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Beneficial Classes for Teachers Pursuing a Masters Degree in English

written by: Trent Lorcher•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 10/10/2012

So you've decided to get a masters degree in English? Great! Overwhelmed by the choices? Here are my recommendations on classes you should take.

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    Teachers with masters degrees make a lot more money than those without. I wanted to make more money. I did not, however, want to suffer one more minute listening to a burnt-out educational theorist telling me how to manage a classroom. I decided on a masters degree in English. Following are tips for high school English teachers thinking about pursuing the same route.

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    Classes to Take that are Probably Required

    If your goal is to go into administration, English may not be best choice. If, however, you want to become a knowledgeable English teacher, take the following classes while getting that degree:

    History of the English Language:

    Most universities require this course as part of their masters program for two reasons:

    1. Nobody in their right mind would take it without being forced.
    2. It gives insights into the English language that no other course could. Understanding from where the language comes helps teach vocabulary, word roots, and differences in word meanings. It also helps with word rhythm, connotation, and writing style.

    English Usage and Grammar:

    If your university doesn't require an advanced course in grammar and usage, take one anyway.

    Make sure the course teaches the difference between grammar and usage so you don't end up like that really annoying teacher who always said, "I don't know, can you?" every time you asked if you could go to the restroom.

    Research Fundamentals:

    I hate teaching research papers but at least I know how to write one. I spent an entire semester researching "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber."

    I know where to look, what to look for, and how to cite it. If my students do their research incorrectly, it's not my fault.

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    Top Picks for Literature Classes

    You might be dying to take Hungarian One-Armed Female Poets of the 12th-Century, but it won't do you any good in the classroom. These courses will:


    Inner-city schools teach Shakespeare. Rural schools teach Shakespeare. Preppy schools teach Shakespeare. You get the idea.

    Kids dread Shakespeare because they don't understand it. Most teachers dread Shakespeare because they don't understand it.Solve the latter problem and begin solving the former by taking a Shakespearean literature course.


    British Romanticists include Mary Shelley, William Wordsworth, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelley and George Eliot. American Romanticists include Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Irving, Emerson, and Thoreau. There's a good chance you'll be teaching several of these authors.

    American Realism and Naturalism:

    Mark Twain, Jack London, Henry James, Stephen Crane are taught in most high schools in North America. Learn about American Realism and Naturalism and you won't have to make stuff up when you teach it.


    If you plan on teaching Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, or Salinger, a course on Modernism will serve you well.