“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.

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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.

10 Things I Learned in my 10 Days at Harrington Elementary School

By Sam Richard, SED’19

SamRichardThis past semester, I took the School of Education’s Introduction to Education course, ED100. It’s hard to hear about SED without being told how great ED100 is, so I had high expectations for my experience in the course, and it certainly did not disappoint. ED100 is the first major step toward a degree from the School of Education and is an integral part of the SED student experience. Recently, my field placement for this course came to an end. Almost every Wednesday this semester, I spent the entire day in a third grade classroom at Harrington Elementary School in Lexington, Massachusetts. Even though I was there for a course about teaching, I actually found myself learning a lot from the students I was working with. Here are ten things that I learned in my ten days at Harrington Elementary School:

  1. Kids say the craziest things

Younger children tend to have no filter, and some of my students had a few quotable moments. One student told me, “Your voice reminds me of smooth jazz.” I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret that, but I think he meant it as a compliment. During a science experiment, another student exclaimed, “Wow that smelled gross! I’m gonna smell it again.”

  1. Students are individuals

I was delighted to get to know each of my students as an individual because they each had unique personalities and abilities which contributed to the class as a whole. Instead of looking at the group as a unit, I tried to get to know each student who was a part of the class individually and make a connection with everybody in some way.

  1. Sometimes you have to be a bit silly

How do you motivate a bunch of third graders about standardized testing? With a rap, of course! One of my favorite moments from my field placement was when my cooperating teacher invited the class down to the rug while a drum beat played from the smartboard. To transition into a discussion of tips and tricks to succeed on the upcoming MCAS testing, he performed a rap which listed a few testing strategies.

The kids seemed to have mixed opinions about his performance, but I certainly enjoyed watching my cooperating teacher step outside the box and have some fun.

  1. Children are insightful

During Quiet Work Time one day, two of my students were working on making a puzzle. I thought this was a fascinating project, so I asked them a few questions about it, and they told me that each puzzle piece was going to represent a different country or culture that all came together to make the completed puzzle: the United States of America. I found their insight into things like diversity to be incredible at such a young age.

  1. Spending time working one-on-one with a student can make a big difference

While my third graders were working on their MCAS tests, I spent the day in a second grade classroom. During a math lesson, one student asked me to assist her with her two-digit addition. She was struggling when she asked me for help, but by the time we were finished working together, she was able to complete the problems on her own. I felt great about myself because I was able to help her understand, but I was also so proud of her for continuing to try and eventually getting it right.

  1. Students all have different needs

While it can be easy to assume that every student leaves a lesson equipped with the knowledge to successfully perform whatever they were taught, this is not always the case, and some students may pick up on a concept more quickly or take longer to understand. The teacher I worked with was fantastic at meeting students where they are and helping them to be successful on their own terms, whether that meant providing them with extra math problems to challenge them or conferencing with them individually to give them extra help with reading.

  1. Working with kids is fun but exhausting

I had a great time every Wednesday helping the students and learning from my cooperating teacher, but it was certainly a lot of work and I was always very tired at the end of the day. I can’t complain too much because I really enjoyed everything that I was doing, but I definitely needed some coffee to stay awake when I got back from my field placement every week.

  1. It’s the small moments that matter

On my last day, my cooperating teacher gave me a folder full of the students’ letters. So many of them wrote me kind and heartwarming messages, including some of the students that I didn’t feel like I had forged the strongest connections with. I was so glad to see that I had made an impact on them even if I hadn’t realized it in the moment. They referenced small instances where I had helped them to understand something, which made me realize that even the most minor and seemingly insignificant moments can make a big difference to a child.

  1. Goodbyes are hard

Turning away from a classroom filled with 25 students exclaiming “Goodbye!” and “Thank you!” is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I may have only spent ten days with them, but I had become a part of their classroom community and definitely did not want to leave.

  1. I have certainly chosen the right career path

I’m not a morning person, so anything that can get me out of bed with a smile on my face at 6:00 AM on a rainy Wednesday morning is probably something worth pursuing. The feeling of pride, hope, and purpose that I left the building with on my last day is one that I hope to continue to feel for the rest of my life as a teacher, and I’m so glad that ED100 allowed me to have such a great experience at Harrington Elementary School.

Sam Richard is a rising sophomore in the School of Education majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in Mathematics Education.

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

And,

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

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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