But Seriously, Who Are We?

By Alison Nadler, SED’17

This is the SED lobby where a group of five students might meet to discuss a class project they are all working on, a volunteer event they are all interested in, and a club meeting they all attended the night before.

This is the SED lobby where a group of five students might meet to discuss a class project they are all working on, a volunteer event they are all interested in, and a club meeting they all attended the night before.

Every student in the School of Education can tell you about Professor Tate and the hats he wears on the first day of our Introduction to Education course to demonstrate the various roles a teacher may hold. He explains that teachers are comedians, mentors, friends, and disciplinarians. Some teachers are just disciplinarians and some teachers are just friends. Looking back, I recognized that the best teachers are those who can assume all four roles. Now as a student in SED, I’ve realized that it’s not just teachers in a classroom who are multiple people at once.

I work in the Office of Undergraduate Student Services at SED. Being in the building everyday allows me to understand who my professors really are and what they do. They’re not just people who teach my classes: they are advisors to multiple students, they are researchers, they write articles and books, they attend conferences, they are sources of information, they share their experiences, they network with the larger Boston community, and they develop new classes. I even saw one of my professors in her role as a parent at a school where I have my pre-practicum. I am fortunate for the opportunity to see what I call the “behind the scenes” of SED.

But it’s not just my professors who do it all; the SED students hold many roles, too. It is not uncommon for one student to take classes with a professor who is also her advisor, work on group projects with peers who are her roommates, attend clubs of which her friends are presidents and have the same friends attend a club of which she is president, work on research with a professor (the same professor who, at some point, probably hosted a speaker to whom this student came to listen), and volunteer for Big BU events that at least one of her SED friends helped coordinate.

The interconnectivity of the SED community is what makes it so amazing. When students in SED say “we are a small community within a larger university,” they’re not lying. Our SED community is rare in that a huge percentage of SED students, faculty, and staff are involved in so many ways. Each of us contributes something separate and unique, but at the same time all of our contributions culminate to develop SED into what it is. I always wonder if I would be the person I am today without the experiences I’ve had at SED.

What I Have to Offer

By Mackenzie Morgan, SED 2016

MorganOn the first day of my student teaching practicum, I stood in front of twenty 10th graders and, later, twenty 11th graders and I tried to figure out how on earth I was going to do what I had come there to do. How was I going to convince these forty teenagers that if they gave their attention to me rather than their iPhones, it would eventually be worth it? How was I going to earn their respect, I wondered, and, even though I came here to give them something, did I really have anything to offer them?

Despite a fumbling introduction where my fun fact was “I really love Taylor Swift and Harry Potter,” I survived my first day and my students were fairly accommodating. But the most intimidating part about looking out at those forty different teenage faces on that first day was realizing that they were forty different teenagers, different from each other and different from myself at their age. Thinking back to myself at 15, 16, 17 wouldn’t do much good because they weren’t me. There would never be one solution or plan because they weren’t each other. And even though the theoretical, two-dimensional teenagers in my education textbooks made me briefly forget, these intimidating but unique and distinct individuals were exactly why I became a teacher and they were exactly what would be both most challenging and most rewarding in my time in the classroom.

As a student, I never had a favorite subject. Rather, I had favorite classes, which differed year-to-year depending on the teacher. I valued the teachers who treated me as a person and not just a name on the roster—those who had conversations with me about my life outside of their class and shared evidence of the fact that they themselves were people too. By these simple acts, they made me feel as though I, as one individual, was both appreciated for and capable of whatever it is I wanted to do. And what I wanted to do was do this for others.

I didn’t become a teacher to teach a class—I became a teacher to teach students. I quickly learned that this would never be easy. I always felt like I was letting someone down: the student who was ahead of her classmates who I wasn’t challenging enough, the student who did better reading alone but was made to read with the class, the student who preferred taking notes but was assigned an inquiry project, and so forth. I was never able to plan forty different, individual lessons, and while I was aware that different students were happy on different days, I was more worried by knowing that there was always someone else who wasn’t. I wanted all forty of them to be appropriately challenged, supported, and excited during every lesson and every day. This, I know, is idealistic, especially for my first time in a classroom.

At the end of the semester I asked my students to fill out a survey about my teaching to help me improve. It was true that they didn’t all like everything that we did and that some of them didn’t always feel challenged. But it was also true that they all felt respected, they all recognized and valued the one-on-one time I spent with each of them, and they each felt like I was kind and that I cared about them—not only as a class but also as individuals.

I thought back to all of the free periods and study halls that I spent working with individual students and the times that they let me in, telling me they wanted to help people and become a therapist, or about their football game, or about where they wanted to go to college, or what they did with their friends that weekend. I thought about the fact that even though one of my students never turned in any assignments and was failing my class the entire semester, I always recognized and valued his participation in class and reminded him about his missing assignments regularly, giving him new copies and offering to help him. Even though he never made up any of the work, on my last day he was the only student who gave me a card that was just from him, and not from the class. I was leaving him with the same 35% he had in my class for the past three months, but I was also leaving him feeling valued and capable despite his failing grade—because he is valued and capable, as are my thirty-nine other students.

I left my student teaching knowing that the next time I face forty or more distinct and unique teenagers, I will do so with the confidence that if they give me their attention, it will eventually be worth it. What I have to offer them is the respect for and dedication to letting each individual show me—and themselves—what it is they have to offer the world, because they each have something. And they each deserve to know that.

Mackenzie Morgan is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in History Education

How My First Day Student Teaching Made National News

By Rachel Hanson, SED 2017

HansonWhen my alarm sounded at 5:15 a.m. on my first day of student teaching, I jumped out of bed more eagerly than anyone should ever get up at 5:15 a.m.. My early morning voyage was completed before the sun was even up. I made it to Boston Latin Academy over an hour before first period started, something I haven’t managed to do since. I proudly walked right past the signs on the stairway that said “No students permitted before 7:10 a.m.” and was greeted by every teacher I walked past, nobody questions whether or not I should be there. I made my way to my cooperating teacher’s classroom and found it locked with the lights off, a friendly reminder on how early I was. As I waited, daydreams of what the lessons would be like entered my mind. My first day as a student teacher was made more memorable when what happened in class made national news.

When the first senior sociology class rolled in, I knew this was going to be a little different. The students were talking, loudly and passionately, amongst themselves about what had happened on Twitter and Instagram the night before. At one of the other exam schools in Boston, Boston Latin School, students had created a hashtag, Black at BLS (#BlackatBLS), to share their experiences being people of color in a school that is predominantly white. The hashtag calls attention to and creates a conversation addressing the injustices and racial discrimination that the students of color face. However, the Black at BLS hashtag was met with criticism. It is the criticism that the hashtag was receiving that angered the students in my cooperating teacher’s sociology class when a student from BLA posted a racially charged criticism against the students supporting the hashtag.

Being the teacher of three sociology classes, my teacher decided to forgo his original lesson for the day and instead provide students the opportunity to talk about the conflict on social media and their response and understanding of what happened. The sociology classes had just finished a unit on racism, so all he asked was that they rooted and rationalized their understandings and perspectives in what they had learned in the racism unit. The Boston Globe and the New York Times had articles about the Black at BLS response and backlash. Even more close to home, Boston University will be hosting the founders of the Black at BLS hashtag and movement in the School of Education for a Critical Conversations and Coffee event in March.

The students were going to have conversations about Black at BLS and its backlash no matter what, but my teacher saw an opportunity to provide a forum for those students to articulate intelligent responses rooted in sociology so they could go out and engage in meaningful conversations about race with their equally upset peers. What I learned on my first day was far more valuable to me than I could have possibly imagined as I daydreamt about what my first day would be like as I waited outside the classroom. I learned the value of a teachable moment, how to facilitate tough conversations, and when to prioritize real life over my lesson plans.

Rachel Hanson is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in History Education

Five Tips to Being Productive This Winter

By Winki Chan, SED 2018

Boston has a lengthy winter and at some point, you will ask yourself the question, “Why did I come willingly to this cold place for college?”

via GIPHY

For first timers, the cold can be gruesome, and the snow can be annoying (especially when it is grey and not fluffy anymore). You won’t really have the motivation to go out and it seems like your life is limited to your room and the classroom (That was how I felt last winter). However, this seemingly boring winter can actually be very productive if you know what to do. Here are some suggestions on what to do this coming winter:

1. Keep moving. Don’t let the cold stop you from going to the gym or going out to jog. I am not telling you to go jogging when it’s 20F with a blizzard out, but maybe do some stretching or yoga in your room. You can easily turn that into a roommate activity and bond with each other!

via GIPHY

2. Don’t eat too much. I know it’s tempting to just curl up on your bed with Netflix and pizza (I mean, we technically get Domino’s for free with our Dining Points…), but if you do that everyday, of course you wouldn’t find much productivity to leave your bed. Not eating too much can prevent you from being a slump!

via GIPHY

3. Find a cause that you care about and look into it. Read books about it and research it. Dive deep into the matter. Find things that you can actually do about it and don’t just talk about it. If you care about animal rights, find volunteering work at an animal shelter so that you can go help out when it’s warmer!

via GIPHY

4. Take the time to get to know your friends better. Get cozy and make cups of tea. Ask them about their lives and talk about your hopes and dreams and worries. Show that you care about them and that you love them. These acts of kindness can surely make them feel warmth in the cold winter months. (I know it sounds cliché but it’s really sweet.)

via GIPHY

5. Last but not least, keep yourself updated on current issues. Just because you are warm in your room doesn’t mean the rest of the world is. Be aware of the unjust and unfairness that is around us and reflect on it. Develop a sense of critical thinking and read the news.

via GIPHY

I hope these tips gave you some insight as to what to do this winter. Take good care and keep warm. For those of you who have never seen snow before, have lots of fun and enjoy yourself!

via GIPHY

Winki Chan is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Early Childhood Education

Changing the Way We Perceive Our English Language Learners

Using Self Advocacy and Activism in the Classroom

By Christine Olsen (SED ’12)

It started with a question: “What comes to mind when you hear the term English Language Learner?” I have been teaching English as a Second Language for three years now and I have never thought to ask this question before.

“Have trouble talking.” “Dumb.” “Kids who struggle.” “Different.”

These are just some of the responses from my 7th and 8th grade English Language Learners. When I posed this question, students openly and honestly shared how being given this label made them feel inferior as well as how it shapes the way others see them: “It doesn’t value the languages and cultures we come from; it only looks at what we don’t know.” By the end of the discussion, it became clear that my students needed to be recognized for their strengths and abilities, not just their deficits. The students generated a list of potential new names and voted to replace “English Language Learner” with the label “Multilingual Student.” They prefer this label because it is more representative of all that the students are capable of and acknowledges them for an often overlooked (but highly valuable) skill: the ability to speak more than one language.

Initially, I only thought of changing this label within my own classroom, but then a student asked “Ms. Olsen, why can’t we change this for the whole school?” This led to a research/persuasive writing project. The students brainstormed reasons the name should be changed and I helped them find relevant articles that supported their position. They created a survey and polled their peers in order to get a better sense of the language and cultural diversity around them. They used this data to prove that the label multilingual student is more inclusive (66% of students surveyed from our school are either currently in English as a Second Language or have been in the past). I taught persuasive writing techniques and then the students applied the lessons by putting together a PowerPoint presentation. In October, my students presented this PowerPoint to the administrators of our school. This presentation led Seven Hills to change the label school-wide. As a result of this process, my students were able to redefine a part of their identity and significantly impact school culture. There has also been an increase in multilingual students’ confidence, self advocacy, and academic achievement.

Once successful, my students did not want to stop there. They discussed how proud they felt to positively impact their school and recognized that there must be other students labeled as English Language Learners around the country who share their feelings on this issue. They don’t want other students to be negatively affected by this label, so the students are currently working to make a change on a larger scale.

We created a petition on WhiteHouse.gov  and we need your support. If this petition gets 99,999 signatures by February 27, 2016, the White House will review it and respond! Please help my students make a change that will improve the perceptions of our multilingual students nationwide!

You can view and sign the petition here: petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/change-label-english-language-learners-multilingual-students-0

The Case for High School Sports

By Will English, SED 2016

Will EnglishThe one thing I miss most about high school is playing organized sports. For me, like many, the jump to collegiate athletics was just too much, especially attending a school with Division I programs. But I would give anything to play just one more season. High school sports gave me some of the best memories and relationships of my life.

However, high school athletic programs often receive a lot of heat. Many believe that school’s focus too much on sports and neglect the academic performance of their student athletes. Unlike many countries ahead of the United States in testing, high school athletics have become a social norm across the nation. And this leads to the perception that student athletes lose focus on their academic performance and instead are only worried about sports.

Having gone to high school in Western Pennsylvania where football is king, I witnessed this firsthand. The program at Gateway High School was always in contention for a conference title, and many thought that the players were not as academically driven. While I’m not sure the team needed a huge stadium or new uniforms each year, the school was proud of the team’s success. And the student athletes continually showed success on the football field and in the classroom.

Daniel H. Bowen and Jay P. Greene (2012) of the University of Arkansas analyzed the relationship between a school’s win-percentage/sports participation rates and graduation rates/test scores. Through their research, they actually found that the emphasis a school puts on athletics has a positive correlation with higher test scores and lower dropout rates. While some may relate on field success to an obsession with winning and a lack of emphasis on education, success in high school athletics can mean so much more to students. Success in sports often promotes a stronger school community. Likewise, it creates positive relationships between students, as well as between students and their coaches. These kinds of relationships are extremely beneficial for students on and off the field.

Speaking from personal experience, playing high school sports only positively affected my educational experience for many reasons. It taught me strong time management skills; playing soccer in the fall and volleyball in the spring meant I had to stay on top of all my school work. I also learned valuable leadership skills that I use today in other extracurricular activities. Sports were also a way to relieve stress, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and just have fun.

So, while academics should always be the main focus of a school, we should not be so quick to blame high school sports for educational issues. Sports can teach important values, while acting as a positive outlet for countless students. It is up to parents and coaches to emphasize a consistent balance between academics and athletics so that our nation’s student athletes do not lose sight of their goals in either area.

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