Against the Grain – Being a Male Teacher

By Will English, SED 2016

“Teaching is a woman’s profession.”

It’s statements like this that define my career choice. The moment I tell someone about my major here at Boston University, they’re shocked to hear that I want to be a teacher, let alone an elementary school teacher.

Yet the more I think about it, all I can ask is, why? If society places such a heavy emphasis on education, then where are all the male teachers? MenTeach, a non-profit organization formed to promote an increase in the number of male teachers in U.S. public schools, conducted research and found that the percent of male teachers in elementary and middle school classrooms across the nation has hovered around 16% to 18% for the past 20 years. And while it is slightly more equal in secondary schools (42% of teachers being male), it is still an accepted notion that teaching is a woman’s job.

But what is it that turns men away from becoming a teacher? Is it the salary? Or the often harsh stereotypes that follow a male teacher? Or maybe it’s simply the fact that teachers have historically been women? It’s concerns like these that cause men to shy away from teaching, especially at the elementary school level, and create the burning need for more male teachers within our public school system.

While it can be tough to overcome these obstacles as a male teacher, it is important that we work towards a more equal distribution of male and female teachers. And it all starts at the university level, recruiting more men to go into the field of education and showing them the benefits that teaching can have on their own lives, as well as the lives of countless children.

For instance, we all know the stereotypes about elementary school boys (and I was one of them): they’re the trouble makers and class clowns who never want to be in school. But as a male teacher, I can show a young boy that it’s “cool” for a guy to be in the classroom and to work hard in school. Acting as a role model for these young boys can be the push they need to find success in school.

This is what makes being a teacher so rewarding. I teach because I love working with children. I love the big smile on every child’s face after that fantastic moment of discovery. I love knowing that I have the ability to make a difference in the lives of all my students. That’s why I teach; not just to foster the knowledge of young children, but because of the personal satisfaction I find knowing that I have made a difference.

All students deserve the best education possible, whether that comes from a man or a woman, and a good teacher can make all the difference. So regardless of how female dominated the education field is, I’ll keep going against the grain and doing what I love– teaching.

*Will English is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education studying elementary education.

My Real Home – Studying at Boston University School of Education

By AnneMarie Schiller, SED 2015

Growing up, I was always the kid that could not wait to go away to college. Education has always been my number one priority in life, and it was my life-long desire to attend a notable university with a strong program. After reading Boston University’s website to the point of near memorization, I was convinced that BU was the way to go. However, it was not until my first visit to the school, for SED’s Accepted Students’ Day, that I was 110% sure that BU was the place for me. I simply did not want to wait a second more to attend.

IMG_3047Listening to welcomes by SED’s Director of Student Services, Jackie Boyle, and learning more about the school from Professor Carol Jenkins were moments that truly stuck with me throughout the day and as I headed back home to New York. Something that amazed me was how close-knit the students and faculty seemed to be. The image I had in my head, while positive, was nothing like I witnessed on that day. Each faculty member knew the names of the students, calling upon them individually and recounting particulars about each of their lives, courses and experiences. That was quite remarkable to me.

While I had read that the School of Education provided a smaller community within the much larger university, I never imagined such a strong feeling of togetherness. Upon arriving at BU, I was so warmly welcomed into the School of Education that I immediately felt at home. It was within a few short days that I realized I had entered a truly special environment. Professors were approachable, faculty and staff were always warm and friendly, and older students, mere strangers to me, were always smiling and willing to offer guidance and advice. As silly as it sounds, even the school’s lobby provided a comfort to me. It had a particular “homey” feeling that was unlike any other. To this day, I know that at any point in time, walking in, there will be a friendly face sitting on a sofa, a student napping against the wall, or a group gathered to work on a project. Every face is a familiar face, and that is, what I believe to be part of the beauty of the School of Education. I feel as though we are truly a family—a supportive, close-knit group of people that is unlike any other.

I realize that my love for this school has only grown greater with time. Between classes, working at SED, and being involved in several organizations within the school, it is more than likely that you will find me at Two Silber Way at any hour of any school day. I truly call the School of Education my home—a home I hate to leave for every holiday vacation, and a home I run back to at the end of every summer. As much as I love Boston University as a whole, I could not imagine myself in any school other than SED. The feeling of community, and the passion for education that is so prevalent within the walls of the building, is one that cannot be explained, but only felt. I would not trade my experiences here at Boston University’s School of Education, for anything in the world, and I truly cherish each and every day spent at this school.

*AnneMarie Schiller is a junior at Boston University School of Education studying elementary education.

Appreciate Every Moment – What I Learned at Boston University

By Zeba Race, SED 2014

On the day I moved into college, my dad told me to appreciate every moment because it will be over before you know it. Looking at the four years ahead of me, and the countless classes I had to take, I did not believe him. Four years is a long time! But here I sit, done with college and I can’t help but laugh at my naiveté. College went by fast… too fast. Four years is actually a short amount of time, especially when I condensed it to three and a half. The end of college is like what I imagine a near-death experience to be like – when they say that your life flashes before your eyes. I walk down the street and I get flashes of moments I had just a semester ago or as much as two years ago. These flashes make me smile and they also make me sad. I loved every minute of college, even the minutes that I didn’t particularly like.

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Not only did I recently finish college, but I also finished my student teaching in a 1st grade classroom. As I start to apply for teaching jobs, I start reflecting on all that I have learned in my time at BU. It’s pretty much impossible to sum up all that I have learned, but I will give it a try.

I learned it’s ok to be silly. I learned how to show the children that you love them and are excited to see them. I learned how to keep my directions specific and short. I learned how to do movement breaks and change my voice to regain students’ attention. I learned how to make visuals to help both visual learners and ELL students. I learned how hard it is to teach everything in the curriculum and still teach what you believe to be important for your students. I learned how hard it is to attain a work-life balance, but how crucial it is. I learned how important parents are to the learning process, and I also learned how frustrating they can be at times. I learned how when you teach two groups the same lesson, you always teach the second lesson better. I learned how many materials a teacher needs – it is a lot. I learned how students can be responsible for taking care of the classroom and keeping it clean. I learned it’s ok to make mistakes or try things differently, because that’s how you learn what does work. I learned that people know when a teacher comes from BU – that we are so well trained. I learned that I love teaching.

I wrote in my goodbye letter to the families in the classroom I student-taught in this semester that I entered this semester as a student and I’m walking away a teacher. I really believe that, but don’t worry – I’ll be a life-long learner, if not formally a life-long student. BU creates teachers who value learning. I am excited to start teaching and put all that BU has taught me to use, but I will definitely miss BU and all my professors and friends I have made through this incredible journey.

*Zeba Race is a senior at Boston University School of Education studying early childhood education.

Why We Keep Going – Putting Students First

By Carina Traub, SED 2016

Photograph Courtesy of Kiera Blessing

Photograph Courtesy of Kiera Blessing

With exam season rapidly approaching, it can be easy to get stuck in an educational rut, a place where everything seems impossible and the thought of writing one more paper makes you want to turn yourself into a blanket burrito. However, looking around the School of Education, I am reminded of why we put in the hours and the effort.

As a future educator, my first impulse for why we keep going is, of course, the students. One afternoon during my pre-practicum, I was doing literacy testing with a little girl, and my own enthusiasm might have been a little off-putting. She would read a passage multiple times and then color a bar on the chart representing her increasing proficiency.

With her third reading, I could not contain my excitement, and I spoke in a rush, “That was excellent! Look at how much you’re improving. You are such a talented reader. You should read to your younger siblings. The cycle of literacy!”

She just laughed and muttered an “Oh, Miss T.,” but we had made reading fun and important. So while I memorize neuroscience terms in preparation for my exam, I will think of her. I will think of how the seemingly endless list of vocabulary will help me to understand the cognitive processes for learning to read, write, and speak.

Another beneficial thing to remember pertains to our purpose here. We work so hard to improve ourselves and to learn so that our students can benefit from having the best possible educators in their classrooms.

Photograph courtesy of Kiera Blessing

Photograph courtesy of Kiera Blessing

I just spent three hours trying to get a document uploader to work for my Computer Science class. As I fought with the computer coding, my mind drifted to 826 Boston, the creative writing center I volunteer for. I thought of the sophomore in high school I had been working with, a bright student willing to tackle geometry, chemistry, English, and humanities in our fleeting hour and a half.

As we leafed through his humanities homework on disabilities, he expressed his frustration reading about all these government acts. I pointed down to the bolded Americans with Disabilities Act and described how the act prevented discrimination in employment based on disability. My student responded that he did not know any disabled people who worked. We then proceeded to have an in-depth discussion on disability in the United States culminating in a dialogue about Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), where he exclaimed, “I have one of those!”

So if learning how to write the computer code for a document uploader allows me to one day have an interactive class website where my students can have insightful conversations like the one I had at 826 Boston, then maybe there is a point.

Maybe the reason we carry on is because that one fact that I might memorize may be what helps me connect to a future student. And for me, that is reason enough to keep going.

*Carina Traub is a sophomore in Boston University School of Education studying English education.

What’s Next in Education Reform

Dean Hardin Coleman offers his thoughts on education reform.

Diving Into Bags of Gold – Building a Strong Identity by Recognizing Talents

By Claire Buesser, SED 2016

When I came to BU last year, I knew I was embarking on a new journey. Everyone told me “college is a chance to start over!” This was it, my chance to leave “old Claire” behind. As appealing as this sounds though, it terrified me. As the semester began, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the newness of my surroundings and unsure of how “college Claire” should react. I soon realized that this concept of starting over is inaccurate and misleading. College is not an opportunity to create a new person; rather, it is an opportunity to dive into myself as a person and allow that person to shine through. Sure, I can continue to sculpt and reshape myself, but I do not need to scratch my whole identity.

Photo Courtesy of Claire Buesser

Photo Courtesy of Claire Buesser

Coming to this realization allowed me to finally accept that my experience is what I make it, and it is unique to me because I am the one experiencing it. Embracing my own identity and trusting myself gave me the freedom to question, grow, and learn. My identity? A teacher. I, Claire, am a teacher. It is what I do best, it is who I am, and it is what I am called to do. I do not need to become a new person, I just need to more deeply develop the person I already am. Andrew Slack, the founder of the Harry Potter Association, said that “fantasy is not an escape from our world but an invitation to go deeper into it.” I liken this to my progression as a pre-service teacher; college is not a deviation from my former self, but an invitation to dive deeper into me. My SED courses stress the importance of valuing each student’s individual talents; why shouldn’t I apply to myself as well? I must embrace my natural talents, hone my skills, and value myself as a skilled, caring individual. For me, teaching is not a job; it is who I am. It is the perfect fusion of my skills, one that allows me to dive deeper into myself and into society.

One of my students in Sunday School phrased my sentiments very well. This week we were discussing God-given talents (likened to bags of gold in our lesson). I asked the children if I had any “bags of gold,” and they agreed that my talent is teaching. Rachel, a first-grader, elaborated: “you want to be a teacher because God gave you the gift to teach. That’s the bag of gold he gave you so you gotta use it so you can give more gold back to him.” That is exactly what I plan on doing. I intend to use my bags of gold to improve the world in my own way. I must not hide my gold, nor should I try to create my own bag of gold. I am only me, an optimistic teacher, who can’t wait to begin sharing her gold with the world.

*Claire Buesser is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education studying elementary education.