhere near what my own classroom would be like," Perniciaro says of his master's in education, explaining that, while specific classes at CCU prepared him for being a student teacher, the most productive part of his master’s program "came from actual classroom experience with teachers."
A master’s in education prepares future teachers to manage classroom challenges, design learning plans, and tailor their teaching styles across different subjects, both to large groups and individual students. With internships, case studies, and core curriculum, a master’s in education applies the psychology of learning to problem-solving through collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and conflict resolution. Master's in education candidates also learn how to bring empathy and integrity to the classroom, engaging students while remaining on pace.
Of all the classes he took while enrolled in CCU’s master’s in education program, Perniciaro cites diversity in the classroom, management of the classroom, assessment, pedagogy, literacy in his subject area, and the basic intro to education as among “the most important." Like most master's in education programs, CCU also requires students to take content-specific teaching classes. Perniciaro opted to learn how to teach social studies, which used roleplay strategies to cover lecturing styles, and how to break down primary sources.
Small-group learning is another method covered with a master’s in education, and is often considered essential in preparing students for careers in education. For Perniciaro, having these problem-solving strategies in-pocket helped him manage the stress he encountered in real life classrooms.
The first step to solving any problem is to analyze the situation. Evaluating how you (as a teacher) are doing—and how your students are learning—is necessary for success. Most master’s in education programs offer courses on formative and summative assessments, which help to paint a clearer picture about a student’s achievement, and where gaps may exist. Formative and summative assessments cover everything from statewide accountability tests to district benchmark or interim tests to everyday classroom tests.
“In the end, one of the best lessons I took from my graduate program was to greet every student at your door, find a way to smile at all times, and develop relationships with each and every kid as best as you possibly can," says Perniciaro.