The Use of the R-Word and Why It’s a Problem

By Abby Lefebvre, SED 2017

“That’s so retarded” or “don’t be such a retard” are frequent statements I hear casually said around campus. When used by someone I am talking to I will usually ask him or her to choose a different word. I typically get several types of responses. Many people are apologetic and say, “Oh, sorry, I mean stupid.” Other people have tried to explain that the r-word is no longer associated with people with disabilities and it is just a synonym for stupid and therefore is okay to use. To me, these responses demonstrate that there is a larger problem than the use of the r-word. There is a gross misunderstanding about the meaning of the word and why it is offensive in the first place.

Since the word has become commonly used in informal speech, it is harder to see the connection between the original word meaning and the current informal use of the word. For this reason, it may be difficult to understand why the word is still considered offensive. The definition of the word retarded, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is “Offensive: slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development”. At one point in time “mental retardation” was a medical term used to describe a person with an intellectual disability. However, since then the word has been replaced by the term “intellectual disability” because it is more accurate and accepting. The r-word is an exclusive term that furthers negative stereotypes about people with disabilities. It can be hurtful whether it is directed towards a person with a disability or when used as a synonym for “dumb” or “stupid”. When used in this way it is equivalent to saying people with disabilities are stupid. In addition, the real message of the sentence is lost because the r-word has a completely different meaning than the words “stupid” or “dumb”. There are many other words to choose from instead of the r-word that will better represent the intended meaning.

I was recently in a situation where a person was using the r-word, and because I felt uncomfortable, I did not speak up. Afterwards, I spent a lot of time thinking over this interaction because I was upset that I did not say anything. Not using the word “retard” is part of the solution, but it is equally as important to speak out against the use of this harmful word. Many people, when I’ve told them I am upset by the use of this word, do not even realize that they are being offensive. By speaking up and telling others that the word is offensive to me and many other people, I am spreading awareness about the cause instead of tacitly approving by my silence. Hopefully this will lead others to stop using the word and become advocates themselves. The more awareness we can spread, the better. If you are interested in more information or joining the cause, there is a wonderful campaign called Spread the Word to End the Word. Their website has more information as well as ways you can get involved.

Abby Lefebvre is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Special Education. 

$79 Every Second

By Will English, SED 2016

Teachers have the opportunity to touch the lives of our nation’s youth, preparing them to become active, informed citizens. Yet being a teacher is not considered an overly respectable career, and people shy away from the profession for any number of reasons. But one popular reason someone might not want to be a teacher is the salary, which is considerably lower than many other full time jobs. So the question is why are teachers, the men and women who educate the future of our nation, paid so little?

Giancarlo Stanton, an outfielder for the Miami Marlins, recently signed the largest contract in North American sports history, $325 million over 13 years ( For those of you who don’t want to do the math, here you go: that is an annual salary of about $25 million or $68, 449 EVERY DAY for the next 13 YEARS… $79 EVERY SECOND! Now, I’m not saying in any way that Giancarlo Stanton does not deserve this kind of money; he is a fantastic baseball player, one of the best in the league. But let’s put this mega-contract into perspective.

The average salary for a high school teacher in the United States, for the 2012-2013 school year was $56,383 (U.S. Department of Education). So Giancarlo Stanton will earn almost $7,000 more IN ONE DAY than average teacher makes IN A YEAR! That’s almost incomprehensible.

It’s this type of severe salary disparity that fuels the ongoing discussion of why teachers aren’t paid more money? I’m not implying that I should have the chance to sign a multi-million dollar deal with the elementary school of my choice (although it would be nice), but think of the phenomenal implications of even a slight pay raise for teachers. Higher pay would make education a more appealing profession for our nation’s top college students. And bringing the best and most intelligent young people to the profession only enhances the education that our students would receive. Likewise, it would act as an added incentive for teachers to work harder and continually improve their trade.

This shows that a large part of this issue stems from the nation’s value of education, or lack thereof. We put such a strong emphasis on going to school and getting a good education. But can we truly say that we value a good education when teachers are so often disrespected, which is regularly displayed through their small salaries? These teachers play such an integral role in receiving a strong education, and therefore they should be compensated for their countless hours of dedication.

All good teachers share a passion for helping others and work tirelessly to provide their students with the best possible education. While I guarantee that Mr. Stanton shows this same relentless work ethic day in and day out, is there any reason that he should make such a staggering amount of money, which entirely outshines that of a teacher? There will always be differences in salaries between different careers, but until we show teachers the respect they deserve, both through pay and praise, then we cannot truly value our education.

Will English is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Elementary Education

How Lucky Am I?

By Rebekah Forsey, SED 2016

Let me answer my own question, I am very lucky. Why, you may ask? I’ll tell you.

I take classes at one of the top universities in the world. Not only that, but my classes mean something to me. They teach me all of the things that I will need to know when I take my turn to teach others. In so many education schools across the country, little to no emphasis is placed on diversity in the classroom. Aspiring teachers are taught how to teach math, science, reading, and writing, maybe even health, but are they taught about the real issues? Are they taught the real world application of that knowledge?

How many schools can brag that they have faculty that works in the field directly fighting the real educational issues? How many schools offer multiple courses on the contexts of education? As a junior, I have taken three classes about civil contexts of education, the social contexts of education, and the inequalities in education. I have learned about the inequalities that exist in our public education system, why they exist, and what I can do to combat them in my own classroom. There is no other school that would teach me all of this. No other school would force me to think about the real issues. I cannot imagine walking into a classroom on my first day of teaching if I had not been taught why being culturally relevant is important or why students come to schools with different biases and preconceptions. Whether I teach a class in an all white suburb or in an urban school that boasts diversity, I will be a better teacher because I know that culture matters. I know that where a child comes from is important, but does not stop him from achieving. I know that cultural diversity is a huge resource, not a deficit.

One of the hot topics in education is the idea of “teaching to the test.” We always discuss how teachers teach specific information just so their students can pass the test. I am lucky that SED does not just teach the information I need to pass my licensure test. They give me the skills that I need to truly be an effective teacher

Rebekah Forsey is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in Elementary and Bilingual Education. 

Confessions of an Out of Place SED’er

By Caitlin Donnelly, SED 2015

Photo Credit: Brandy Shaul via Flickr

Photo Credit: Brandy Shaul via Flickr

Outgoing, organized, friendly, good with children, energetic, great at public speaking, overachiever, one that color codes everything…These are only some of the stereotypical features that go along with being a teacher, the labels that people automatically link to your personality when they hear about your career choice. There is nothing wrong with having these characteristics, but as someone who lacks many of these trademarks, I know that these stereotypes can definitely make a person question whether they’re made for the part.

I loved my first year in the School of Education. Everyone was so warm and welcoming; it’s one of the most accepting communities I have ever been lucky enough to call my own. That being said, I still felt a little out of place in the beginning. I felt a little too quiet, a bit less organized, and not nearly as energetic as most of my future educator peers. The worst crime of all was probably my penchant for pens over crayons…

I’m also not the biggest fan of the general education classroom. As a future special education teacher, I love working one-on-one with students as opposed to being the center of attention for a large group. I love teaching life skills, analyzing student behaviors, developing individualized education plans. While these tasks are a part of every teacher’s job to some degree, they are specifically my passion in the field of education and sometimes this specificity seems to set me apart.

My lack of “teacherly” characteristics along with my specialized interests made me feel like a puzzle piece that didn’t belong. I fit in place just fine, but I felt like I didn’t match the pieces around me. Looking back, that was mainly because I couldn’t see the whole picture.

Stereotypes are dangerous, and this is a prime example of why. There are so many types of people in this world; how many of them would make excellent teachers but won’t try because they feel as though they don’t identify with the stereotype our society has set? Yes, many of the above traits are useful in teaching, but everyone remembers their favorite teacher as the one that made learning meaningful. This was the person that truly loved teaching. So, no matter how quiet you are, how loud, energetic, organized, or outgoing, no matter if you prefer teaching in the general classroom or one-on-one, the world need teachers who love teaching. It’s as simple at that.

Caitlin Donnelly is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in Special Education.

From Summer Camp to the Classroom

By Heather Cohen, SED 2017

I have been attending the same Jewish overnight camp, Camp Galil, since I was 11 years old, and now I have been a counselor there for the past two summers. My camp is not your typical camp, because while of course we have fun, there are also scheduled educational activities throughout the day. The younger age groups (going into 4th-7th grade) have one educational activity while the older age groups (going into 8th-10th grade) have two.

These activities vary greatly, anything from Israel’s history to how to get along with your peers to gender stereotypes and etc. I remember learning about Darfur, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how to respect my fellow bunkmates, and how to express myself through art and poetry. I loved the approach that my camp took to learning about these things. Our counselors would first do a “trigger” which was an activity to get us excited about what we were going to do next. Then there would be some kind of interactive aspect, for example, sometimes we would either act out scenarios or walk around and read information like we were in a museum.

After that, we would sit in a circle and have a discussion about what we did or what we learned. I remember being a camper and wishing this was how my actual school taught lessons. I was so much more engaged in these activities than I had ever been sitting in my desk at school. I felt more confident in sharing my thoughts in these circles than I did in the classroom, where I always feared that I had the wrong answer.

As a sophomore in the School of Education at Boston University, majoring in English Education, I am studying how to become the best teacher I can possibly be for my future students. Currently, I am in a general methods class where I am learning how to design lesson plans. These lesson plans, it turns out, look a lot like the plans for the educational activities I planned with my co-counselors for the past two summers. So while for most of my classmates, this is their first time writing lesson plans, I have had two summers of experience planning and executing these lessons. Have these activities been as academic as my future lessons will be? No, definitely not. Regardless, I have gotten experience with teaching without truly realizing it.

Being a camp counselor can seem like a cop out summer job for most college students, but for someone studying education, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Working with campers over the summer has affirmed for me, that teaching is what I was meant for. Whether it be fall, winter, spring or even summer, educating others is what I’ll be doing.

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

Computers and iPhones and iPads, Oh My!

By Allison Nadler, SED 2017

Technology consumes our lives. We are constantly on our phones to check emails, texts, Facebook… the list could go on forever. I’ve even heard people say that they feel empty and lost when they forget their phones. Supposedly, people are missing out on what’s right in front of them and are forgetting how to have a “normal” conversation because of technology. Strict rules are created at schools to prevent students from using their phones until the end of the day and parents complain that they never see their kids anymore because they are always on the Internet or texting a friend. While all of these opinions seem to be putting technology under a bad light, my experiences at Boston University allowed me to see the opposite.

Last year, I had the privilege of chaperoning a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. I led a group of nine students around the museum as they analyzed artwork and recorded interesting facts on their worksheets. All the students seemed to be enjoying the cultural environment and making sure they filled out assignments. But as they day progressed, the students looked tired and they started to sit on the couches and avoid the exhibits. One student said something that really stuck with me. I overheard her mention to her friend, “why should I waste my time wandering around the museum filling out this worksheet, when I can just look up all the answers online later?” Her friend agreed and the two of them proceeded to sit on a couch and check Facebook on their phones. My first reaction was that these girls were being disrespectful to and unappreciative of the art around them, but then I had a different interpretation of the situation. Of course this is what these girls thought; they spend every moment online expecting immediate answers, why should they spend six minutes finding the painting, two minutes searching for the answer, one minute reading the answer, and two minutes copying it down on the worksheet, only to forget it in four minutes once they begin to search for the next piece of artwork listed on the assignment. It made perfect sense.

As a student in the School of Education, I have the privilege of going to many different schools and classrooms in and around Boston. So far, I have only been to elementary schools, but at these schools I am able to see how technology is used during the day. Most of the classrooms I’ve seen have SmartBoards, projectors, and iPads. SmartBoards are used to watch educational YouTube videos, play interactive games, and help students practice their handwriting. Projectors allow teachers to read a book aloud to the class, while showing them the pictures the whole time. The apps on iPads are perfect for teaching math and writing skills. Educational technology is clearly promoted in the classroom. Additionally, teachers are constantly encouraging their students to learn about the world around them; but from what I’ve noticed, seeing the world means using interactive maps online to find the Eiffel Tower, Googling an image of the Mona Lisa, and discovering new information on Wikipedia. While this is not the most conventional way to absorb information, it is the most instantaneous; and students today seem to want instantaneous results.

So, is it really so bad that the girls at the museum wanted to research the paintings at home? On the Internet they will find endless information about the artist and the location in which the painting was created in just a few clicks, but instead they were limited to the four-sentence description on the small plaque to the right of the artwork. Yes, using a phone during class to send texts or post pictures does not allow students to focus on important material, but using an iPhone during class to define an unknown word, figure out the chronology of historical events, and look up a complex mathematical formula definitely adds to the learning experience. When technology is used for educational purposes, it expands the options students have for learning. As a teacher during such an advanced time period, it will be very difficult to help students recognize when it is appropriate to use technology for academic purposes and when it is not.

Allison Nadler is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Special Education.