My Mater Dei Masters Experience

I was honoured to be invited by Elaine McDonald, Masters Co-Ordinator, Academic Leader for Learning and Innovation, School of Education and Annabella Stover, Administrative Registrar, both of Mater Dei Institute of Education to say a few words this morning at the Career Readiness Programme which took place in St.Patrick’s College, Drumcondra for final year students of Mater Dei Institute of Education.

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I decided to write here what I spoke briefly about to fourth year students this morning. It is my honest opinion of the Masters in Religion and Post Primary education and might give some people a flavour of what the Masters is all about and the possibilities that can arise from doing it. I am a recent graduate of Mater Dei Institute of Education (2015) and I just finished my full time Masters in Religion and Post Primary Education (also in Mater Dei) two weeks ago.

” Last year, I was in the same position as some of you – preparing for final exams and also thinking about the future– Like I was, some of you may be uncertain about your future prospects and contemplating which road to take after college ends. Some of the lecturers had mentioned the idea of a Masters to me but I didn’t really give it much thought until it hit me one day … What would I do when I finished college? Would I emigrate? Would I get a job at home? I applied for the Masters and I was lucky enough to be accepted not only for a place on the programme (which was highly sought after) but also awarded a scholarship from the college. I know finance can be an issue for many people who want to pursue a Masters but don’t let it be. Everything will fall into place, I promise you 🙂 

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Before I began the Masters, I applied for a few teaching jobs in my area but to no avail. A week after I started the Masters, I received a call from a school in Navan (which is where I also live) to come into the school for an interview. My Deputy Principal told me a few teachers that graduated from Mater Dei were also working in the school and they had all brought something different to the school. She was delighted to see that I was doing a Masters and furthering my own education and she asked me what the Masters entailed and how I would contribute to school life. Herself and the principal were particularly interested in the Digital aspect and the Faith Development module within the Masters. Thankfully, I got the job and started two days later and I am still there today.

The school year has been a whirlwind for me. I am a member of the Faith Development team which is new in the school and the Head of the team did a Masters in Chaplaincy in Mater Dei last year. I am also a member of the Special Educational Needs and Care Team and I also planned and organised Mental Health Week in the school (which you can read more about here). I attended the CEIST Student Leadership conference, held Meditation and Mindfulness at lunchtimes, gone on JCSP and other school trips. I distributed the Christmas and Mock exams. I have also mentored DIP and PME students from DCU, Mater Dei, St. Angela’s and Maynooth on their teaching placements and I’ve been involved in other areas of school life like ICT classes but to name a few. I am always busy but I love the school I work in and it honestly doesn’t feel like a job most days! Even if I didn’t manage to secure a teaching job, I feel that the Masters would have kept me going workwise so if you decide to do a Masters and you don’t get work this coming year, don’t stress, you are working towards a bright future for yourself 🙂

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Some of my friends and family ask me ‘How you maintain a balance between work (school) – home and college life?  I won’t lie to you, it was very hard at the beginning (well it was for me!) but I got organised and prioritised what was important for me. The constant support from my family has always been amazing but I really have to give a special mention to my Masters class here – they have been pillars of support to me the past year. They understand exactly where you’re coming from and you can bounce ideas back and forth off one another for different tasks in modules. It’s the closeness you develop seeing each other each week, doing group work or class presentations and always wanting one another to do well. The lecturers in Mater Dei have also been such a strength to me not only for four years at Undergraduate level but now at Postgraduate level too. They have always encouraged, not only myself but many others to be the best we can be and I feel that support will definitely still be there even with the amalgamation with a big college like DCU. It is Mater Dei, as the small knit community we know and love moving to a bigger space to provide a better educational  experience for all.

The new Institute of Education at St. Pats is amazing and has so many great facilities and student support services.

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When you apply to do the Masters there are three specialist areas to choose from; Mentoring and Leadership, Religious Education or Digital Learning. All three link in throughout the course and there are aspects of the other two in your chosen area. There are so many modules to choose from including Curriculum and Assessment, Web 2.0, Virtual Learning Environments, the Holocaust and Modern Culture, Principles of Faith Development and many more.

Reflecting back on the past year, I ask myself how has the Masters helped me so far? It is a step on from Undergraduate study and you get to explore so many more issues in depth. The Masters has helped me greatly in my own classroom practice and I have learned so many new approaches to teaching and learning. It has not only helped me in my professional life but my personal life. I did things in the Masters I never thought possible like establishing a blog and I also overcame small struggles that I have always faced with my own confidence. There have been so many highlights for me in the Masters including setting up my own educational blog (through Enda’s module Web 2.0) which you can view here, designing my own Faith Development programme for adolescents, learning about curriculum and assessment at post primary level, creating a Mentoring programme for young adults, reflecting on various aspects of the Holocaust each week and understanding the new virtual learning environments available for post primary education.

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Myself and my fellow classmate, Linda, (who is doing the part-time Masters) were invited by Elaine, in her module Curriculum and Assessment to establish a public class blog called ‘Resourcing the Curriculum’ for not only final year students like yourselves on your long final year placement which you can view here but for all students on Teaching Placement. Our Masters class have uploaded content and resources for each subject area on this blog. Currently, the blog has over 1,900 hits with support on Twitter and Facebook from the RTAI, DCU, Mater Dei Institute and other educational accounts. Hopefully it was of some help to some of you on your final year Teaching Placement and hopefully there are some people in this room who will lead the blog this coming year on the Masters programme.

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My own blog and our newly established class blog have been the stand alone highlights for me in this Masters and from this, I decided to do my Thesis on Blogging with a focus on the New Junior Cycle Key Skills. I feel that is so important to choose an area of interest to write your thesis on because it is a year long piece of writing and nobody wants to get stuck writing something they detest! Words like thank you don’t do justice to Enda Donlon (donenda) for his patience as a saint, encouragement as a friend and sheer genius in the area of digital technology in education throughout this entire process as my Thesis supervisor. I cannot credit him enough for his contribution to my educational journey on the Masters programme.

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With the implementation of the New Junior Cycle and the Digital Strategy rolling out in schools, it is a great opportunity to do a Masters and understand the changes in digital technology at post primary level which will greatly benefit you in your own teaching capacity as a future educator.

As I have mentioned, I firmly believe that doing a Masters builds your confidence, contributes to your employability and helps you to be more aware of current issues in Religion and Post Primary school education. I would highly recommend the Masters to all final year students simply because of the major transformation in my own education that it has given me.”

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Please consider the Masters in Religion and Post Primary Education and if anyone has any questions or queries about pursuing this Masters in Education please email elaine.mcdonald@dcu.ie .  

If you would like to ask me anything about my own experience, please don’t hesitate to direct message me on Twitter @5j16MsDignam or by email at amy.dignam2@mail.dcu.ie.

For more information on the entire Masters programmes offered please click this link.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post 🙂

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