Jump In

By Sara Symes, SED’16Picture1

“C’mon Sarah!” Rebekah cried out.

I stood at the edge of the motorized canoe and looked down at the murky, mysterious waters of the Tiputini River running underneath. I looked up to see my friends, already about 50 feet up the river, swimming and laughing.

Rebekah continued, her voice echoing through the untouched Amazon rainforest, “SARAH! JUST JUMPPPPP! JUST JUMP IN!”

I took a deep breath, smiled, and jumped in.

This might just seem like a typical, adventurous study abroad tale, but it is also a story that describes one of the most important things I have ever learned: Sometimes, even if you cannot see the outcome, you need to just jump in.

I have learned, and re-learned, this lesson several times here at BU.

I learned this when I went to my first rehearsal for BU’s Inner Strength Gospel Choir. I had never sung gospel music before, but after weeks of unsuccessful a cappella auditions and singing softly to my Warren Towers showerhead, I knew I needed to find a place to sing on campus. That first rehearsal, I was planning on sitting in the back and just listening. Then, the director, Herb, saw me, asked me what part I wanted to sing, and said, “Just jump in! You’ll figure the lyrics out!”

Little did I know that that first rehearsal would turn into four years with the choir, two of those years being on the e-board (one year as Secretary, and the other as President).

I learned this when I committed to do my ESL student teaching practicum in Malden, a place I had only previously known as a city on the Orange Line. I came to my first day a little bit nervous about being with a new group of students. “You’re going to be fine,” my cooperating teacher assured me, “Just jump in!”

Little did I know that this would lead to an incredible experience working with 45 kind and resilient students who inspired me to be a better teacher every single day.

For some, jumping in is a normal part of their everyday lives. But for planning-oriented people like me, it is sometimes hard to say “yes!” and to make commitments without knowing every possible outcome. While planning is great, and vital to the teaching profession, I have found that some of the most important moments of my life have come from when I took those chances, those leaps of faith, and said “yes!” without knowing what might lay ahead.

Jumping into something new isn’t always easy. It isn’t always glamorous. It isn’t always fun. But there are two things that I’ve learned from jumping in. The first is that you don’t know how something will be until you try it. And the second is that there will always be people there for you, floating somewhere along whatever Tiputini River your life takes you to.

So, when incoming freshmen ask me, a recently graduated senior, for any advice that I would give them about coming to BU, I can give them my answer in three, simple words:

“Just jump in!”

Boston for a Day

By Lisa Hong, SED’19

Recently, I’ve had some good friends drop by Beantown to visit. Considering home is more than 1000 miles away from here for me (I’m from Minnesota), every time one of my friends takes the time and energy (and not to mention, money) to come to town, I can’t help but grin from ear to ear and get excited to show them around this wonderful city I’ve been lucky enough to make my home. But with so many things to see and places to go, how does one navigate the city on a limited budget and time frame? This is a challenge I’m repeatedly faced with, considering most of my friends visit for very brief amounts of time.

Here are the top locations I would recommend for a taste of Boston in under 24 hours. My favorite thing about this city is how accessible everything is. You can walk to all of the locations I’ve listed, but they’re also all available by public transportation. Don’t just take my word for it, though- go see for yourself!

Boston University’s CampusBU Campus

BU Campus







One of my favorite things about our campus is that it essentially follows a straight line down Commonwealth Avenue, so it’s super easy to get around (and hard to get lost, for directionally challenged folks like me). We have some beautiful buildings (I highly recommend Marsh Chapel, the BU Castle, and the Questrom School of Business) and the campus runs right along the Charles River.

The Charles River Esplanade


Speaking of the Charles, did you know there’s a scenic path just steps from campus? A pedestrian bridge tucked behind the George Sherman Union and near BU Beach will take you to this trail, which has access to multiple docks, gorgeous views of Boston and Cambridge, an outdoor gym and playgrounds. This location is extremely popular in the fall, when the leaves change color and Boston hosts the world’s largest two-day rowing event, the Head of the Charles Regatta.

Newbury & Boylston Streets


Featuring cute outdoor cafés, chic boutiques and well-known brands that range from Forever 21 to Vera Wang, Newbury and Boylston (which run parallel to each other) are easily my go-to for an afternoon of shopping. If you start on the end near the Hynes Convention Center T stop and keep walking towards downtown, you’ll end up at locations 4 and 5 on my list. One thing to be wary of: the farther away you are from campus, the more upscale and expensive the stores seem to get.

The Boston Public Library & Copley Square








In my opinion, the Boston Public Library and Copley Square have some of the most intricate architecture in Boston. The library features a beautiful study room (see above), as well as galleries and a picturesque outdoor courtyard. Besides the Public Library, Copley Square is also home to the Old South Church, Trinity Church, and the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. Fun fact: The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel is rumored to be where The Suite Life of Zack and Cody was filmed.

Boston Common & The Public Garden


These two parks lie adjacent to each other, and are both iconic destinations in Boston. Boston Common (often referred to as “The Commons”) marks the south end of the famous Freedom Trail, and includes a Frog Pond as well as numerous monuments and memorials. The Garden features beautiful floral arrangements, various statues, and is also home of the popular Swan Boats attraction.

Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market


Open year-round, Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are great examples of the rich cultural history of our city. Faneuil Hall was the site of several speeches by famous speakers like Samuel Adams, and Quincy Market is a vibrant marketplace, featuring delicious regional specialties as well as food from around the world. The surrounding outdoor area is equally colorful, often hosting public performers and street peddlers.

Boston Harbor


Easily one of Boston’s most recognizable locations, this is a go-to for me and my friends when we are out and about. There are a couple docks you can walk down or sit on that will bring you extremely close to the water, and quite a few spots where you’ll probably want to take photos.

The North End

North End

Often referred to as Boston’s Little Italy, the North End is home to a seemingly endless array of family-owned restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries. I always have trouble deciding where to eat when I’m there, because all of the food is so good. If you’re a fan of any kind of Italian food, whether it be pasta, cannoli, or gelato- this is the best place to go. The lines can get long, though- I would recommend making a reservation if you’ve got a specific restaurant in mind.

Secret Skills for Success: Self-Advocacy

By Emily Talley, SED’17

EmilyTalleyI’ve been thinking a lot about the skills we need to succeed as college students – time management, organization, prioritization, stress management, discipline, study skills – the list goes on. We do a good job of talking about these skills, but one thing we don’t talk about is self-advocacy, and we should, so I will.

What is self-advocacy and why does it matter?
Self-advocacy takes many forms. The most important kind of self-advocacy is asking for help. If you need academic help, say so! Your professors do not have office hours so that they can memorize the wall behind their desk. They have office hours for you. “But Emily, I have another class during office hours?” Okay, I hear you. In this case, just email your professor asking to meet at another time. Statistically speaking, I have never, ever, even once, had a professor that wasn’t able and willing to find another time to meet with me. I once had a professor meet with me two hours before he flew out of Boston for a conference. I’ve had professors phone conference with me while I’m at work. When you see your professor, here’s the key, you have to ask for what you need. Do you need another explanation for a concept? Do you need clarification of an essay rubric? Do you need reassurance that your class participation is sufficient? Do you need to touch base because you’ve been out sick or distracted in class? Do you need an extension because your life is chaos? Do you need help figuring out what it is you need help with? Say so!

Perhaps, however, you need help in more than one class. Maybe you’re having academic issues across the board. If you need help, say so! Meet with your advisor, who is there to advise you with advice. Visit student services, ask for an appointment, get ready to develop an action plan. Visit disability services, ask for some support. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and you’re thinking about dropping a class but you don’t know how that will affect your graduation date. Maybe you can’t take notes and listen at the same time, but you didn’t know that disability services has scribes. Maybe you’re taking a class that’s way too hard for you but you don’t know what else could fulfill that graduation requirement. Maybe you need help and you don’t even know what kind of help you need. Say so!

Perhaps, however, you have an even bigger problem. You need cooperation across multiple departments. You need whole-sale sized solutions. Visit the University Service Center and, you guessed it, ask for help.

Perhaps, however, your life is peachy keen. You still need self-advocacy. You will at some point in your life need to ask for a letter of recommendation. You will someday need to tell your group project partners that you don’t group text. You will potentially want to negotiate some extra credit or a raise.
“But Emily,” you say, “I can’t do that! I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with my problems! What if they get annoyed? What if they say no?” I hear you. You’re polite and a little (or a lot) nervous. You don’t want to be rejected or embarrassed. (Me neither.) Here’s the thing – really the only thing – that matters: You need to invest in quality solutions for your life because you deserve it.

Be prepared for a learning experience. Don’t take roadblocks personally. Ask elsewhere. Ask differently. Ask with confidence. Ask again.

Some other helpful SED and BU resources are: the SED Student Records Office, Jo-Anne Richard in the Licensure Office, the Center for Career Development, the Educational Resource Center, and Student Health Services (including Behavioral Medicine and the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center).

“You can never master teaching.”

By Sally Kaplan, SED’17

This simple but significant phrase will forever echo around Phil Tate’s Introduction to Education classroom, following future freshmen teachers throughout their four-year journey and beyond.

Like most quotes, there is not an instant comprehension. As people, we never really learn a lesson until we have persevered through a position of weakness where the wise words of that lesson start to ring true. The same can be said when I first heard Professor Tate say this quote. I had just started my college career and at that point, the whirlwind of my first year had not settled yet. I thought I understood his overall point but as I progressed through my next three years, the lesson became clearer that the best teachers always allow for change in the classroom and never think they are done learning.


Sophomore year was spurred by the beginning of SO 210/211, a course designed to focus on the teaching and understanding of social justice issues inside the classroom. During this course, we not only took part in conversations about race and minority groups, which is a conversation that should not be so elusive to take part in, but we were also able to tutor a child with these themes in mind. Social justice issues surround all present day conversations, but these themes seldom find their way into the classroom, where they are most needed. Students should be informed and active because they are the figures that will hold future opinions, jobs, and decisions. For this reason, I was once again shown that teaching is never a profession with set objectives and practices. We, as the future teachers, need to be flexible to changing the typical mold of the classroom set by previous generations. We need to encourage social narratives to be written and engage our students in discussions about race, disability, class, and gender. These topics used to be taboo in the typical rote classroom, but as SED helps us evolve into modern teachers, I have seen how necessary it is to change the formula that used to guide the classroom. Teaching is not a set skill and when this class modeled how to allow students to take part in these social justice conversations, I once again changed my pedagogy to include these types of themes.

Trotter Elementary School is a staple in any Boston University Education students’ life. We partner with this school through tutoring, classroom studies and even Elementary Education club. For my methods CH300 course, we spend every Friday working with different classrooms in the building. I have found that SED does an amazing job pushing us to become the most creative and inspiring teachers, but this idea can still be somewhat romanticized until we’re in real-life classrooms like at Trotter. The reality is that students in any classroom might act out or wiggle because they can’t sit still. I love working with these students especially because they deviate so much from what we traditionally think of as teaching. Flexibility is needed to adapt not only lesson plans but also the mind-set that guides every changing classroom environment. It allows for changing practices and I now believe that teachers should always be open to new types of students, because that is the only way their practices will evolve.

I always had the idea that once I read all my readings and completed all the homework assignments given to me by my teachers, I would be a highly qualified teacher for any classroom. Although this is a nice idea to hold, it is almost refreshing to step into Trotter and see yet again that teaching is not just a program to complete and cannot be mastered. The best teachers carry with them a strong and supported pedagogy, but changing one’s ways is never considered a bad thing in the field of teaching; accepting that one will never master their field is the best lesson a teacher can learn.

As I continue into my final year at BU and hopefully into a classroom position after I graduate, I will always remember Phil Tate’s infamous statement that, “you will never master teaching.” It is hard to accept sometimes that as a teacher, you never reach a peak point or get acknowledged for learning all you can, but I also think this may be the best part of working in this field. As teachers, we are invited into a position where we can continue to learn throughout the rest of our lives; ironically, a learning position that we hope to inspire in all of our students. Teachers never need to feel stuck in the way they perform their job and the ability to always be changing and growing as a professional is a gift that many are not given. The only definite in our job is always considering the needs of our students and molding the classroom into the best environment for the children we are teaching. I still do not believe I have fully inhaled the essence of the lessons that are taught in our cozy SED building, and that is a fact I am very content with. Never stop being open to learning because sometimes the unknown or the place of insecurity is the place where you will gain the most.

Teaching Self-Worth

By James Teixeira, SED’18

Teixeira, JamesThrough personal experience, I have come to believe that teachers have a unique ability to boost a child’s self-esteem in a way that no one else can. In high school, I was lucky to be surrounded by teachers who genuinely cared about students and worked hard to help them achieve their aspirations. I had one teacher in particular my senior year of high school who sought to understand what our passions were as students, whether it be our hobbies or our career goals. I remember the first day of school telling him that I wanted to be a teacher, and he would periodically tell me all about how rewarding of a profession it was and how he could see the passion in my eyes to change the lives of my future students. At one of the senior ceremonies, a few select teachers would do a “final send off” and I remember clearly him looking me in the eyes and telling me what an amazing educator I would be some day. All the faith he had instilled in me all year culminated in this moment and it is honestly something that will stick with me forever.

 Over the years I have received endless negative reactions to my ambition to be a teacher. However, as a student who has been so positively impacted by my past teachers, I don’t allow anyone to devalue my passion to be an educator. Firsthand, I have witnessed the power a teacher can have to instill self-confidence in students. I watched as my teachers worked tirelessly to ensure that I not only understood fully the subject matter at hand, but also that I was confident in my abilities to master material, overcome difficulty, and achieve my most sought-after aspirations. I worked extremely hard to be the student I am today, but I credit a lot of my success to the teachers who instilled in me the faith to push through and to put in my best effort. I know now that my future classroom will not solely be a place where I push my students to pass exams and get an A, but also a place where I push them to realize their value, worth, and potential. I am extremely excited to use the tools acquired from the School of Education as well as my own teacher role models to be the best teacher I can be and truly make a difference in the lives of my future students.

Teaching Life is Teaching Well

By Claire Buesser, SED’16

Picture1Spending August 2015 – January 2016 in Ecuador where I studied and student taught abroad was the best semester of my life. Teaching in a different country is quite an experience. My 22 students all spoke a different native language than me, they ate differently, they had different hobbies, and they had a different sense of humor. The teachers were different, the grounds were different, the busses were different – just assume that most things were different. I was therefore overwhelmed at first when I began interacting with these students.

I mostly observed my Supervising Practitioner at first, and I very much enjoyed watching her teach. She interacted so well with the students and she commanded their attention. As I watched her, though, I noticed that her teaching style was (you guessed it) different. Sticking strictly to the schedule was not of the upmost importance. If someone brought up an interesting point, she would run with it if it was important. I described it to her later by saying “you seem to teach about life a lot.” My SP taught the subject matter, of course, but she spent a remarkable time just talking about life. She would weave in a discussion of privilege during a math lesson, or she would start sharing her experiences from high school during science. It is hard to describe how she did it, but somehow it just worked.

And when she was not teaching, she was solving problems.  Our students’ interpersonal issues never ceased, and they kept us quite busy. At first, I was somewhat disillusioned by the time that she (and soon I) spent actually teaching. By the time we address all of the issues that arise throughout the day, is there any time to directly instruct the students? I quickly realized that the time teachers spend in front of the class is much less than I would have expected. In SED, I learned how to write lesson plans, craft units, open a lesson well. Going into student teaching, I expected to use these skills every day.  While I did use these skills, the academic instruction piece was not the only task I had to fulfill to be a good teacher.

It finally clicked for me that “the plan” is not always what happens, nor should it be.  When I was leading a well-planned, structured lesson on landforms, I projected a map of Africa. I had the students identify different landforms, and someone correctly found lakes. One boy waved his hand in the air as he furrowed his brow. “That’s wrong,” he said. “There isn’t any water in Africa.” Suddenly, I realized that I was about to break from the plan and “teach about life” as my SP did. It was clear to me in that moment that while I would love for my students to leave the lesson with the ability to identify the various landforms, if I let them leave without addressing the misconceptions that this student had about Africa, I would have failed my students. Realizing that the amount of instructional time is limited originally led me to believe that I had to use every moment of time teaching exactly what I planned, or else nothing would get done. Instead, I came to understand that since the time I have with my students is so limited, I need to squeeze in as much “life” instruction as I can. Students attend school to learn facts and skills, but if the only skills my students leave with are academic, I am no more than a tutor. To be a good teacher, I need to seize every opportunity to expand my students’ worldview, bring in new perspectives, and teach from my experience.