Theory into Practice: Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

By Colleen Mahany, SED 2015

I am in my senior year at Boston University’s School of Education and I am student teaching at a middle school. I’ve been at the school for less than two months and I’m already fully in charge of the lesson plans, classroom management, grading, and general wellbeing of my students. In short, I feel like a real, walking, talking teacher. Finally.

Anyway, after three years of filling my undergraduate head with as much pedagogy as I can, I have begun to test it all on my students. Essentially, my seventh graders are my guinea pigs. Sometimes I implement strategies on purpose, such as having students sort tier three vocabulary words into a word web. That’s a fancy way of saying that I have my students sort domain-specific vocabulary into different categories on a graphic organizer. Other times, I put together a lesson and realize happily (and luckily) that aspects of my lesson reflect established, research-based instruction.

For example, my very first, independently planned and executed lesson was about what constitutes a civilization. For homework, I wanted them to review the information and convey to me that they understood the notes and group work from that day. I allowed students to choose their mode of response. If they felt that they were a strong writer, I encouraged them to write a letter, speech, or skit. If they felt that they were better able to express their ideas through pictures, I encouraged them to create an illustration, comic, or cartoon. If they were talented songstresses, I encouraged them to write a song.

The next day I received a variety of versions of the assignment, which made me happy since the students, for the most part, demonstrated that they understood the major concepts of the lesson. Some of my students struggle to work independently, but thrive working in groups. As a result, I had a group of students turn in a group skit. I also found that this approach was most helpful for English Language Leaners who are not completely comfortable with the language yet. Obviously English Language Learners need ample practice with reading, writing, and speaking, but, when appropriate, I try to allow them to show they know the information in a comfortable way. One of my students also voluntarily turned the small homework assignment into a poster presentation. I was beyond thrilled that this 12-year-old boy felt inspired to go beyond the ordinary and expected.

The whole point of this rant is not to glorify my first teaching experience; trust me, I have had my fair share of flopped and confusing lessons this semester. I just want to explain how I reflected and realized that I accidentally took something I learned in my Introduction to Education course and put its ideas into my lesson.  Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory basically asserts that students have nine different areas of strengths and learn best through different modalities. These strengths include visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical, naturalist, and existential. In a small way, the homework assignment reflected this theory and translated it into practice. Students were able to explore their strengths and learn in a way that made the most sense to them. Hopefully, I make the happy mistake of being influenced by classic, education research while planning lessons. Or, you know, include instructionally sound practices on purpose.

Colleen Mahany is a senior in the School of Education, majoring in History.

Reshaping Standardized Testing

By Griffin Monahan, SED 2016

Standardized testing isn’t going anywhere soon, but it can be reshaped. Without a powerful piece of federal legislation to counter The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, it will be impossible to remove standardized testing from public schools in America. It’s a hard pill to swallow for some. Spending several days of school taking state exams. Students sit at their desks for several hours as they tackle thick packets of multiple-choice questions. It is an ugly realization: standardized testing isn’t going anywhere soon.

Fear not, the future of education isn’t as dark as it may seem. Recently Matt Malone, the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, spoke to a large group of Boston University students. He spoke on the current state of education in Massachusetts and the country. A major issue that Mr. Malone recognized was how standardized testing has grown to Godzilla sized proportions. One of Massachusetts’ major leaders in the field of education believes that there is too much test taking. That means there is potential for change if the uppermost leadership recognizes a problem with testing. Mr. Malone conceded that formal measurements of student progress will not fade away anytime soon but he did assert that they can be reduced in size.

How else can states measure student progress other than formal standardized testing? One method that Mr. Malone suggested was statewide student portfolios. Both students and teachers would collect student work throughout the year to demonstrate proficiency and more importantly progress. Standardized tests could be reduced in size and emphasis through the addition of alternative measures such as the student portfolio. Hands on assessments like this give some control back to classroom teachers. If teachers do not have to worry about two weeks of testing then they can teach more lessons focused on their curriculum and less on state test standards. Less drill and kill and more projects and student collaboration results in engaging classrooms. The future of education isn’t so bleak after all, we just need to reshape some of the problems into solutions.

Griffin Monahan is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in History.

A Life-Long Dream: Educating the Girls of Afghanistan

By Alisha Parikh, SED 2017

A girl and her father walked back to their home from a small living room that the girl called her school. The two missed a roadside bomb, by minutes. Upon entering their home, the phone rings with a voice on the other end that warned, if the father were to continue sending his daughter to “school,” they would try again tomorrow. This story was shared by a woman named Shabana Basij-Rasikh, on her Ted Talk “Dare to educate Afghan girls.”

Afghanistan is a country today where it is still risky for girls to attend school or be educated, and perhaps even one of the riskiest in the world. The title, “Dare to educate Afghan girls” for me, is so much more than merely the title of an empowering Ted Talk. It is my life-long dream to educate girls in Afghanistan, and why this country in particular? I never really have been able to develop a concrete answer for this question, and maybe will only with time and reflection. But time and reflection, after being asked numerous times why I so strongly persist on one day going to Afghanistan, have only made my desire to do so stronger. But perhaps I say this country in particular because behind the war-torn streets, the women whose independence has been destroyed, and the children who were unable to play in their backyard without a fear of being killed, I see opportunity, courage, and a resilience to be dictated by such cruel authority.

One aspect of the country in which I have seen a tremendous potential for change is the education of girls. As Shabana Basij-Rasikh encourages her audience to think about, what is the value of an educated daughter? In my view, the value of educated girls and women in a country such as Afghanistan is immense, and to deny this basic human right is to undermine so many young girls’ dignity and confidence. Its value may be that by educating the women of Afghanistan, their daughters and granddaughters will see education as a realistic opportunity, not something that is denied in an attempt to objectify women and demolish power even over their own lives. Or perhaps its value is that by educating the women of Afghanistan, their success and ambition will bring the country in a place to recover from decades of war and the brutality of the Taliban. The potential for change and value that I see in educating Afghan girls only continues to grow as I envision schools in Afghanistan embracing the girls of its county.

As an academically ambitious student, I see the value of my own education as a chance for me to pursue my passion and a meaningful career. In my personal experience, I never thought twice about my education – it was always a given, always a part of my future. But in third world countries, education is not always such a priority. And in the context of a country like Afghanistan, I believe that education – particularly for young girls – is priceless. Education and the difference it can make for one’s future gives individuals a purpose, a motive to work hard, and a reason to strive for success. If all people in Afghanistan were to value education, and work so that all Afghan children were able to receive an education, I believe the faith of people for the country’s future would be boundless. I have always believed that education is the solution to so many of the problems that exist in our world today. And I think a value and a dare to educate girls in Afghanistan would go a long way.

This is the link to Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s TED Talk:

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

Follow Your Own Instruction

By Sally Kaplan, SED 2017

As almost all education majors understand, we didn’t choose our major, it chose us. Since I can remember, I have strived to become an educator and my dream of teaching has played a part in many of the choices I make for my life. My mom still laughs at the fact that when I was six, I asked for an overhead projector for Christmas. My room was filled with markers and white boards and every weekend, I would pretend to teach an imaginary class. If you couldn’t tell, becoming a teacher was never really a question, it just depended which school would help me fulfill my dream. When I received my congratulations from Boston University, I knew the School of Education was going to be the faucet through which I would channel my passion.

When I finally settled down and looked over my schedule freshman year, I was pleasantly surprised to see not only Intro to Education but also Movement in Education. I had never considered movement to be a feasible part of the classroom, but I started to realize how important it really was. The main thing that stuck out to me from this class though, was Dr. Benes’ teaching style. She used the Socratic method to conduct classroom discussions, and she instituted aspects to the room that created a much more comfortable setting. In so many of our education classes, I feel as if the teachers are there to teach us education methods, but the actual way they teach us represents exactly what they tell us not to do. I have always found it ironic when I am typing into my notes not to lecture, while sitting in a three-hour lecture. I was so pleasantly surprised when Dr. Benes actually set up her class so it not only taught us how to teach, but also modeled an appropriate way to conduct a classroom.

I was so touched by her movement class, so I was so thrilled to see that I was taking another one of Dr. Benes classes this year. This semester I am taking Health Education, but I feel like the class is also, once again, supplying me with a weekly observation to see how to become a better teacher. For instance, in the beginning of her class, we are allowed two minutes to meditate, we write down events that are causing us stress and put them in a box so we can forget about them, and we also do a class check in where each student shares how they are feeling from 1-5 and why. These little aspects only take about five minutes but completely change the classroom atmosphere. Along with these little add-ons, she allows for continuous group work and electronic participation, which lends for the constant exchange of ideas and modernizes the classroom experience.

I came to Boston University for the help I needed to define and form my teaching pedagogy and I feel as if Dr. Benes has created a learning experience in which I can learn not only from the content in which she is teaching, but I can pick up ideas for my future classrooms from the model she sets. I appreciate that she takes the time to develop such a comprehensive classroom environment and I hope that more teachers start teaching not only content matter, but take the time to showcase the skills that create an effective teacher.

Sally Kaplan is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Elementary and Special Education.

A Few Good Men

By Noah Segal, SED 2017

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. That’s because the truth contradicts just about everything you probably learned growing up. Dads work long, late hours in office buildings that tower over the city streets, while moms cut fresh orange slices and pack the kids into the minivan for soccer practice, right? Wrong.

Although I am currently a Special Education major at Boston University, my ultimate goal is to work with early childhood aged children in some capacity. When I tell girls that they normally say something like, “Aw, that’s so cute!” However, guys generally elicit quite a different response. Mostly something like, “No, but seriously bro, what do you actually wanna do?” When I ask them what they mean while flashing a mockingly curious smile, most of the time I can see the discomfort of my confidence dripping and oozing from their mouth, ears, and nostrils as they try to wrap their heads around what they just heard. Generally, according to their logic, men are suppose to wear suits, carry a briefcase, make all the money, and hold all the power. But what could be more powerful than teaching a three-year-old on a frigid winter day how to zipper their coat, fasten their mittens and strap on their boots all by themselves? Or better yet, what could be more powerful than teaching a Kindergartener how to read for the first time? Knowledge is power, and those lessons are priceless. I’ll concede to the fact that I probably won’t be wearing a suit to work everyday, or be carrying a briefcase full of important documents to lengthy business meetings, but why would I want to get finger paint on my fresh J. Crew suit? Why would I want to shuffle through paper after paper during a (bored) meeting when I could be covering my classroom walls with the artwork of my students? No offense to your father, but my job sounds like a lot more fun.

Prior to transferring to BU this semester, I worked in a preschool for three years. The only men in the building other than myself were the two custodians. By the end of year three I couldn’t even keep track of how many times someone curiously and rudely stopped me in the hallway or kitchen to ask what I was doing there or if I could get them a mop. Currently, in my classes here at BU, the ratio of male to female students has to be something like 1:15, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that estimate was on the low side. So, where are all the men? I have only been at BU for about five weeks, but from my observations, many of the guys in SED are Secondary Education majors. I can’t recall the exact number of guys that I’ve met that are Early Childhood, Special Education, or Elementary Education majors, but I am certain that I could count them on one hand. In my opinion, there are two ways of looking at this situation. One way is to rationalize that the few guys who are pursuing careers in work related to young children happen to be incredibly passionate and committed to it despite the fact that it contradicts many American societal norms. The second way to view this issue is to understand that it takes an incredibly patient, empathetic, confident man to work with young children, and frankly, I don’t think most guys are man enough for the challenge.

So, do you still believe that men only belong in boardrooms but can’t lead circle time? Do you still think that wealth and power can only be quantified in dollars and cents rather than the number of tears dried, diapers changed, and lessons learned? If so, despite that being sad, it’s all right because you wouldn’t even make it to snack time at a preschool. However, for the few men who are capable, we find ourselves struggling to gain respect, trust, and admiration from those who refuse to denounce archaic gender stereotypes. So try to be flexible in your thinking because for as much a woman belongs in your father’s boardroom, a man belongs in your mother’s preschool classroom. Now that’s the truth, can you handle it?

Noah Segal is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Special Education.

Stop and Watch the Leaves Fall

By Jessica Gulotta, SED 2017

Jessica Gulotta

There’s something about autumn that overwhelms me with comfort and bliss. Part of me thinks it’s because everything’s covered in different shades of orange and red; but mostly, it’s the change that the fall goes through that encompasses my admiration. When leaves change color, they’re not only dying, but they’re parting from their home, getting ready to be taken helplessly by the wind. There’s a beauty in this loss of life—it expands the room for impending growth and reveals the strength that vulnerability compels.

I was seven years old when I first started seeing nature as a symbol for life. Not metaphorically yet of course, but I was able to understand that people change as do the seasons. My Dad had taken me on one of his outdoor adventures again, and I was smitten with the fallen leaves. I remember him wiping the dirt off my hands as I picked up leaves from the newly cold ground. Watching me closely, he knew it was time for my first, of many, inspirational life chats. He started off by explaining modestly, why plants die when it gets cold, and grow when it gets warm. He told me how important it was to recognize change and appreciate it. He enforced that if I loved watching the leaves fall and blow throughout the wind, then I should do exactly that (and never stop). I remember him cleaning the dirt out from underneath my fingernails, making me pinky promise that I’ll always make time for what I love.

I think in college, it’s easy to get lost in obligations. Activities that used to be fun start to feel like a job, and taking time for oneself becomes nearly impossible. We mustn’t forget to stop and take time—time for our passion, time for our loved ones, and time for ourselves. When we remember to stop and take time, we allow expansion as individuals and development for change. There’s empowerment in knowing that if we desire to change, we can. So as I’ll walk along the esplanade this fall, embracing the comfort in the wind, I’ll keep that pinky promise to my Dad—and I encourage you to join me, and watch the leaves fall.