Building Meaningful Relationships

By Carina Traub, SED’16

Carina's eighth grade English classroom in Ecuador.

Carina’s eighth grade English classroom in Ecuador.

“This is for you.” Catlynn, one of my eighth grade English students hands me a packet of poetry. I give her a hug. I still have a week left of my student teaching in Ecuador, but this is my first major goodbye, as Catlynn is leaving early for vacation.

Catlynn and her class had formed this surprisingly well-developed inside joke about their plan to get me to stay in Ecuador forever. First, I needed to drop out of college. In their heads, when you drop out of college, you work at McDonald’s, so they decided that would be my second step. In order to prepare me for this, they taught me how to say, “Bienvenidos a McDonald’s, con que le puedo ayudar?” (Welcome to McDonald’s, how can I help you?). Catlynn had become very invested in getting me to “give up on my dreams” and work in an Ecuadorian McDonald’s so I could live with her and never leave.

However, as I sat in my classroom, reading through Catlynn’s packet, I reached the ending of one of her poems (copied exactly from the original):

“From the bottom of my heart

I wish you graduate successfully

And become a English teacher

Oh yes,

Carina you do need a degree actualy


Never stop chasing your dreams”

I may not have been able to teach her when to use “a” versus “an,” or how to spell “actually,” but clearly we were able to form a meaningful relationship. And when I wonder where I learned how to form such meaningful relationships with students, I simply think back to the lessons my School of Education professors have taught me by example.

Professor Christina Dobbs taught me about meaningful relationships when she didn’t just go the extra mile, but she went 2,973 extra miles to come observe me teach in Ecuador, demonstrating just how much she cares about me and my progress as an aspiring educator. Professor Jen Green showed me how to care for students by comforting me after a family emergency, even though I’d never even taken a class with her before.

I could go on and on about times I was struggling and SED professors didn’t just come to my rescue, but made me feel supported and capable myself. They showed me firsthand the power of meaningful relationships with students, and I feel fortunate to have been able to bring that connectivity to my classroom in Ecuador. As Professor Johanna Ennser-Kananen puts it, “there is no education without relation.”

Carina Traub graduated from the School of Education this May, as a major in English Education, English, and English as a Second Language.

Why LEGO’s Announcement of a Wheelchair Toy Piece is Such a Big Deal

By Noah Segal, SED’16


On January 28, 2016, the toy company LEGO announced that starting this summer, they will be selling a wheelchair for their popular toy sets. This is a big deal.

This is an important step in providing children with physical disabilities the opportunity to play with mainstream toys that actually look like them. As someone who has never had to experience anything like this, it is hard for me to fathom the fact that many children with physical disabilities only play with dolls, action figures, and LEGOs that walk on two feet without any extra support. What kind of message does that send to those children about what society expects them to eventually become?

I am certain that I am not the only one who has a preschool yearbook collecting dust somewhere in their basement where in it we proclaimed that we were either going to be a something like a firefighter, ballerina, or a Power Ranger (obviously the green one) when we grew up. Personally, being able to play with Power Ranger action figures played a huge role in my four-year-old self’s aspirations. When I played with the green Power Ranger, I was the green Power Ranger. I was saving the world through that green and white plastic action figure. I was able to play out the wild, make believe scenarios in my head using an action figure that looked like me, ran like me, and jumped like me. Although now at age 23, I am almost certain that I will never become the green Power Ranger, (although who can really say with any certainty?) I value the fact that I was at least afforded the opportunity to dream about it as a child.

I’m not saying that children with physical disabilities should be forbidden from identifying with toys that are without a disability, but I am acknowledging that there should be more toys similar in appearance to children with physical disabilities.

LEGO is taking a big first step in literally leveling the playing field for typical children and their peers with physical disabilities. In the near future I look forward to seeing more and more toys made with similar consciousness and awareness as the LEGO wheelchair.


Photo Credit: hello_bricks via Compfight cc

Q & A with Professor Ziv Feldman

Yixuan Yang (SED’17, math education) sat down with Clinical Assistant Professor Ziv Feldman to find out more about his background, his teaching, and his connection with the School of Education. Professor Feldman got his masters and doctorate here at BU, and now he is teaching undergraduate and graduate-level courses in mathematics content and methods for pre-service elementary, secondary, and special education.

12-5576-SEDHEADS-008YY: Where did you go to school?
ZF: I grew up in Brookline, and I went to elementary, middle and high school in the Brookline public schools. I received my undergraduate degree from Cornell University, and then completed my graduate degrees here at BU in the math education program.

YY: Why did you want to pursue a career in education?
ZF:  After college, I went into investment banking mostly because it seemed like a great opportunity to do challenging work and to live in New York City. Also, it was what many of my friends did. It didn’t take me very long, though, to switch to education because I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a math teacher. Back in high school, I had great teachers who seemed to enjoy their work a great deal. Being in a vibrant school environment also appealed to me. At the end of the day, I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to have a direct impact on others, so teaching seemed like a natural move for me.

YY: What’s your favorite topic to teach?
ZF: Right now, I teach math content courses for early childhood and elementary school teachers. I also teach methods courses for middle school and high school math teachers. I love to teach all of these courses for very different reasons. I love the content courses because we get to dig into mathematics that my students will actually teach in their future classes. We also see how powerful it can be to make sense of ideas as opposed to simply memorizing formulas. I also really enjoy teaching the methods course because we spend a lot of our time exploring strategies for teaching mathematics. We also grapple with some of the most common issues that new teachers run into, and I always learn new things when listening to students’ different perspectives and experiences. I also regularly have students videotape themselves teaching parts of lessons, so seeing the progress they make from one video to the next is very exciting!

YY: What advice you will give to pre-service teachers?
ZF: My first piece of advice is to identify the learning goals for your students when you are lesson planning. Lessons are not always going to go exactly as planned, but if you have a clear sense of what your goals are you can often get back on track and make reasonable in-the-moment decisions.

The other piece of advice is to do everything you can to get to know your students and let them know that you genuinely care about them. Sometimes I think we get so busy worrying about lesson planning, grading, and covering content that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that our students, like all of us, want to feel cared for and respected. Take the time to talk to each of your students, find out what their interests are, let them know yours. Let them know that you will do everything you can to support them.

YY: If you can recommend one thing for me that I have to do before graduation, what would it be?
ZF: I recommend you go and talk to current teachers. Go and observe their classes so that you see a variety of teaching approaches. Ask them questions about their work, about students, and about maintaining a work-life balance. In our methods classes, in preparation for writing their teaching philosophy statements, students have to interview a veteran teacher. Teachers hold an incredible amount of professional knowledge, so we have to proactively seek it out and use it to inform our own teaching.

YY: Could you share one thing you love about the School of Education at BU?
ZF: I did my masters and doctoral degree here, so I have been here for a little while. One thing that I have always appreciated about SED is that this is both a serious place where faculty and students develop deep professional knowledge, and a place where you can have fun and make good friends. In math education, we have undergrad and grad students coming together on the 7th floor working on math problems every week. Faculty will often join in on these conversations, which creates a fun and collaborative work environment. There seems to be a collective caring and passion for our work and for each other at SED.

An Open Letter to my Fellow Dean’s Hosts

By Carolyn Hoffman, SED’19

Picture5The first year of college is comprised of a mixture of smiles and frowns as well as laughs and tears. For most, freshmen year of college is the first time individuals have ventured from home alone for an extended period of time. At a school such as Boston University, stress levels can be magnified and emotions run high. After completing my first year at BU, I have realized that in these tense moments, those closest to you can offer enough soothing solace to get you through each day. Being in both the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences, I am bombarded with both academic and social strifes every moment of every day, and I have looked to my fellow SED Dean’s Hosts for comfort and wisdom.

It is evident upon spending time with SED Dean’s Hosts that they care for the wellbeing of SED and are attentive to the message the school conveys to the public. Dean’s Hosts are knowledgable about SED’s “footprint” in the Greater Boston community and personally work toward bettering those negatively affected by the growing socioeconomic inequalities present in Boston Public Schools. For SED Dean’s Hosts, teaching is not just a skill; it is a way of life. As one Dean’s Host similarly stated, “People ask me how much I will make as a teacher, and I say that I will make a difference.”

As education majors, we are are informed early on by former ED 100 professor Phillip Tate that ridding the world of all injustice is impossible; however, if we focus on positively impacting those around us, we can act as catalysts for change. Watching upperclassmen Dean’s Hosts interact with professionals and prospective students, I have witnessed Professor Tate’s words put to life.  Upperclassmen Dean’s Hosts not only serve as incredible role models for underclassmen Dean’s Hosts, but for all BU students. Their effectiveness in relaying the possibility of positive education reform creates infectious optimism in those around them, illustrating that without teachers, we would not be who we are or where we are today.

Not every Dean’s Host wishes to be a classroom teacher, yet all long to serve the world’s future generations. It is our differences that make us SED Dean’s Hosts unique, bonded by the common thread of caring for academically and socially influencing society’s youth. As an underclassman, I am aware that I have more growing to do as an individual and student. Through the SED Dean’s Host organization, I will continue to learn interactive skills and the importance of empathy.

With that being said, I want to thank my fellow Dean’s Hosts for being my guiding light during one of the most challenging years of my life. It is you all that prove smiles are contagious, laughs can come from deep inside your stomach, and that the next generation can and will be better off than the one before. Putting aside the multitude of stereotypes that surround being a teacher, I am thankful that I am able to learn with such talented individuals as yourselves. Cheers to you.

A Day at Student Records

By Olivia McKellar, SED’19

This year, I was given the opportunity to fulfill my work study at the School of Education Records Office. Work study allows students to hold jobs on campus as part of their financial aid package. At the Records office (“Records” for short), I correspond with professors and students through email, by phone, and in person. I also help with processing all of the forms that we have in the office. In order to describe my life at the Records Office, I have written an acrostic poem:

Ring ring!Picture1

Email with the detail

Crafts and laughs

Oranges with lunch, peanuts with crunch

Registration for SED nation

Daily Trivia by Olivia (King)

Sing a song all day long

Ring ring!: Part of my job at the Records Office is answering the phone. Students typically call to ask about registration, graduation information, or financial aid. Answering the work phone has allowed me to improve my focus skills. When on a professional phone call, I cannot ask someone to repeat everything he or she says because I am not fully listening. Because of this, I have improved my ability to concentrate on the phone and think quickly about solutions.

Email with the detail: In addition to answering the phone, I also correspond with faculty and students through email. People send us online forms, ask us questions about classes, and follow up on petitions. Sending emails at work has taught me how to sound professional online. Before I send an email, I triple-check my grammar and spelling. I have learned how to make an email sound warm and professional at the same time, something I had not really needed to do before becoming a Records Assistant.

Crafts and laughs: When we are not answering the phone and writing emails, we do a lot of arts and crafts in the office. With each month comes a new door decoration and drawing on the white board. For December we made snowmen and snowwomen, for January we made snowflakes, and for April we made flowers and bunnies. We like to make our office inviting and fun, and the decorations we create for our door (out of our colorful forms, by the way) allow us to cheer up the office.

Oranges with lunch, peanuts with crunch: I typically work in the middle of the day, so I pack a lunch that I can eat while I am working. For a week or two in March, the topic of conversation in the office was the kind of oranges I was eating. I kept telling everyone how delicious they were, but I could never remember the type of orange I was eating (we eventually figured out it was called a minneola). In addition to my oranges, I pack a crunchy peanut butter sandwich, emphasis on the crunch. My lunches in the office always provide stimulating conversation and a quick break from the business of the day.

Registration for SED nation: A huge part of our job at the Records office is getting students registered for classes. We know how stressful class scheduling can be, so we try to make students feel as reassured as possible about their upcoming semesters. It was great to work at the Records Office as a freshman because I got to learn the ins and outs of how paperwork gets processed at the School of Education. It also allowed me to meet students and professors as they came in and asked about the Registration process.

Daily Trivia by Olivia King: Alongside our door decorations is a trivia question of the day, usually written by my coworker Olivia King. The questions range from the number of onscreen deaths on Game of Thrones to what the “q” in “q-tip” stands for. Our daily trivia keeps us entertained and has taught me so many random facts. When I get to work, the first thing I do is look at the trivia for the day and try to answer it—I am usually way off!

Sing a song all day long: Although we are busy with paperwork all day at work, we like to sing songs because, well, that’s just the type of people we are. An office favorite is Dr. Jean’s Banana Dance (aka The Guacamole Song). If you walk in to the Records Office, you will hear a different Pandora station coming from each of the three desks. Having quiet music in the office keeps us working at a steady pace.

So, come on into the Records Office (Room 115) at the School of Education to see our door decorations and daily trivia, ask questions about your classes, or just to say hi! I love the people I work with and they have made my transition into college so much more fun and easy. I have learned and laughed in Room 115, and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to continue working there until I graduate.

An American in London

By Michelle Yelaska, SED’16

Studying abroad in London for a semester, I thought, “I already know the language, it’ll be fine!” I knew there would be some culture shock, like driving on the left side of the road, but I was in for a treat when I started talking to people in both London and on the continent. Student teaching in London, I picked up many diverse teaching tips, learned about international school systems, and navigated through new standardised tests. One of the greatest takeaways from studying abroad was the experience of being an English Language Learner (ELL) firsthand. Throughout my semester, whether in the classroom in London or travelling around the continent, I lived as an ELL student.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 10.52.22 AM

On my first day at Ursuline High School, my student teaching placement, I was assigned to observe a ninth grade mathematics class. The teacher announced that we would be reviewing surds that day, a revision topic. I nodded my head and pretended I knew what a surd was and why we would need to “revise” them. It quickly dawned on me that I was in a foreign land where I would have to adapt to their language and customs. (For the mathematically curious, a surd is an irrational number. “Revision” simply means to “review.”) Even though we share a common language, many words are used in a different context. For example, “pants” no longer meant jeans or slacks, but underwear. Complimenting someone’s pants was the most American crime I could have committed.

In the beginning, I was a little overwhelmed by all the new phrases I would have to learn in order to effectively communicate with my students. While not exactly like a full ELL experience, I sympathised with my bilingual students even more. I had to use two different languages in London: one for when I talked with my American friends and one when I talked with my British students and colleagues. To help me translate, I started keeping a spreadsheet of American speak versus British speak. In the future, for my ELL students, I think it would be extremely useful to keep a chart of common American phrases and academic maths terms.

Picture2The biggest learning curve, however, was when I was travelling on the continent and didn’t speak any French and barely any Spanish. Asking others for directions was extremely challenging and navigating the metros and underground subway systems was tricky. I found the Paris metro the easiest to navigate because they verbally announced the station and visually displayed the stop on the train. For my ELL students, I realised how helpful it is to display the information in many forms, not only limited to verbal and visual representations.

My study abroad experience proved to be a learning experience in every corner. London helped me get a taste of what ELL students experience when they first come to America. Although my conversion from American English to British English is admittedly much easier than other transitions, even this little sampling of language barriers provided valuable insight. I am very appreciative of this experience and I believe it improved my teaching skills in many ways I could not even imagine.