Master of Science in Education for Childhood Education
Jessica Whyne earned a Master’s of Science in Education, with a focus on childhood education, from Bank Street College of Education in 2010. As an undergraduate, she studied psychology, so her graduate degree formally trained her in early childhood education through both theoretical and hands-on courses, as well as a year of student teaching. With a master’s degree, she’s also afforded more opportunities to run her own classroom than a bachelor’s degree alone would, and she’s currently in her second year as a head teacher at the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery in Manhattan.
Why did you decide to go into childhood education?
I always knew I wanted to work with children in some capacity. I thought about psychology or social work as an undergrad, but neither one really excited me. During my junior year of college, I went to an information session at Bank Street and I knew I had found what I wanted to do. Walking through its School for Children, I was so impressed by what the children were doing and how the teachers were able to tap into their creativity to help the children express themselves. I remember seeing clay sculptures, maps, inventions made from recycled materials, stories, dioramas ñ everything seemed to be designed around the children and I thought if I could do that, I’d be doing something really special.
What are some of your most memorable experiences during your education?
The classes I took in grad school were amazing ñ classes like Block Building and Dramatic Play, Art for Teachers, and Teaching Language Arts Kinesthetically. All of the hands-on classes really allowed me to understand the impact of the work I’d be doing. My professors led us through activities the way we would eventually be leading the students through them. It allowed me to not only watch and listen to my professors, but it let me reflect on how I felt being in certain situations. And I experienced things I hadn’t since I was young ñ working at a water table, using clay, building with unit blocks.
I also took a science course at the American Museum of Natural History at night after the museum was closed, which was incredibly magical. And, of course, my year of student teaching was probably the most memorable. I got to work with three excellent teachers at three different age levels, and really started to refine my skills as a teacher working with them and with my amazing adviser. My experience in grad school was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
Anything you didn’t like about studying it?
I wasn’t a huge fan of the classes that focused on the theoretical framework while I was in school, but now that I’m teaching, I find myself using that information a lot, especially when planning activities and lessons, speaking with parents, and working with student teachers.
How has your degree influenced your career?
Having my M.S. Ed. has allowed me to get jobs that I wouldn’t have been able to with only a B.A. Most private schools in New York City will only hire head teachers who have a master’s degree. It’s definitely a huge plus career-wise to have this degree. I also am much more competent and capable than I was before I started my master’s.
How have your expectations of education and the field going into it compared to your actual practice and experience?
The actual teaching is very much like what I thought it would be. I felt very prepared for being in a classroom working with children from my experiences as a student teacher. What I didn’t expect was all the other “stuff” that comes with teaching — meetings, reports, phone calls, evaluations, first aid, bulletin boards, prep work. Most of the non-teaching work gets done after the children leave, but you never know when something is going to come up that will take you away from being with the children. It’s definitely a lot of balls to keep in the air, but you start to find a rhythm that works for you.
What skills from your degree do you still use? Any you don’t?
I am constantly drawing on things I learned and experienced in grad school ñ how to develop age-appropriate lessons, how to observe and document students and their work, classroom management strategies, ways to integrate math and language arts into a larger social studies-based curriculum, tips for meeting with parents and building a classroom community. You name it, I still use it.
What advice would you give to potential childhood education students?
Visit lots of schools ñ grad schools and nursery or elementary schools ñ and get a sense of what you’re in for, both in your schooling and professionally. Ask lots of questions ñ teachers love to talk. Loving what you’re doing is a big plus because if you don’t truly enjoy teaching or being around children, the days will probably seem endless and you’ll burn out. I think that teaching is incredibly rewarding. I live for those moments when something just clicks in a child and they get it after struggling ñ reading, counting, sharing, zipping their coat, anything! I’ve been lucky to teach in supportive environments with great faculty who share their ideas and energy and keep me excited to teach.