After the Degree: Marcella Maher

This could be described as a dangerous subject. I am, generally speaking, a person who wants to enjoy life and I tend to adopt a positive outlook. This has been a year in which that approach has been sorely challenged. Doing a Masters is hard. Doing a Masters in primary school teaching is very hard. The hours are long, the work is tough and we have no water fountain in our building! Or rather we do, but it’s reserved for staff! Unbelievable! I NEED TO BE WATERED LIKE THE DELICATE PLANT I AM. Seriously though, I can see the pot strategically placed in front of the fountain in an attempt to hide this valuable commodity from me. But I wear my glasses. You can’t fool me.

We are continually told that to be working and on this course is not a good idea. That’s fine until you add fees, hidden extras, an odd coffee, transport and a trip to the Gaeltacht into the mix. As a wise woman once said to me, “Marcella, I need to work, I’m not shittin’ fifties!”. This is so true. It was easier to work during my undergrad; the contact hours were far fewer. I only work one day a week now and it is exhausting. I’m sure to the rest of the cohort it looks like I’ve the good life, swanning in once a week, but it’s like having a full time job and then working part time at the weekend. You’re going to be so time-poor if you do a Masters. It’s been hard, missing out on occasions with friends and family because there are just not enough hours in the day.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. So far this year I have learned a tune on the tin whistle (kind of), begun work on handstands, won a relay for the first time ever in P.E., and made butter from cream. You need to surround yourself with like-minded people. I can’t abide people who take life too seriously. I need a group of friends to make me laugh and who are supportive. Thank God I found the friends I have, who suffer through it all with me, and who always have a sympathetic ear to lend, followed by a joke because laughter is the best medicine.

Another positive to have come out of this year was my re-joining the gym. After sitting for a solid 9 hours, it is so necessary to move! In fact, one of my lecturers calls me ‘Marcella the Mover’. My main piece of advice for someone doing a Masters is to find an outlet: it is imperative. For me, there’s nothing like slamming a medicine ball to get out all that pent-up anger at your own dehydration (that water fountain thing really gets to me). Sometimes it’s tempting to sit in and do nothing, but don’t fall into that trap. Go, go and feel the burn in your throat, the sweat on your back and the pure triumph when you beat your personal best. All those endorphins are a real mood booster. You’ll sleep like a baby too.

The best part of the Masters? Placement. Children are so funny. There was a boy in my class who came in wearing his ‘spy glasses’. He was not allowed to wear his spy glasses. He put them away and at one point before break, in the middle of a lesson his head pops under the table, then quickly shot back up, spy glasses on with pride. How do you not laugh at his ballsy move? Teacher face (which I’ve been working on since I’ve been told I’m not scary) was pulled out of the bag. He knew he shouldn’t have done it. He immediately whipped off the glasses and I never saw them again. The next day he came in with a card that read: “To teacher, I am not supposed to wear my spy glasses in school. I will try harder”. My heart melted. Well played little guy, you got me good.

It is tough, there’s no doubt about it. You’ll want to give up. Sometimes two years will seem like the longest time, but keep going. Celebrate the little victories. Make time to have that date night or to go to the film you’ve wanted to see. You will learn to look after yourself, to put yourself first. Embrace the network you have around you, your friends, family, your significant other. They will call you out on your crap, and you will need that sometimes. They will give you cuddles and make you cups of tea and sometimes that’s exactly what you will need. Just know it will be worth it in the end.