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.

A Few Good Men

By Noah Segal, SED 2017

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. That’s because the truth contradicts just about everything you probably learned growing up. Dads work long, late hours in office buildings that tower over the city streets, while moms cut fresh orange slices and pack the kids into the minivan for soccer practice, right? Wrong.

Although I am currently a Special Education major at Boston University, my ultimate goal is to work with early childhood aged children in some capacity. When I tell girls that they normally say something like, “Aw, that’s so cute!” However, guys generally elicit quite a different response. Mostly something like, “No, but seriously bro, what do you actually wanna do?” When I ask them what they mean while flashing a mockingly curious smile, most of the time I can see the discomfort of my confidence dripping and oozing from their mouth, ears, and nostrils as they try to wrap their heads around what they just heard. Generally, according to their logic, men are suppose to wear suits, carry a briefcase, make all the money, and hold all the power. But what could be more powerful than teaching a three-year-old on a frigid winter day how to zipper their coat, fasten their mittens and strap on their boots all by themselves? Or better yet, what could be more powerful than teaching a Kindergartener how to read for the first time? Knowledge is power, and those lessons are priceless. I’ll concede to the fact that I probably won’t be wearing a suit to work everyday, or be carrying a briefcase full of important documents to lengthy business meetings, but why would I want to get finger paint on my fresh J. Crew suit? Why would I want to shuffle through paper after paper during a (bored) meeting when I could be covering my classroom walls with the artwork of my students? No offense to your father, but my job sounds like a lot more fun.

Prior to transferring to BU this semester, I worked in a preschool for three years. The only men in the building other than myself were the two custodians. By the end of year three I couldn’t even keep track of how many times someone curiously and rudely stopped me in the hallway or kitchen to ask what I was doing there or if I could get them a mop. Currently, in my classes here at BU, the ratio of male to female students has to be something like 1:15, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that estimate was on the low side. So, where are all the men? I have only been at BU for about five weeks, but from my observations, many of the guys in SED are Secondary Education majors. I can’t recall the exact number of guys that I’ve met that are Early Childhood, Special Education, or Elementary Education majors, but I am certain that I could count them on one hand. In my opinion, there are two ways of looking at this situation. One way is to rationalize that the few guys who are pursuing careers in work related to young children happen to be incredibly passionate and committed to it despite the fact that it contradicts many American societal norms. The second way to view this issue is to understand that it takes an incredibly patient, empathetic, confident man to work with young children, and frankly, I don’t think most guys are man enough for the challenge.

So, do you still believe that men only belong in boardrooms but can’t lead circle time? Do you still think that wealth and power can only be quantified in dollars and cents rather than the number of tears dried, diapers changed, and lessons learned? If so, despite that being sad, it’s all right because you wouldn’t even make it to snack time at a preschool. However, for the few men who are capable, we find ourselves struggling to gain respect, trust, and admiration from those who refuse to denounce archaic gender stereotypes. So try to be flexible in your thinking because for as much a woman belongs in your father’s boardroom, a man belongs in your mother’s preschool classroom. Now that’s the truth, can you handle it?

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

Stop and Watch the Leaves Fall

By Jessica Gulotta, SED 2017

Jessica Gulotta

There’s something about autumn that overwhelms me with comfort and bliss. Part of me thinks it’s because everything’s covered in different shades of orange and red; but mostly, it’s the change that the fall goes through that encompasses my admiration. When leaves change color, they’re not only dying, but they’re parting from their home, getting ready to be taken helplessly by the wind. There’s a beauty in this loss of life—it expands the room for impending growth and reveals the strength that vulnerability compels.

I was seven years old when I first started seeing nature as a symbol for life. Not metaphorically yet of course, but I was able to understand that people change as do the seasons. My Dad had taken me on one of his outdoor adventures again, and I was smitten with the fallen leaves. I remember him wiping the dirt off my hands as I picked up leaves from the newly cold ground. Watching me closely, he knew it was time for my first, of many, inspirational life chats. He started off by explaining modestly, why plants die when it gets cold, and grow when it gets warm. He told me how important it was to recognize change and appreciate it. He enforced that if I loved watching the leaves fall and blow throughout the wind, then I should do exactly that (and never stop). I remember him cleaning the dirt out from underneath my fingernails, making me pinky promise that I’ll always make time for what I love.

I think in college, it’s easy to get lost in obligations. Activities that used to be fun start to feel like a job, and taking time for oneself becomes nearly impossible. We mustn’t forget to stop and take time—time for our passion, time for our loved ones, and time for ourselves. When we remember to stop and take time, we allow expansion as individuals and development for change. There’s empowerment in knowing that if we desire to change, we can. So as I’ll walk along the esplanade this fall, embracing the comfort in the wind, I’ll keep that pinky promise to my Dad—and I encourage you to join me, and watch the leaves fall.

My Education Degree Will Take Me Places

By Navraj Narula, SED 2016

CER

I will always and forever want to be a teacher. When I was younger, I dreamed of becoming an actress. I can also see myself as a writer, lawyer, CS programmer, or photographer – these careers encompass things I am passionate about; however, when it came time to pick a major, I went with education and I do not regret it all. I still want to be a teacher, more than anything else.

This summer, I applied to Boston University Study Abroad’s internship program in Washington, D.C. I expected my program manager to seek out an internship in a summer school program, a tutoring service company, or anything related to me having direct contact with students. However, this was not the case. Instead, I was advised to apply to non-profit think tanks. I felt as if a lot of these places were not even remotely related to my major, except perhaps The Center for Education Reform (CER). So, I sent in my application to CER hoping to hear back from them with a “Yes!”

That “Yes!” from the organization’s executive vice president may have been about the best thing that had ever happened to me yet. I am an international student, ethnically Indian and born and raised in Thailand. Having the chance to intern in the capital of the United States, even at a non-profit organization a lot of people have never really heard about (although they should!), was a big deal to me. I was excited to learn what the working world was like and I came back to Boston University truly as a young professional.

At my internship, I did not receive the opportunity to work with students directly; and for the first time, I found that okay. I worked with my office instead: the development team, the communications team, and even the leadership team. I planned an event, featuring panelists specializing in educational policy, with my fellow interns. Additionally, I attended a policy briefing on the Hill related to rural education and was even able to meet with Katherine Haley, a policy advisor to the Speaker of the House, to discuss educational policy.

Policy – it was everywhere. I researched it at my internship, wrote an essay on it in my political strategies class, and came home to find my friends pushing for one interest over another. I had never considered a subject like political science to be of interest to me. I thought I would be studying governmental structure, the law-making process, and the philosophy of the Framers. However, political science is more than that. It is advocating for an issue you care about; it is lobbying in all areas and diversity represented in one room, as it should be. It is just interesting. Do I want to be a lawyer now? No. However, I can see myself involved in a career in educational policy. My biggest takeaway from CER and interning in D.C. is that if I set my mind to something, I actually could accomplish that task – better than I thought I ever would.

I still want to be a teacher, but I am thankful for my policy-related internship. There are many things that an education major can do, and I am glad that I at least know that I have the option to engage in another profession if I wanted to.

Navraj Narula is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in English Education and concentrating in TESOL.

My Summer at Camp

By Michelle Yelaska, SED 2016

The perfect summer consists of fun, games, and absorbing as much sun as possible. This summer, I worked at a day camp for students with special needs ages 13-22. As a math education major here in the School of Education, I had no previous experience working with students with disabilities. Due to my inexperience, my first day of work was terrifying. Although extremely hesitant at the beginning, I grew to love, respect, and have a deeper understanding of students with special needs while having fun, playing games, and basking in the sun.

One of my favorite memories from summer camp was the talent show. Even though some campers were quiet and reserved, most students performed without coercion from the counselors. The most memorable performances were campers who went for it: a crowd-pleasing rendition of Bon Jovi, street worthy break dancing, and athletic basketball trick shots. On stage, I loved the students’ energy and enthusiasm for their various passions. My expectations of shy and socially withdrawn campers disintegrated as they took the stage with excitement and vigor. Each student brought something unique to the talent show, making every camper special in my heart.

In addition to special events like the talent show, we played several daily games with physical activity. When bowling, students stood in their lines and didn’t cut each other. If a camper hadn’t received a turn yet, their peers allowed them to cut so everyone had a chance to play the game. In the occasion that a camper was emotionally distraught, one student in particular comforted them immediately. During these games, although campers displayed occasional sass, I gained their respect and they gained mine. In the end, our mutual relationships were based on taking into consideration each other’s feelings and needs.

Since the other half of the year consists of huddling by a heater, we spent quality time outdoors. Counselors designed activities for participants to share favorite hobbies, movies, and interests. Through these games, everyone learned about the students as people. Additionally, this was a great opportunity to work on my communication skills. For example, with nonverbal students, we used our hands to give two options such as “Yes” or “No” where the students could point to what they were thinking. While getting to know the students, I learned multiple techniques for communicating with students.

Overall, this summer I not only enjoyed my job, but also had fun, played games, spent time outdoors, and as a bonus, learned many new tools to use in my classroom. Although outside my comfort zone at the beginning, I grew to love my experience as a camp counselor for students with special needs. As I became closer to my campers, I respected them as people, not as students with special needs. Finally, I learned strategies to communicate with students of unique disabilities. For a broader worldview, I strongly encourage every education major to work with students you would not normally work with. Whether an Elementary education major tutoring high school students in the SATs or an English education major working with bilingual students, moving outside of your education safe bubble will expand your mindset.

SED’s Transitional Mentor Program #tmfamily

By Amanda Dolce, SED 2016

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing colors. The air is getting crisper. The Transitional Mentor Program is frolicking about SED, BU, and Boston! My favorite part of coming back to BU in the fall has always been the start of the Transitional Mentor Program, a student group which works to acclimate new Terriers to life in SED, BU, and Boston.

AmandaTMBlogPhoto

Through the program, each new Terrier in the School of Education is matched with an upper-class student who will serve as a mentor.

The job of the mentor is to answer questions and be a resource for anything new students might need. The mentors and their “mentees,” as the new students are affectionately called, communicate over the summer and get the opportunity to bond at the many exciting events the TM Program hosts. The mentor-mentee bond is unique to the SED family, meriting its own Twitter and Instagram hashtags, #tmlove and #tmfamily.

That family love is never more present than at the annual TM Program Boston Harbor Cruise! A night filled with food, dancing, and sightseeing is exactly what everyone needs to start off the new year. It is by far my favorite TM event and my best SED memory.

As a former mentee, mentor, and now a Transitional Mentor Coordinator, I may be biased, but I can easily say the program has made my time here exponentially better than I expected. The memories, friends, and mentor skills it has provided for me are priceless. The hard work and dedication that everyone involved with the program displays truly pays tribute to the community here at the School of Education.

For more information check out our website: bu.edu/sedadmitted/transitional-mentors/