A Difficult (and Expensive) Decision to Make

making difficult decisions

I’d rather have her decision-making “problems.”

At the beginning of January, I began a new semester at The Ohio State University where I am working on my Masters in Inclusive Education. One of the classes I am taking is called the Capstone. The goal is to prepare us for our graduation requirement. Typically that is a thesis, an action research paper, a lengthy and difficult exam or, as in my case, a portfolio.

The goal is to have my portfolio ready for reading by June so that I can graduate in August.


light bulb moment

Around the beginning of November, I had a light bulb moment in class. A thought occurred to me and it was one that wouldn’t leave my mind. When I started my capstone class and began to discus whether I’d write a thesis or create a portfolio of my work (it consists of papers I have written during my program plus two larger papers that expand on what I have already studied), I continued to think about that light bulb I had.

I wanted to do more work and research on a certain topic but I also felt like there was something missing from my graduate work. This thinking kept me stressed for a couple of weeks. I spoke with other students, friends, family, a professor and my adviser about my feelings and what I could do.

And today I came to a couple of decisions, one that is going to be expensive.

I have decided that in a few years, I will be applying for a doctoral program. I really want to research how inclusive classroom settings can be a means for societal change. I want to change the way we are educating students with special needs. I do not think it is working to pull them out of class, isolate them from their peers and then expect said peers to treat them equally in social situations. I believe that fully inclusive educational settings provide the means for children to understand that our differences do not have to be hidden nor should they be used against us later in life. I think that changing society begins in the earliest of classrooms and I want to do more research to prove that as well as influencing others that it helps both educationally and socially.

I am excited about this future path but I know that I can not get there until I have proven myself in my graduate program. I am, theoretically just a few semester hours away from earning a Masters Degree yet I do not feel that I’m worthy of it. I feel like there is something lacking in my program. I’m missing some key elements to it and I want to take a few more classes. This means that I am postponing graduation until a later date (either December of this year or May of next year).

This is a rather expensive decision to be making, especially given that I’m already in a lot of debt and struggling to make ends meet right now.

I’m planning to continue on the path I’m on right now. I’m going to look for full time teaching positions for the next school year and maybe postpone my last one or two semesters of school so the district can pay for it. But I’m also going to seek information on possible positions with my university as a graduate teaching assistant. Hopefully I haven’t missed any deadlines. If I can secure a position like that, then I can continue with my studies at a much lower cost to me.

Although this decision may lead me to more debt, I know it’s the right decision. I’d rather have a degree I can be proud of and more debt than one that I technically earned but feel is lacking.

What do you think? Bad decision? Or am I doing the right thing? I’d love to hear what you have to say.



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8 comments for “A Difficult (and Expensive) Decision to Make

  1. February 7, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Are the career prospects different with a PhD? Are you able to secure a teaching position and continue this research privately? Is it possible to convert your Masters into a PhD at a later time? I like where your research is heading but it is SOOO expensive to go to school :(
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    • February 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      Well the career prospects are different because I’ll be going a different direction. I plan to teach K-12, until I earn my PhD and then I’d work in secondary education. But that is years down the road. My kids come first and I must find a job so I can start earning full time income.

      Right now I’m just putting off graduation with the hopes of having the university pay for my tuition by offering me a graduate teaching assistant position or the school district I work for paying for the rest. I’m HOPING to not have to fork over any more towards my education. *fingers crossed*


  2. February 7, 2013 at 11:03 am

    “This is a rather expensive decision to be making, especially given that I’m already in a lot of debt and struggling to make ends meet right now.”

    As much as I love the idea of pursuing additional education and taking advantage of opportunities that may lead to bigger and better things, I just can’t say ‘good idea’ to this plan after having read the words above. If you can finish what you’re doing, and get to a point where you’re no longer ‘struggling to make ends meet’ then I would probably have a different stance. But, based on your own words, my opinion is that this not a good decision.


    • February 8, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      Right now, I’m still working on the plan. I don’t want to take out more student loans. I initially did it because I needed classes to get my teaching license back. I have that now so it’s time to get a full-time job and hope that the district can pay for the rest of my education. I should have done this last spring/summer and be teaching right now but I bad an emotional decision that I regret (I don’t want to go into that but it has a lot to do with my confidence in the type of teacher I could be).

      My hope right now is to find a full time teaching job while putting off graduation so that this doesn’t become any more debt for me. I’m also going to seek information on applying for a graduate teaching assistant position, if I haven’t missed the deadline.


  3. February 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    I see pros and cons to this. I’m a teacher also, so I understand the dilemma of whether pursuing additional education is worth it or not. In your case, it depends on your specific career goals. If you’re intending to remain a classroom teacher, I would say definitely do NOT pursue the PhD. If your intention is to move towards university teaching/research, then going for the PhD makes sense.

    One other thing: I don’t think the idea of utilizing a fully inclusive model is controversial anymore. My prediction is that within the next five to ten years, self-contained classes will be phased out entirely. The reason I bring this up is that it might be useful to focus your research on something more specific about the inclusion model.


    • February 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      I disagree. Inclusion is not taught in Ohio at all. You may live in an area where it is more prevalent, such as FL but in Ohio, it’s virtually non-existent. My studies is right on target with the direction our state and country should be headed. Inclusion classrooms are not funded because they are operated with mixed-abilities, a general ed teacher AND a special education teacher.

      The ideas behind my research is getting my professors excited at my university so I’m comfortable in the direction I’m heading. Inclusive models as a means for social change is the direction I’m headed and I don’t believe I need to “focus” my research on “something more specific.”

      Thank you for your reply.


  4. February 11, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Jessica, you’ve got time to think about this, and plan.

    But you’re very right that you’ve got to find work, finish off the Master’s and deal with those issues NOW. Once those issues are taken care of, then you can start thinking and planning for what’s next.

    At least in my neck of the woods, a Ph.D. is four more years on top of a Master’s. (I got my M.A. from the University of Michigan.) You’ll need postgraduate work anyways to keep your teaching certification. So you can continue to pursue the Ph.D., and have it count.

    The one thing that puzzles me about all this is a faint memory of you saying that you didn’t enjoy teaching in the classroom, and had stopped teaching in Special Ed for that reason. Obviously you’ve solved that problem, if you’re planning on making this your life’s work.

    But first — the job, and finishing up what you’ve almost accomplished. You’re making progress…good luck!


  5. Jessica
    March 7, 2013 at 11:15 am

    At the very least, you are going into this decision with your eyes open. You seem to have a realistic understanding of both the pros and cons of the situation. Since you are already struggling to eliminate debt, I believe you will be extra motivated to put newly gained education to use.

    I’m one of those crazy people that has mountains of student loan debt and I’m not even using my degree in any formal way. That said, I look for ways every day to use my education, even in casual encounters. That move alone may not be paying down my debt, but it at least helps me stay positive about it.

    Obviously, it’s your decision, and you know what’s best for you and your family. Just know what you’re getting into and stay away from bad surprises!


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