Q & A with Professor Ziv Feldman

Yixuan Yang (SED’17, math education) sat down with Clinical Assistant Professor Ziv Feldman to find out more about his background, his teaching, and his connection with the School of Education. Professor Feldman got his masters and doctorate here at BU, and now he is teaching undergraduate and graduate-level courses in mathematics content and methods for pre-service elementary, secondary, and special education.

12-5576-SEDHEADS-008YY: Where did you go to school?
ZF: I grew up in Brookline, and I went to elementary, middle and high school in the Brookline public schools. I received my undergraduate degree from Cornell University, and then completed my graduate degrees here at BU in the math education program.

YY: Why did you want to pursue a career in education?
ZF:  After college, I went into investment banking mostly because it seemed like a great opportunity to do challenging work and to live in New York City. Also, it was what many of my friends did. It didn’t take me very long, though, to switch to education because I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a math teacher. Back in high school, I had great teachers who seemed to enjoy their work a great deal. Being in a vibrant school environment also appealed to me. At the end of the day, I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to have a direct impact on others, so teaching seemed like a natural move for me.

YY: What’s your favorite topic to teach?
ZF: Right now, I teach math content courses for early childhood and elementary school teachers. I also teach methods courses for middle school and high school math teachers. I love to teach all of these courses for very different reasons. I love the content courses because we get to dig into mathematics that my students will actually teach in their future classes. We also see how powerful it can be to make sense of ideas as opposed to simply memorizing formulas. I also really enjoy teaching the methods course because we spend a lot of our time exploring strategies for teaching mathematics. We also grapple with some of the most common issues that new teachers run into, and I always learn new things when listening to students’ different perspectives and experiences. I also regularly have students videotape themselves teaching parts of lessons, so seeing the progress they make from one video to the next is very exciting!

YY: What advice you will give to pre-service teachers?
ZF: My first piece of advice is to identify the learning goals for your students when you are lesson planning. Lessons are not always going to go exactly as planned, but if you have a clear sense of what your goals are you can often get back on track and make reasonable in-the-moment decisions.

The other piece of advice is to do everything you can to get to know your students and let them know that you genuinely care about them. Sometimes I think we get so busy worrying about lesson planning, grading, and covering content that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that our students, like all of us, want to feel cared for and respected. Take the time to talk to each of your students, find out what their interests are, let them know yours. Let them know that you will do everything you can to support them.

YY: If you can recommend one thing for me that I have to do before graduation, what would it be?
ZF: I recommend you go and talk to current teachers. Go and observe their classes so that you see a variety of teaching approaches. Ask them questions about their work, about students, and about maintaining a work-life balance. In our methods classes, in preparation for writing their teaching philosophy statements, students have to interview a veteran teacher. Teachers hold an incredible amount of professional knowledge, so we have to proactively seek it out and use it to inform our own teaching.

YY: Could you share one thing you love about the School of Education at BU?
ZF: I did my masters and doctoral degree here, so I have been here for a little while. One thing that I have always appreciated about SED is that this is both a serious place where faculty and students develop deep professional knowledge, and a place where you can have fun and make good friends. In math education, we have undergrad and grad students coming together on the 7th floor working on math problems every week. Faculty will often join in on these conversations, which creates a fun and collaborative work environment. There seems to be a collective caring and passion for our work and for each other at SED.

An Open Letter to my Fellow Dean’s Hosts

By Carolyn Hoffman, SED’19

Picture5The first year of college is comprised of a mixture of smiles and frowns as well as laughs and tears. For most, freshmen year of college is the first time individuals have ventured from home alone for an extended period of time. At a school such as Boston University, stress levels can be magnified and emotions run high. After completing my first year at BU, I have realized that in these tense moments, those closest to you can offer enough soothing solace to get you through each day. Being in both the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences, I am bombarded with both academic and social strifes every moment of every day, and I have looked to my fellow SED Dean’s Hosts for comfort and wisdom.

It is evident upon spending time with SED Dean’s Hosts that they care for the wellbeing of SED and are attentive to the message the school conveys to the public. Dean’s Hosts are knowledgable about SED’s “footprint” in the Greater Boston community and personally work toward bettering those negatively affected by the growing socioeconomic inequalities present in Boston Public Schools. For SED Dean’s Hosts, teaching is not just a skill; it is a way of life. As one Dean’s Host similarly stated, “People ask me how much I will make as a teacher, and I say that I will make a difference.”

As education majors, we are are informed early on by former ED 100 professor Phillip Tate that ridding the world of all injustice is impossible; however, if we focus on positively impacting those around us, we can act as catalysts for change. Watching upperclassmen Dean’s Hosts interact with professionals and prospective students, I have witnessed Professor Tate’s words put to life.  Upperclassmen Dean’s Hosts not only serve as incredible role models for underclassmen Dean’s Hosts, but for all BU students. Their effectiveness in relaying the possibility of positive education reform creates infectious optimism in those around them, illustrating that without teachers, we would not be who we are or where we are today.

Not every Dean’s Host wishes to be a classroom teacher, yet all long to serve the world’s future generations. It is our differences that make us SED Dean’s Hosts unique, bonded by the common thread of caring for academically and socially influencing society’s youth. As an underclassman, I am aware that I have more growing to do as an individual and student. Through the SED Dean’s Host organization, I will continue to learn interactive skills and the importance of empathy.

With that being said, I want to thank my fellow Dean’s Hosts for being my guiding light during one of the most challenging years of my life. It is you all that prove smiles are contagious, laughs can come from deep inside your stomach, and that the next generation can and will be better off than the one before. Putting aside the multitude of stereotypes that surround being a teacher, I am thankful that I am able to learn with such talented individuals as yourselves. Cheers to you.

A Day at Student Records

By Olivia McKellar, SED’19

This year, I was given the opportunity to fulfill my work study at the School of Education Records Office. Work study allows students to hold jobs on campus as part of their financial aid package. At the Records office (“Records” for short), I correspond with professors and students through email, by phone, and in person. I also help with processing all of the forms that we have in the office. In order to describe my life at the Records Office, I have written an acrostic poem:

Ring ring!Picture1

Email with the detail

Crafts and laughs

Oranges with lunch, peanuts with crunch

Registration for SED nation

Daily Trivia by Olivia (King)

Sing a song all day long

Ring ring!: Part of my job at the Records Office is answering the phone. Students typically call to ask about registration, graduation information, or financial aid. Answering the work phone has allowed me to improve my focus skills. When on a professional phone call, I cannot ask someone to repeat everything he or she says because I am not fully listening. Because of this, I have improved my ability to concentrate on the phone and think quickly about solutions.

Email with the detail: In addition to answering the phone, I also correspond with faculty and students through email. People send us online forms, ask us questions about classes, and follow up on petitions. Sending emails at work has taught me how to sound professional online. Before I send an email, I triple-check my grammar and spelling. I have learned how to make an email sound warm and professional at the same time, something I had not really needed to do before becoming a Records Assistant.

Crafts and laughs: When we are not answering the phone and writing emails, we do a lot of arts and crafts in the office. With each month comes a new door decoration and drawing on the white board. For December we made snowmen and snowwomen, for January we made snowflakes, and for April we made flowers and bunnies. We like to make our office inviting and fun, and the decorations we create for our door (out of our colorful forms, by the way) allow us to cheer up the office.

Oranges with lunch, peanuts with crunch: I typically work in the middle of the day, so I pack a lunch that I can eat while I am working. For a week or two in March, the topic of conversation in the office was the kind of oranges I was eating. I kept telling everyone how delicious they were, but I could never remember the type of orange I was eating (we eventually figured out it was called a minneola). In addition to my oranges, I pack a crunchy peanut butter sandwich, emphasis on the crunch. My lunches in the office always provide stimulating conversation and a quick break from the business of the day.

Registration for SED nation: A huge part of our job at the Records office is getting students registered for classes. We know how stressful class scheduling can be, so we try to make students feel as reassured as possible about their upcoming semesters. It was great to work at the Records Office as a freshman because I got to learn the ins and outs of how paperwork gets processed at the School of Education. It also allowed me to meet students and professors as they came in and asked about the Registration process.

Daily Trivia by Olivia King: Alongside our door decorations is a trivia question of the day, usually written by my coworker Olivia King. The questions range from the number of onscreen deaths on Game of Thrones to what the “q” in “q-tip” stands for. Our daily trivia keeps us entertained and has taught me so many random facts. When I get to work, the first thing I do is look at the trivia for the day and try to answer it—I am usually way off!

Sing a song all day long: Although we are busy with paperwork all day at work, we like to sing songs because, well, that’s just the type of people we are. An office favorite is Dr. Jean’s Banana Dance (aka The Guacamole Song). If you walk in to the Records Office, you will hear a different Pandora station coming from each of the three desks. Having quiet music in the office keeps us working at a steady pace.

So, come on into the Records Office (Room 115) at the School of Education to see our door decorations and daily trivia, ask questions about your classes, or just to say hi! I love the people I work with and they have made my transition into college so much more fun and easy. I have learned and laughed in Room 115, and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to continue working there until I graduate.

An American in London

By Michelle Yelaska, SED’16

Studying abroad in London for a semester, I thought, “I already know the language, it’ll be fine!” I knew there would be some culture shock, like driving on the left side of the road, but I was in for a treat when I started talking to people in both London and on the continent. Student teaching in London, I picked up many diverse teaching tips, learned about international school systems, and navigated through new standardised tests. One of the greatest takeaways from studying abroad was the experience of being an English Language Learner (ELL) firsthand. Throughout my semester, whether in the classroom in London or travelling around the continent, I lived as an ELL student.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 10.52.22 AM

On my first day at Ursuline High School, my student teaching placement, I was assigned to observe a ninth grade mathematics class. The teacher announced that we would be reviewing surds that day, a revision topic. I nodded my head and pretended I knew what a surd was and why we would need to “revise” them. It quickly dawned on me that I was in a foreign land where I would have to adapt to their language and customs. (For the mathematically curious, a surd is an irrational number. “Revision” simply means to “review.”) Even though we share a common language, many words are used in a different context. For example, “pants” no longer meant jeans or slacks, but underwear. Complimenting someone’s pants was the most American crime I could have committed.

In the beginning, I was a little overwhelmed by all the new phrases I would have to learn in order to effectively communicate with my students. While not exactly like a full ELL experience, I sympathised with my bilingual students even more. I had to use two different languages in London: one for when I talked with my American friends and one when I talked with my British students and colleagues. To help me translate, I started keeping a spreadsheet of American speak versus British speak. In the future, for my ELL students, I think it would be extremely useful to keep a chart of common American phrases and academic maths terms.

Picture2The biggest learning curve, however, was when I was travelling on the continent and didn’t speak any French and barely any Spanish. Asking others for directions was extremely challenging and navigating the metros and underground subway systems was tricky. I found the Paris metro the easiest to navigate because they verbally announced the station and visually displayed the stop on the train. For my ELL students, I realised how helpful it is to display the information in many forms, not only limited to verbal and visual representations.

My study abroad experience proved to be a learning experience in every corner. London helped me get a taste of what ELL students experience when they first come to America. Although my conversion from American English to British English is admittedly much easier than other transitions, even this little sampling of language barriers provided valuable insight. I am very appreciative of this experience and I believe it improved my teaching skills in many ways I could not even imagine.



The Victory Lap: Dual Degrees, Semester Leaves, and Fifth Year Undergrads

By Emily Talley (SED’17)

Picture1 Today, I’m going to give a shout out to one of academia’s underdogs: the five year undergraduate degree program. There’s a lot of much-needed anecdotal advice for the typical college freshman, but this is advice that could apply to anyone at any stage in their undergraduate career, including you. Allow me to make a case for that misunderstood fifth year.

Let’s start with the obvious question, “why would anyone take five years to complete something that could be done in four?” Students do an extra year so that they can change majors, double major, add a minor, add several minors, take a semester off, take a year off, transfer universities, go part time, maintain a more sustainable credit load, find Waldo, find themselves, or anything else you can think of. The idea is that you would not be alone in your extended undergraduate career, and you would definitely not be disadvantaged. Repeat after me: There is no wrong way to get a degree. Say it out loud. Say it again! Are you feeling good yet? Your degree will be the same size and shape no matter how you go about constructing it, so choose to build it around your personal wants and needs.

Let me tell you about my own experience. I’m a fourth year dual degree student studying Modern Foreign Language Education (French) and English. There are a lot of advantages to pursuing both degrees. Most importantly, I am shamelessly devoted to both languages. French is poetic. English is poignant. Furthermore, I discovered twice as many new favorite authors in the past four years. My job opportunities are doubled. I could move to any French or English speaking country in the world and teach in either or both languages. I have twice the academic networks. The post-grad possibilities have more than just doubled! I’m spending five years getting degrees that, done separately, would take eight years.

I also chose to take a semester off to focus on my health, but I was originally mortified. I’m the kind of person that needs to be busy, accepts as many opportunities as I can juggle, and has a difficult time distinguishing between “over-achieving” and “standard expectations of myself.” I thought, “How does one fill four months of an empty calendar?” Well, I chose to fill it with wellness and adventure. I became a dramaturg for a production of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds; from there I assisted the director, designed the lobby display, learned how to change a marquee, worked on the set build, contributed a note to the program, hosted a nightly discussion with the audience, and decided that I want to pursue dramaturgy as a career. I also had ample time to investigate grad schools, set up an application timeline for the next year, fit GRE prep comfortably into my schedule, and develop a thorough post-grad plan that I otherwise wouldn’t have had time for. I volunteered editing college applications and essays, taught international poetry to my seventeen year old brother, and began a new etymology research project. I also learned three new oil pastel techniques, visited four states, three museums, and six beaches, hiked countless miles, and filled two journals. Now, I am back at school with re-focused goals, an improved work ethic, a strong plan for the future, and better health.

Picture2As my peers share their senior portraits, beg me to edit their grad school applications, bite their nails about The Real World, and look forward to doing something new, I’m having a regular spring semester, enjoying the opportunity to have a bit more time. I have a bit more time to work on my cover letter skills, a bit more time to attend Third Thursdays at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a bit more time to research internships and grad schools, a bit more time to volunteer with the Dean’s Hosts, and a bit more time to appreciate the reasons I’m on this adventure.

So here’s to the fifth year of undergrad. Here’s to the bonus package and the extra benefits. Here’s to the in-between adventures. Here’s to the extended opportunities. Here’s to the victory lap.



What it feels like to be a Senior in SED (as told by GIFs)

*Editors note: refresh the page if GIFs fail to load.

By Amanda Dolce, SED’16

When you realize you’re finally one of the big shots on campus:


But then you realize you still have a year of hard work ahead of you…


So you slip into a happy state of denial of your impending doom… I mean future!


And then along comes the first day of your student teaching practicum and some people would say you’re a little TOO excited…but those people would be wrong.


Then, all of a sudden it hits you that you’re leaving SED soon and you become oddly nostalgic about the weirdest things, like the annoying half floors…


Your professors start asking you if you’re feeling any Senioritis.


And when you see tour groups on campus, you wish you could be in their shoes just so you could come to BU and do it all over again.


But somehow you make it through the year and you’re finally done…


And at graduation people are congratulating you, but you just aren’t quite ready to leave your BU home yet.

But even though you’re scared, you know that you’re going to rock that adult life because you just graduated from the best school EVER! 


All gifs from GIPHY