Four Teacher Tips

By Michelle Yelaska, SED 2016

It’s truly amazing how fast time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like only yesterday I observed my first classroom in Introduction to Education 100, moved into a college dorm, and ate endless burgers at Rhett’s. This fall semester, however, is the moment of truth. It’s everything I’ve been preparing for in my three years at Boston University. I packed my bags, moved to London, and began student teaching math to high school students. I’m excited, nervous, and terrified all at once. Despite my apprehensions, I know that my pre-practicum observations at a local middle school and high school have prepared me for this experience. Here are four seemingly obvious items that I learned in my observations and interactions in these diverse math classrooms.

  1. Expect the unexpected. One week, I had the opportunity to lead a ten-minute class discussion. Although I was expecting tons of participation, I was met with blank stares and zero raised hands. As I started to panic, I realized that I just needed to adapt my teaching style in the moment. Something as simple as redrawing a clean diagram helped spark a discussion. Although lesson planning is obviously important, sometimes you just need to go with the flow and adjust to your learners’ unique needs.
  2. Hands on engagement keeps students involved. When going over last night’s homework, students were on their phones, talking with friends, or even sleeping. However, when they started a paper folding activity to explore exponential growth, students were wide awake and discussing the task. Although not every class will be hands on, observations taught me the importance of keeping lesson relevant to keep engagement high.
  3. Know your students. As teachers, we have about ten billion different things going on and sometimes we lose track of who we’re trying to help: the students. I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with a student who was falling behind in his work. When I asked him to copy the problem from the board, I realized that he was quite intelligent. The problem was that he couldn’t see the board. Knowing my students and their individual needs will prove to be one of my greatest assets.
  4. Circulate, circulate, circulate! When I substituted in the Honors Geometry class, students were more likely to ask me questions as I circulated than when I stood at the front of the class. Many times, shockingly, teenagers will not ask for help. Some of the best mathematical conversations happened when I checked in with the students first. Although I’m not the most intimidating person in the world, when teaching, I will remember to display an approachable and friendly attitude towards the students to generate a safe learning environment.

My pre-practicum course provided an invaluable learning experience and comprehensive insight into running my own classroom. While student teaching will certainly not be a breeze, these four teacher tips could help my transition into the field.

Michelle Yelaska is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in Math Education


Education in the Developing World

By Alisha Parikh, SED 2017

Last semester, taking the course IR/SO242: Globalization and World Poverty, was both eye-opening and thought-provoking. Discussions centered on a variety of issues affecting the countries in the poorer part of the world – the developing countries. One such issue we discussed was that of culture and education in third world countries. Because I have a strong interest in learning more about developing countries, a passion for education, and a dream of spreading education and schooling to those most in need, this issue was one that strongly resonated with me. The discussions were eye-opening in terms of the injustice to those children who were working in the fields as opposed to attending school because their families needed whatever source of income and labor they could get, to those girls who were uneducated because they were seen as inferior or not worth being educated, and to the many who were constricted by societal, cultural, and governmental norms and policies in receiving an education. The discussion was thought-provoking in the sense that it made me feel even more strongly about my dream of education as a realistic opportunity and privilege for all children.

Taking this course while pursuing my major in Early Childhood Education has made me realize the importance of educational opportunities in even the poorest cities. While as educators achieving this goal may seem ambitious, I believe that it is absolutely essential that we take whatever steps we can in working toward spreading education. I hope to one day have the opportunity to live and teach in a third-world country for an extended period of time. My step in achieving this goal on a more local level involves aspiring to teach in low-income urban settings. On a local level, I feel these particular settings are particularly in need of qualified teachers and valuable educational opportunities. Perhaps eventually then, I will be able to extend this experience on a more global level, shifting from low-income neighborhoods to some of the poorest cities in the developing world.

I strongly believe that education has extraordinary benefits and value to individuals, societies, and cultures. Whether we see education as a meaningful tool for individuals, a way of empowering societies, or unifying yet simultaneously diversifying cultures, education has the power of advancing some of the poorest countries in our world and eliminating some of the most severe injustices a portion of the population still faces today.

Alisha Parikh is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Early Childhood Education

The Importance of Extracurricular Activities

By Heather Cohen, SED 2017

Most students in high school join clubs and participate in certain events solely to add another extracurricular activity to their college application. I’ll admit it, I did it as well. Yes, I cared about community service and I liked the French club, but would I have joined them if I couldn’t put them on my application? Probably not. For me, high school was an incredibly stressful time where I was only focused on the next step I had to take. I never really took a step back to think about what I wanted to do just for me.

Once I got to Boston University, I was reluctant to join clubs because I wasn’t actually sure what I was interested in. I figured, I would take the first semester to just focus on adjusting to the city, my classes and the general college environment. That was definitely the right move for me, but once it got to second semester, I was getting bored and I wanted to fill my time with things that I would truly enjoy.

I found SED’s English Educators Club which gave me a family of educators who shared my passions of the English language, poetry, working with English Language Learners, and much more. I found the Transitional Mentor Program, which helps to acclimate first year students to SED, BU and Boston through peer mentorship. I found out about BU’s Feminist Collective, a club where like-minded people come to discuss important issues about gender and sexuality. I found the Admissions Ambassadors, who gives campus tours to prospective and admitted students. And I also found SED’s Dean’s Hosts, a select group of students who act as ambassadors for the School of Education, host prospective students and families, and volunteering within the SED community.

Now that’s a pretty long list of clubs and organizations that I found, and some might say that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. So when I had a realization that I might have made myself too busy, I also realized that there was no club I was willing to give up. Everything that I am doing and everything that I am involved in, is important to me. That is definitely not something that I could have said while I was in high school. I’ve realized that college is the time where you are allowed to be a little bit selfish, and it is liberating to finally be able to doing the things that I love to do, just for me.

Heather Cohen is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in English Education

Top Three Reasons Why I (and You) Should Want to Work with Children

By Noah Segal, SED 2017

1. If you are a guy, you are going to get a job.

If you’re a guy and you are willing to work with children in any capacity, then the chances of you not finding a job right out of college are slim. Women significantly out number men in the field of education. While it might not necessarily be fair, the truth is that men with education degrees have a much better shot at being hired, and in turn being promoted compared to their female peers. In a competitive job market you need to use anything you can to gain an edge, and being a man who is willing to work with children is a significant edge.

2. Never a dull moment.

Let’s face it; our generation gets bored fairly easily. We are either jumping from activity to activity or multitasking our way through the day. Working with kids provides you with the opportunity to do both. I can guarantee you that no single day will be the same. I would even go as far as saying that no single hour will be the same. Working with children provides you with the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities throughout the day, and the responsibility of being in charge forces you to be ready for anything thrown your way. The odds of you being great at expecting the unexpected will not be high at first, but that’s what’s so fun about it. Every single second of every single day forces you to grow as a teacher, but also as a person.

3. It’s hard but rewarding.

I think that it’s fair to say that above all else, what people are looking for in life is a purpose. We all need to find what drives us, what pushes us to dig deeper and work harder, all because we want to, not because we have to. Working with children provides you with the opportunity to develop a new purpose each day. Nothing is going to come easy, but there is nothing more gratifying than breaking through to a child and seeing them have that “ah ha” moment that you’ve both been striving towards.

Working with children is not going to be easy. Not everyone will respect your career choice; you won’t make as much money as your friends who work on Wall Street. There will always be something to grade, plan, assess, or adjust. You will connect with a group of children as time goes on, only to see them be replaced with new ones the following year. However, working with children is one of the most challenging, stimulating, and rewarding fields that you could potentially go in to, and although it’s not for everyone, you shouldn’t dismiss it just because others around you say so. Give it a try; you never know what might happen.

Noah Segal is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Special Education

Reflecting on Year One

By Winki Chan, SED 2018

My first year at the School of Education passed by way faster than I expected it to. I can still remember introducing myself and repeating the phrase “Hi, I am Winki from Hong Kong,” spending hours putting up photos and fairy lights in my dorm room, getting lost in the School of Education building (all the half floors), and getting really excited about all-you-can-eat ice cream in the dining halls (I still do!). All these memories mark the start of my journey here at School of Education at Boston University.

There were so many first times and instances of taking up the initiative and stepping out of the comfort zone in this last year. There were moments when I was so nervous that I had to force myself not to run away, when I was so discouraged that I just wanted to quit. The beginning of the transition was definitely difficult because everything was new and it took time for me to find my place in the community. Thankfully, I was able to settle down with the help of my friends.

Before I made my decision to come to BU, one of the phrases that I heard most often was that SED is a close-knitted community within the greater BU community. I didn’t really buy it until I got here. Everyone was so helpful and friendly. (Maybe because we are all learning to be future teachers). I didn’t know how the T worked and an upperclassman gave me her extra Charlie Card; I bombed my Transitional Mentor with emails regarding how to register for classes and what to wear in the cold; I went on food adventures with my new friends and we found new ways to procrastinate together; I struck up random conversations with my professors about diversity in classrooms. I have gotten more and more comfortable and I can proudly call Boston University my home.

Now, as a rising sophomore, I no longer have problems with the half floors in the School of Education building. I no longer confuse Dining Points with Convenience Points. I know the best studying spot on campus. I am thankful for everything that has happened this last year and for everyone that I have met, because they have helped me find my way here amid the changes going through in my life.

Winki Chan is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Early Childhood Education

The Past, Present and Future of My Passion

By Talia Cowen, SED 2017

The story of how I became interested and involved in my current major is somewhat comical. Rewind to the year 1960; my uncle Roger was born with Autism. A few years down the road, my Mom was born into a family that adored Roger and all that he had to offer to this world. Growing up with Roger led my Mom into working in the field of special needs, spending her summers and eventually her years working at the local community center as the Director of Special Needs. When I was around 9 or 10 years old, I remember walking in to the community center with my Mom. She saw someone she knew and they began communicating with their hands. I was so fascinated.

From that moment forward, I bragged as often as I could about my Mom’s incredible talent. I would flip my hair back, flash a toothy smile and say, “Yeah, my Mom knows Sign Language,” as if she had cured world hunger. I kept this little pride in the back of my mind for the next few years. When I was choosing my classes for my first year of high school, I noticed that American Sign Language was a language being offered and I could take it. I was over the moon with excitement! I shared the news with my Mom and told her how excited I was that she could help me! Her response, however, flipped my world upside down. She said to me, “Well Tal, I only know the alphabet and a few words, but I’m excited for you!” My face dropped. Everything I had ever known was a lie. I instantly felt less cool than when my Mom did know Sign Language.

Nevertheless, I decided to go through with taking it. During the first few weeks of the class we learned some basic signs and a lot about the Deaf culture and community. I was hooked. There was something about Deaf culture and community that tugged at my heart strings. I spent hours of my own time reading articles, watching YouTube videos of people signing, teaching my friends how to sign their names, and more. During my sophomore year of high school, it came to my attention that a lot of colleges and universities have language requirements of their applicants, and many of them do not accept American Sign Language as a language. Considering my love of this language and culture, I was infuriated. It was at that moment in time that I knew what I wanted to devote the rest of my life to, and luckily for me, any school that has Deaf Studies as a program does accept American Sign Language as a language for their language requirements.

When I began looking at colleges and universities during my junior year of high school, I found a wide range of programs. A lot of them revolving around American Sign Language specifically, and a lot of them focussing on Deaf Education. I wasn’t sure which route I wanted to take. I loved the language, but I also wanted a rich education in the culture and community. I also have my reservations about the educational system, so I wasn’t entirely certain I wanted to be a teacher. During spring break of that year, my Dad, sister and I set out to visit a number of schools up north. My Mom called us from home the day before we were due to visit Boston University and was ecstatic to tell us about the program that BU has. She sent me weblinks and told me all about what she had read. That’s it, I thought, this is what I’ve been searching for. There couldn’t have been a program better fitting my desires. We were able to set up a meeting with the Director of Student Services for the School of Education to hear all about the program and the opportunities I would have. From that day forward I had my heart set on Boston University. I went to every local open house and even made it up to Boston for some open houses. I filled out and submitted the application the second it became available.

On December 14, 2012, I was sitting at a computer in technology class and decided to check on my BU decision for the hundredth time that week seeing as decisions were due to come out by December 15th. I opened up the website, logged in, and immediately saw the word “Congratulations!” I gasped while tears filled my eyes. There is no feeling in the world that compared to that feeling. I ran to my teacher and exasperatedly told him that I was accepted to my dream school and I was going to call my Mom. My Mom was expecting a call, so the phone hardly rang once before she answered, “What??!!” I sobbed in the phone until I was able to muster up the words “I’m going to BU!!!!!”

My two years so far here at Boston University in the Deaf Studies program have been nothing less than my expectations. While we’re always trying to expand the program and spread the word, I do have to say that it’s quite nice having the little family that we do. My favorite experience thus far in the Deaf Studies program took place in the Introduction to the Deaf World class taught by Professor Bucci. Our final project was to come up with an idea that we “think would reduce ignorance and promote positive awareness and the dispelling of myths or negative attitudes toward Deaf people who use ASL/celebrate the Deaf World” (DE500 Syllabus, Bucci). A hefty task to say the least, but how cool was it that I now had an assignment revolving around the entire reason that I became interested in this major. My idea was to essentially have a “Deaf caravan” that would travel around the country and do crash course presentations to grade school students about Deaf people and their amazing culture and community. I created a website to display all of the information about this imaginary company. This project was so important to me because it allowed me to see just how tangible my ideas can be. If I want to pursue this idea after college, a bulk of the work has already been done. For more information on my project, here is the aforementioned website:

Speaking of the future, I might be one of the few to say this, but I’m ecstatic, not nervous. I cannot wait for what my future holds. That’s not to say that I’m not enjoying the present and taking in all the opportunities that I have right now, but knowing my passion early on in life has been an incredible blessing. I’m constantly asked what I want to do with my major as a career and the thing about the Deaf Studies major is that it’s very specifically broad. It puts me in a specific career field, but one with an immense amount of options. Additionally, I have a minor in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. This minor opens up even more options for me. Right now, I am leaning towards opening up a Speech Therapy practice with a philosophy on bilingualism between spoken English and American Sign Language. What’s important to me when it comes to whether or not to implant a Deaf child is that regardless of implantation or not, the child grows up knowing that he or she is Deaf and knows of the culture, community and language that they have at their disposal. When I interned in an elementary school during high school, I worked with a boy in third grade who was implanted and being taught ASL and given access to an interpreter, while he was also being given speech therapy. I really appreciated this approach because this allows the boy to choose which path works best for him when he is a bit older. Yes, there are flaws in this approach as there are in every approach to this matter, but I think of all the options, this one has the most pros over cons.

So that’s my story in a nutshell. I found my passion early, dreamt about it, now I’m learning about it, and soon I’ll be living it! I’m thankful every single day for all of the opportunities I’ve been given and the life I’ve been blessed with. Thanks for reading!

Talia Cowen is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Deaf Studies