Expect the Unexpected

By Sophie Klein, SED 2016

My first summer as a camp counselor 7 years ago, I took on the additional duty of bus counselor. When the camp director called me and asked me if I would consider this position, I was flattered that he thought I was responsible and I was thrilled to be making extra money. I was going to be the best bus counselor in the history of bus counseling. I had a clipboard, names, addresses and an emergency barf kit that my mother put together that morning.

I was excited as the bus doors shut and the bus pulled away from my building. This was going to be fun. By the time the bus reached the camp 60 minutes later, I had a camper with magic marker all over his face, a camper loudly sobbing as to why he even had to go to camp, multiple campers asking if we were there yet, a camper who tossed a note for his counselor out the window and a camper who threw up in the aisle as the other horrified campers (and myself) watched the puke rolling up and down the aisle as we all covered our noses. Needless to say, I no longer felt flattered and I never wanted to take the bus again. But guess what?  I stuck it out. I stayed, and was thanked a great deal by the nannies and the moms at the end of the day as their children arrived home in one piece.

So what’s the point of this story? Every time I walk into a classroom, I think back to that chaotic scene and know that as a teacher, there will be many first days filled with unexpected moments, and in a way that is what makes education and teaching so exciting; you never know what you’re going to walk into. I know that by the time I graduate I will be prepared to take on a classroom of 30 New York City public schoolers thanks to my education from SED. We have been taught to expect the unexpected and think on our toes and use every resource imaginable to make a lasting impact on our students. I look forward to finding a community similar to the one that I have found at SED that values all of the first days and surprises along the way.

Sophie Klein is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Early Childhood Education.

Why I Care

By Bonnie Tynes, SED 2016

I am currently in my third year of studying education and second year of studying special education at Boston University. This third year is monumental in many ways for me. It means that I’ve now spent nearly one fifth of my life (does that make me feel old or young?) consumed by thoughts, emotions, readings, and assessments surrounding education. It means that I’m three years closer to becoming a real person and pursuing a real career in the field of education. It means that I’m an upperclassman now. It means no turning back. It means confidence in my choices, as worrisome as they may have seemed at the time of conception.

Friends and family frequently ask me, “what made you want to become a teacher?” and my response today is fairly automatic. I want to be a teacher because I want to help children reach their full potential. I want to be their mentor, moral pilot, and mother when they don’t have one at home. I want them to want to succeed, and I want our future generations to be a product of the hard work put in by my fellow educators and myself.

I say inspirational things, and I think inspirational thoughts about education, but it isn’t really until I’m in a classroom with a child that the real inspiration happens. I can tell person after person why I’m passionate about education, but until you see me interact with a student you won’t really know. The real concept of education, all of the blood, sweat, and tears that actually go into the field, is uncharted territory for most. It’s not about any of that though. What I wish I could tell my friends and family when they ask me this is “come see me with a student, and then you’ll see.”

I spent my summer this year as a teacher’s assistant at Carroll School in Waltham, Massachusetts. A school for students with dyslexia and language-based disabilities, Carroll strives to encourage and empower their children to be model students and confident learners for future years to come. On my first day at Carroll, I was extremely nervous to approach an entirely new class of students. However, by the end of the day my six lovely second-graders treated me like a friend who they’d known their whole life. On my second day, I was greeted with hugs from the girls, high fives from two of the boys, and one sweet “good morning Miss Bonnie.” You would have thought I’d won the lottery.

I am not studying education because I think that I can single-handedly change the face of one of the most complex working systems in our great nation. I am not studying education to pour knowledge into young minds and see that knowledge reflected on tests and assessments. I am studying education because I can’t see myself doing any other job in this world. I live for these kids’ success. Not just academic success, but long-term success as a happy healthy member of society. Not to mention, their hugs, drawings, and “good mornings.”

Bonnie Tynes is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Special Education.


Theory into Practice: Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

By Colleen Mahany, SED 2015

I am in my senior year at Boston University’s School of Education and I am student teaching at a middle school. I’ve been at the school for less than two months and I’m already fully in charge of the lesson plans, classroom management, grading, and general wellbeing of my students. In short, I feel like a real, walking, talking teacher. Finally.

Anyway, after three years of filling my undergraduate head with as much pedagogy as I can, I have begun to test it all on my students. Essentially, my seventh graders are my guinea pigs. Sometimes I implement strategies on purpose, such as having students sort tier three vocabulary words into a word web. That’s a fancy way of saying that I have my students sort domain-specific vocabulary into different categories on a graphic organizer. Other times, I put together a lesson and realize happily (and luckily) that aspects of my lesson reflect established, research-based instruction.

For example, my very first, independently planned and executed lesson was about what constitutes a civilization. For homework, I wanted them to review the information and convey to me that they understood the notes and group work from that day. I allowed students to choose their mode of response. If they felt that they were a strong writer, I encouraged them to write a letter, speech, or skit. If they felt that they were better able to express their ideas through pictures, I encouraged them to create an illustration, comic, or cartoon. If they were talented songstresses, I encouraged them to write a song.

The next day I received a variety of versions of the assignment, which made me happy since the students, for the most part, demonstrated that they understood the major concepts of the lesson. Some of my students struggle to work independently, but thrive working in groups. As a result, I had a group of students turn in a group skit. I also found that this approach was most helpful for English Language Leaners who are not completely comfortable with the language yet. Obviously English Language Learners need ample practice with reading, writing, and speaking, but, when appropriate, I try to allow them to show they know the information in a comfortable way. One of my students also voluntarily turned the small homework assignment into a poster presentation. I was beyond thrilled that this 12-year-old boy felt inspired to go beyond the ordinary and expected.

The whole point of this rant is not to glorify my first teaching experience; trust me, I have had my fair share of flopped and confusing lessons this semester. I just want to explain how I reflected and realized that I accidentally took something I learned in my Introduction to Education course and put its ideas into my lesson.  Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory basically asserts that students have nine different areas of strengths and learn best through different modalities. These strengths include visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical, naturalist, and existential. In a small way, the homework assignment reflected this theory and translated it into practice. Students were able to explore their strengths and learn in a way that made the most sense to them. Hopefully, I make the happy mistake of being influenced by classic, education research while planning lessons. Or, you know, include instructionally sound practices on purpose.

Colleen Mahany is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in History.

Reshaping Standardized Testing

By Griffin Monahan, SED 2016

Standardized testing isn’t going anywhere soon, but it can be reshaped. Without a powerful piece of federal legislation to counter The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, it will be impossible to remove standardized testing from public schools in America. It’s a hard pill to swallow for some. Spending several days of school taking state exams. Students sit at their desks for several hours as they tackle thick packets of multiple-choice questions. It is an ugly realization: standardized testing isn’t going anywhere soon.

Fear not, the future of education isn’t as dark as it may seem. Recently Matt Malone, the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, spoke to a large group of Boston University students. He spoke on the current state of education in Massachusetts and the country. A major issue that Mr. Malone recognized was how standardized testing has grown to Godzilla sized proportions. One of Massachusetts’ major leaders in the field of education believes that there is too much test taking. That means there is potential for change if the uppermost leadership recognizes a problem with testing. Mr. Malone conceded that formal measurements of student progress will not fade away anytime soon but he did assert that they can be reduced in size.

How else can states measure student progress other than formal standardized testing? One method that Mr. Malone suggested was statewide student portfolios. Both students and teachers would collect student work throughout the year to demonstrate proficiency and more importantly progress. Standardized tests could be reduced in size and emphasis through the addition of alternative measures such as the student portfolio. Hands on assessments like this give some control back to classroom teachers. If teachers do not have to worry about two weeks of testing then they can teach more lessons focused on their curriculum and less on state test standards. Less drill and kill and more projects and student collaboration results in engaging classrooms. The future of education isn’t so bleak after all, we just need to reshape some of the problems into solutions.

Griffin Monahan is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in History.

A Life-Long Dream: Educating the Girls of Afghanistan

By Alisha Parikh, SED 2017

A girl and her father walked back to their home from a small living room that the girl called her school. The two missed a roadside bomb, by minutes. Upon entering their home, the phone rings with a voice on the other end that warned, if the father were to continue sending his daughter to “school,” they would try again tomorrow. This story was shared by a woman named Shabana Basij-Rasikh, on her Ted Talk “Dare to educate Afghan girls.”

Afghanistan is a country today where it is still risky for girls to attend school or be educated, and perhaps even one of the riskiest in the world. The title, “Dare to educate Afghan girls” for me, is so much more than merely the title of an empowering Ted Talk. It is my life-long dream to educate girls in Afghanistan, and why this country in particular? I never really have been able to develop a concrete answer for this question, and maybe will only with time and reflection. But time and reflection, after being asked numerous times why I so strongly persist on one day going to Afghanistan, have only made my desire to do so stronger. But perhaps I say this country in particular because behind the war-torn streets, the women whose independence has been destroyed, and the children who were unable to play in their backyard without a fear of being killed, I see opportunity, courage, and a resilience to be dictated by such cruel authority.

One aspect of the country in which I have seen a tremendous potential for change is the education of girls. As Shabana Basij-Rasikh encourages her audience to think about, what is the value of an educated daughter? In my view, the value of educated girls and women in a country such as Afghanistan is immense, and to deny this basic human right is to undermine so many young girls’ dignity and confidence. Its value may be that by educating the women of Afghanistan, their daughters and granddaughters will see education as a realistic opportunity, not something that is denied in an attempt to objectify women and demolish power even over their own lives. Or perhaps its value is that by educating the women of Afghanistan, their success and ambition will bring the country in a place to recover from decades of war and the brutality of the Taliban. The potential for change and value that I see in educating Afghan girls only continues to grow as I envision schools in Afghanistan embracing the girls of its county.

As an academically ambitious student, I see the value of my own education as a chance for me to pursue my passion and a meaningful career. In my personal experience, I never thought twice about my education – it was always a given, always a part of my future. But in third world countries, education is not always such a priority. And in the context of a country like Afghanistan, I believe that education – particularly for young girls – is priceless. Education and the difference it can make for one’s future gives individuals a purpose, a motive to work hard, and a reason to strive for success. If all people in Afghanistan were to value education, and work so that all Afghan children were able to receive an education, I believe the faith of people for the country’s future would be boundless. I have always believed that education is the solution to so many of the problems that exist in our world today. And I think a value and a dare to educate girls in Afghanistan would go a long way.

This is the link to Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s TED Talk: www.ted.com/talks/shabana_basij_rasikh_dare_to_educate_afghan_girls?utm_campaign=&utm_content=awesm-publisher&language=en&utm_medium=on.ted.com-facebook-share&utm_source=m.facebook.com&awesm=on.ted.com_t07YR

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

Follow Your Own Instruction

By Sally Kaplan, SED 2017

As almost all education majors understand, we didn’t choose our major, it chose us. Since I can remember, I have strived to become an educator and my dream of teaching has played a part in many of the choices I make for my life. My mom still laughs at the fact that when I was six, I asked for an overhead projector for Christmas. My room was filled with markers and white boards and every weekend, I would pretend to teach an imaginary class. If you couldn’t tell, becoming a teacher was never really a question, it just depended which school would help me fulfill my dream. When I received my congratulations from Boston University, I knew the School of Education was going to be the faucet through which I would channel my passion.

When I finally settled down and looked over my schedule freshman year, I was pleasantly surprised to see not only Intro to Education but also Movement in Education. I had never considered movement to be a feasible part of the classroom, but I started to realize how important it really was. The main thing that stuck out to me from this class though, was Dr. Benes’ teaching style. She used the Socratic method to conduct classroom discussions, and she instituted aspects to the room that created a much more comfortable setting. In so many of our education classes, I feel as if the teachers are there to teach us education methods, but the actual way they teach us represents exactly what they tell us not to do. I have always found it ironic when I am typing into my notes not to lecture, while sitting in a three-hour lecture. I was so pleasantly surprised when Dr. Benes actually set up her class so it not only taught us how to teach, but also modeled an appropriate way to conduct a classroom.

I was so touched by her movement class, so I was so thrilled to see that I was taking another one of Dr. Benes classes this year. This semester I am taking Health Education, but I feel like the class is also, once again, supplying me with a weekly observation to see how to become a better teacher. For instance, in the beginning of her class, we are allowed two minutes to meditate, we write down events that are causing us stress and put them in a box so we can forget about them, and we also do a class check in where each student shares how they are feeling from 1-5 and why. These little aspects only take about five minutes but completely change the classroom atmosphere. Along with these little add-ons, she allows for continuous group work and electronic participation, which lends for the constant exchange of ideas and modernizes the classroom experience.

I came to Boston University for the help I needed to define and form my teaching pedagogy and I feel as if Dr. Benes has created a learning experience in which I can learn not only from the content in which she is teaching, but I can pick up ideas for my future classrooms from the model she sets. I appreciate that she takes the time to develop such a comprehensive classroom environment and I hope that more teachers start teaching not only content matter, but take the time to showcase the skills that create an effective teacher.

Sally Kaplan is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Elementary and Special Education.