Say Something

By Grace Dastous, SED 2017

I am part of the Elementary Educators Club here at BU. This club is a great opportunity for any student here at BU to volunteer at the Trotter Elementary School, which is an urban school in Dorchester. We raise money for events like Dads Read, which brings together fathers and families after school to read and enjoy books with their children. These parents, who may not have the opportunity to buy books or games for their children, benefit from our club because we provide an outlet for them to engage with their children, but we also raise money so that they are able to keep the books that they read.

Last semester, we had a guest speaker, Professor Jennifer Green, come to talk to us about bullying and how traumatic events affect children. It was a really valuable experience because there was only a small group of us, so instead of a huge lecture, we got to have a deep discussion about these topics and we were able to really divulge into the aspects that we wanted to know about. We got so engaged in the topic about bullying that we did not even have time to move on to children who have emotional and behavioral disorders.

Professor Green was very knowledgeable about bullying, a subject that is extremely important for the well being of our students, but one that is not completely talked about in a lot of our education classes. What really interested me was when Professor Green talked about using certain language when dealing with a situation that involves bullying. She said that children are more likely to report an instance of bullying if we used the word bullying. However, if we asked the student about the aggression using the definition of bullying instead of the word, they were less likely to report a false instance.

You see, the word “bully” or “bullying” has been used so frequently in passing, that when it comes to defining an instance of bullying, educators have to be really careful to make sure that it is a repeated offense, an act that is set out to hurt another peer, and an instance of power imbalance between the two students. Without this definition, it is not considered to be bullying, and may need to be dealt with in a different way. Teachers need to understand what bullying actually is so that we are able to prevent it and correct it in our classroom.

Professor Green also answered a lot of questions about how to deal with bullying. One frustrating point was that many students said that their teachers did nothing when they saw the child being bullied. As educators, we need to make sure our students know that we are there for them, and we need to act right away when this instance occurs. This is something that I had hoped I would have done as a teacher, however, hearing this highly educated woman state that it is a necessity really prepared me mentally to immediately deal with the situation and make it clear that nothing of this nature is okay.

All in all, bullying is a issue that need to be addressed: as a student, as a peer, and as a teacher. If teachers stand by and watch as students get bullied and do not act, not only will there be legal consequences, but emotional ones as well. Students deserve a role model that shows them not to be a bystander, not matter how tough or awkward it is. Students who are being bullied need to know that they are worth standing up for. Aggressors need to know that there is a limit; they need to learn how to care for others’ feeling and they need to learn how to deal with their frustration in a different way. As educators, is it is our job to speak up for all of our students and say something.

Grace Dastous is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Elementary and Special Education

Why Science Education and the Importance of STEM Pedagogy in Higher Education

By Richard Von Itter, SED 2016

Science is an ever growing field that constantly pushes students to work in ways not normally found in other content areas. STEM heavily relies on inquiry-based methodology to reinforce different scientific concepts and ideas discussed in class. Ultimately, the magic found in any science class is laboratory work. Unlike other content areas, science allows students to explore what they have learned with hands-on activities. I will always remember my first dissection of a fetal pig in my freshman year of high school. I was able to take what I learned in my biology class and apply it right in front of me. Since coming to college, I have been able to work in multiple labs, ranging from ecology to microbiology, each adding new perspective to science education.

STEM pedagogy is incredibly relevant in higher education. Constantly I find myself working with professors that have had limited training in science pedagogy, meaning they have never been formally trained to teach. While all professors have great background in their content area, they sometimes come short when presenting information to a larger class. For any student, this can be incredibly frustrating.

I believe that STEM professors need to be trained in pedagogy before entering the classroom to ensure students are given ample opportunity to succeed in not only the current class, but future studies. Ultimately, this was the reason why I decided to go into science education. My ultimate goal is to become a professor one day that can not only give students the opportunity to gain knowledge, but understand how to effectively convey information in a way that best facilitates learning.

Richard Von Itter is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in Science Education and Biology

Classroom Competition

By Will English, SED 2016

I was that kid. That kid putting way too much effort into gym class or trying to earn the most gold stars in class. I have always thrived off of competition; it motivates me to find success and to be the best in all that I do. While competition is something I truly appreciate and profit from, I know that most people are not as competitive as I am. The pressure and stress created by competition is not for everyone, and justifiably so; competition can turn a simple task into a much far intense, demanding experience.

A little competition is healthy, but does it have a place in the classroom? So much of our academic instruction and testing is based in competition, grading everyone from first to last. So should teachers institute competition into their classrooms? Can we benefit from friendly classroom contests, or are these pressure-filled academic settings more harmful than helpful?

On one hand, competition creates motivation. Competition can challenge students to work harder, all while making them more excited about learning (and we know how beneficial it is to teach truly engaged students). Likewise, we are often preparing our students for such a competitive system, both in the college application process as well as beyond when searching job markets. So, by implementing competition throughout students’ education, teachers can better prepare them as they continue their education and careers.

However, there are several disadvantages to competition in the classroom. When the competition holds high stakes, students can feel pressured to succeed, causing stress and anxiety, which in turn, decreases their overall performance. Also, consistent competition can cause students to lose a sense of balance in their lives; with all the pressure to perform academically, they may focus solely on their schoolwork, neglecting the countless extracurricular activities that they can benefit from as well.

In the end, teachers need to recognize that not all competition is bad, but in high pressure situations, extensive and intense competition can be unhealthy. It is important to find a sense of balance; we can use competition to help us find success, but we must remind students that they do not need to be the best at everything. This idea is crucial to implementing beneficial competition in a classroom. When students can respect their classmates’ success and handle not finishing first, teachers can reap the academic benefits of competition and collaboration in the classroom.

Will English is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in Elementary and Special Education

Four Teacher Tips

By Michelle Yelaska, SED 2016

It’s truly amazing how fast time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like only yesterday I observed my first classroom in Introduction to Education 100, moved into a college dorm, and ate endless burgers at Rhett’s. This fall semester, however, is the moment of truth. It’s everything I’ve been preparing for in my three years at Boston University. I packed my bags, moved to London, and began student teaching math to high school students. I’m excited, nervous, and terrified all at once. Despite my apprehensions, I know that my pre-practicum observations at a local middle school and high school have prepared me for this experience. Here are four seemingly obvious items that I learned in my observations and interactions in these diverse math classrooms.

  1. Expect the unexpected. One week, I had the opportunity to lead a ten-minute class discussion. Although I was expecting tons of participation, I was met with blank stares and zero raised hands. As I started to panic, I realized that I just needed to adapt my teaching style in the moment. Something as simple as redrawing a clean diagram helped spark a discussion. Although lesson planning is obviously important, sometimes you just need to go with the flow and adjust to your learners’ unique needs.
  2. Hands on engagement keeps students involved. When going over last night’s homework, students were on their phones, talking with friends, or even sleeping. However, when they started a paper folding activity to explore exponential growth, students were wide awake and discussing the task. Although not every class will be hands on, observations taught me the importance of keeping lesson relevant to keep engagement high.
  3. Know your students. As teachers, we have about ten billion different things going on and sometimes we lose track of who we’re trying to help: the students. I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with a student who was falling behind in his work. When I asked him to copy the problem from the board, I realized that he was quite intelligent. The problem was that he couldn’t see the board. Knowing my students and their individual needs will prove to be one of my greatest assets.
  4. Circulate, circulate, circulate! When I substituted in the Honors Geometry class, students were more likely to ask me questions as I circulated than when I stood at the front of the class. Many times, shockingly, teenagers will not ask for help. Some of the best mathematical conversations happened when I checked in with the students first. Although I’m not the most intimidating person in the world, when teaching, I will remember to display an approachable and friendly attitude towards the students to generate a safe learning environment.

My pre-practicum course provided an invaluable learning experience and comprehensive insight into running my own classroom. While student teaching will certainly not be a breeze, these four teacher tips could help my transition into the field.

Michelle Yelaska is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in Math Education


Education in the Developing World

By Alisha Parikh, SED 2017

Last semester, taking the course IR/SO242: Globalization and World Poverty, was both eye-opening and thought-provoking. Discussions centered on a variety of issues affecting the countries in the poorer part of the world – the developing countries. One such issue we discussed was that of culture and education in third world countries. Because I have a strong interest in learning more about developing countries, a passion for education, and a dream of spreading education and schooling to those most in need, this issue was one that strongly resonated with me. The discussions were eye-opening in terms of the injustice to those children who were working in the fields as opposed to attending school because their families needed whatever source of income and labor they could get, to those girls who were uneducated because they were seen as inferior or not worth being educated, and to the many who were constricted by societal, cultural, and governmental norms and policies in receiving an education. The discussion was thought-provoking in the sense that it made me feel even more strongly about my dream of education as a realistic opportunity and privilege for all children.

Taking this course while pursuing my major in Early Childhood Education has made me realize the importance of educational opportunities in even the poorest cities. While as educators achieving this goal may seem ambitious, I believe that it is absolutely essential that we take whatever steps we can in working toward spreading education. I hope to one day have the opportunity to live and teach in a third-world country for an extended period of time. My step in achieving this goal on a more local level involves aspiring to teach in low-income urban settings. On a local level, I feel these particular settings are particularly in need of qualified teachers and valuable educational opportunities. Perhaps eventually then, I will be able to extend this experience on a more global level, shifting from low-income neighborhoods to some of the poorest cities in the developing world.

I strongly believe that education has extraordinary benefits and value to individuals, societies, and cultures. Whether we see education as a meaningful tool for individuals, a way of empowering societies, or unifying yet simultaneously diversifying cultures, education has the power of advancing some of the poorest countries in our world and eliminating some of the most severe injustices a portion of the population still faces today.

Alisha Parikh is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Early Childhood Education

The Importance of Extracurricular Activities

By Heather Cohen, SED 2017

Most students in high school join clubs and participate in certain events solely to add another extracurricular activity to their college application. I’ll admit it, I did it as well. Yes, I cared about community service and I liked the French club, but would I have joined them if I couldn’t put them on my application? Probably not. For me, high school was an incredibly stressful time where I was only focused on the next step I had to take. I never really took a step back to think about what I wanted to do just for me.

Once I got to Boston University, I was reluctant to join clubs because I wasn’t actually sure what I was interested in. I figured, I would take the first semester to just focus on adjusting to the city, my classes and the general college environment. That was definitely the right move for me, but once it got to second semester, I was getting bored and I wanted to fill my time with things that I would truly enjoy.

I found SED’s English Educators Club which gave me a family of educators who shared my passions of the English language, poetry, working with English Language Learners, and much more. I found the Transitional Mentor Program, which helps to acclimate first year students to SED, BU and Boston through peer mentorship. I found out about BU’s Feminist Collective, a club where like-minded people come to discuss important issues about gender and sexuality. I found the Admissions Ambassadors, who gives campus tours to prospective and admitted students. And I also found SED’s Dean’s Hosts, a select group of students who act as ambassadors for the School of Education, host prospective students and families, and volunteering within the SED community.

Now that’s a pretty long list of clubs and organizations that I found, and some might say that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. So when I had a realization that I might have made myself too busy, I also realized that there was no club I was willing to give up. Everything that I am doing and everything that I am involved in, is important to me. That is definitely not something that I could have said while I was in high school. I’ve realized that college is the time where you are allowed to be a little bit selfish, and it is liberating to finally be able to doing the things that I love to do, just for me.

Heather Cohen is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in English Education