I Teach Social Studies: Now What Does That Mean?

By Alex Bruno, SED 2015

As I sat in my Teaching Historical Literacy class, the voices of Howard Zinn and Peter Gibbon flowed from the speakers; eloquently arguing the place of teaching patriotism during a time of war within America’s classrooms. Both having spent time at Boston University, Zinn as a professor and Gibbon as a senior research fellow, this conversation really felt as if it was hitting home. And as the debate began to unfold, it became evident to me that these two men were having a conversation much bigger than themselves; Zinn was not merely advocating for a more honest approach to analyzing the United States place in history and Gibbon was not just stating that students should be taught informed loyalty to their country. These two men were having a larger conversation that happens every single day between educators. They were talking about what the students of this country should be taught and what they should walk out of the classroom knowing.

So then, what does it mean to teach social studies? To answer this question, I thought back to all the courses I have taken throughout my time at BU and what my professors have taught me. I can think back to my very first history class at BU, entitled American Popular Culture. Through books like Peyton Place, Passing and Focus, my professor showed me how to look at history through the eyes of the people and the popular culture of that time period. Fast forward to sophomore year and my professor is breaking down the intricacies of US foreign policy and its repercussions around the world. Now move to junior year and I am being taught the importance of citizenship education and having students take an active role in their community. And now put yourself back into my Teaching Historical Literacy classroom, a senior only a few months away having my own class as a student teacher.

But during this reflective cycle of thought, a peaceful revelation came to me; that revelation being that there is no predicated method to teaching Social Studies. Teaching this subject can be everything from examining the trends of urbanites through the lens of Alfred Hitchcock in Rear Window to discussing the ramifications of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It can be something as minute as touring your students through the city they live and explaining its geography or as large as getting them to register to vote in their first election. This freedom truly embodies the beauty of teaching social studies and as long as we as educators push students to become more open minded active human beings in their community and in their schools, this freedom will never change.

Alex Bruno is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in History.

Community

By Emily Talley, SED 2016

The facts are that Boston University has 33,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and what I imagine to be an entire militia of facilities and grounds keepers that check the oil in this well-oiled machine. In the midst of all of this, the School of Education is here to, once again, teach y’all a lesson – this time, about community. It’s one of the first things that we all talk about in regards to our school. This is not just a sales pitch, and it certainly isn’t by mistake.

Boston University has been serving me up new challenges every day in every way since I bought my first one-way bus ticket to South Station, but the School of Education has always had me covered. Before I arrived on campus I had a phone call from a Dean’s Host, a postcard from a Transitional Mentor, a personal meeting with the former Director of Student Services Jackie Boyle, and a lot of business cards on my corkboard. At Orientation I met people who have been challenging my ideals and buying me coffee to this day. As an upperclassman, my former mentee is one of my best friends. My ED100 group that took the Rocket Bus to Alcott Elementary School every Wednesday still gets together at least once a semester. Before I left to study abroad, my Dean’s Host family gave me a scrapbook, and even though she doesn’t advise our student groups anymore, I still emailed pictures to Jackie Boyle the day after the Transitional Mentor Harbor Cruise.

So okay, maybe you say I’m sentimental – I will deny it to the bitter end. Maybe, you say, I made the decision to be so involved in SED – to that I say: why wouldn’t I be? Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s Maybelline or maybe it’s no one thing at all. Community is in our foundation, in our attitudes, and in our expectations.

Our offices hold annual holiday parties with team activities. Our advisors teach our courses and show up on Sunday mornings to stand side-by-side with us and present at Open Houses. Dean Vaughn would stop me in the street to say hello on my way to class. Dean Lehr stopped me in the hallway last week. Professor Tate invites everyone to his faculty-in-residence apartment every Monday night to have cookies baked by his wife and chat about his French-speaking grandchildren. Our Dean’s Hosts boast about Transitional Mentors, our Transitional Mentors build Student Government meetings into their agenda, and our Student Government invites everyone together for events that easily become traditions because we, as a collective effort, choose to make them memorable.

The School of Education, like all good teachers, states the objective early, starts the lesson immediately, uses a range of examples, and provides ample opportunities to show what you know. The School of Education, above all else, teaches community.

Emily Talley is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Modern Foreign Language. 

The Boston Book Festival with English Educators

By Carina Traub, SED 2016

Carina Traub

At Boston University, we like to say that Boston is our campus. This felt especially true the weekend of the Boston Book Festival in October. English Educators, the club for English education majors and other students interested in the teaching of English, explored the festival together, and attended two talks, one about education and another about young adult literature.

The first talk we attended was Finnish Lessons, featuring Pasi Sahlberg, an education expert from Finland. I had written a final paper using his book Finnish Lessons and even blogged about my excitement over the Finnish education system last year. Listening to him speak was so fantastic, and it was so gratifying to introduce my fellow club members to the magic of Finnish education.

Between talks, we wandered through the various booths. The community value of literacy was palpable, and affirming as an English Educator. We stopped by the booth for 826 Boston, a creative writing and homework center for underserved students in the Boston Public Schools. Our club raised over $500 for the organization last year during the Write-a-Thon, so it was rewarding to see all the students they were engaging at the festival.

After collecting a plethora of free bookmarks and perusing the $3 book sales, we headed to our second talk: Young Adult (YA) Literature- Tackling Tough Topics. As English teachers, we seek to help our students learn from other perspectives and process important topics. However, it can be quite the balancing act to raise such meaningful issues and then break them down effectively. The panel, featuring four YA authors and moderated by the Boston Public Library children’s librarian, discussed issues such as sexuality, abuse, sexual assault and rape.

As a student organization of future educators, we greatly benefitted from the discussion. One of the English Educators club members, an exchange student from France, could not believe that talking about sex was so taboo in American schools. I personally was interested in how books that tackle tough topics could avoid being classified as “problem novels,” a YA literature term about books that are reductive in their treatment of a particular issue. Problem novels cease to exist outside their issues, while the books of our panelists and many reputable YA authors take a more whole-book approach, where the emphasis is on characters and plot as opposed to a single issue consuming everything.

During the Boston Book Festival, I was especially grateful to have Boston as my campus. My professors were authors and experts, and I was immersed in a world passionate about literacy. Thank you, Boston, for a wonderful weekend.

Carina Traub is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in English Education.

Giving Math a Second Chance

By Debra Regensburger, SED 2017

Its-OK-To-Like-Math-image-500x500

I have never liked math. I dreaded math classes in elementary through high school and saved my math homework for last when I got home. I don’t quite have a reason for why I didn’t like it. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t very good at it. I try to think back as to why I didn’t understand the concepts, and I can’t pinpoint one reason. I suspect I didn’t like the mystery of math. I never knew why I did certain formulas or solved problems in certain ways. As someone who needs to understand why I do something in order to comfortably perform the task, math class was tough to sit through.

Today however there have been changes in curriculum. I understand that the Common Core Curriculum is a controversial topic, but the differences it is making in math are tremendous. It requires teachers to have conversations with students about why math is the way it is, why we get the answer we get. It requires that the students know how to articulate what they are learning. It requires that the students and teachers help one another to understand.

When I saw that math was a required class for my sophomore year at BU I panicked. However this experience has been the opposite of everything I had earlier anticipated. In accordance with the curriculum we will one day have to teach, this class urges me to think, solve and then articulate my process in five different ways. I used to think addition, multiplication and fractions were easy. In some sense they are still easy to solve, but now I am learning why these equations work and how to provide explanations to any type of learner. I am practicing the skills I want my students to understand and also getting a chance to stand in front of the class and practice being an instructor. I develop my conversational, mathematic and literary skills from the teamwork and discourse our class is based on.

I think about the future of education and this is why I want to be a part of it. Perhaps if I had been taught math in this way I would not have dreaded the classes or homework as much as I did. At such a young age we decide what we like and dislike and rarely do we go back on our word. Now I see that with the right discussions, multiple presentations of the same topic and dedication, hard topics can be broken down and explained. I was worried that I would not be able to properly teach math in my own classroom because of my feelings towards the topic, but now I have the confidence needed.  Math is my favorite class this semester (an accomplishment on its own) because I leave that class everyday knowing I come out a better teacher.

Debra Regensburger is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Elementary and Special Education. 

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.