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

The Moment I realized I might want to Teach Outside the Classroom

By Griffin Monahan, SED’16

Griffin MonahanFor the past four years my career trajectory has pointed me towards the classroom, but my path has recently changed. Last semester I was student teaching at a nearby high school. Each day I would be at the front of a tenth grade history classroom. I enjoyed creating, instructing, and witnessing the bright minds of my students engage in historical inquiry. They would debate whether or not the rebelling American colonists were justified in their violent resistance to the British; consider the motivations of America’s Founding Fathers; recommend changes to the American Constitution. My experience in the classroom was a historian’s dream, but I soon became familiar with a new passion that would become my main focus.

One day after I had finished teaching my section of U.S. History, I wandered into the school’s learning center, an area for peer tutoring, mentoring from community members, and for students that needed additional academic attention. Immediately the director of the learning center greeted me; she mistook me for a new tutor and began showing me around, then asking for my schedule. By the time that I had left that afternoon I was signed up for several afternoons to serve as an academic tutor and mentor.

My first week in the tutoring center was unexciting. I would help students with their homework ranging in subjects from Algebra to English. During my second week I was paired with an incredibly disinterested student: slumped in his chair, homework nowhere to be found. I had no idea what I would be walking into. Meeting this student would change my career aspirations and how I perceived myself.

I began working with this student, Dan (not his real name), in a manner that I had utilized working with previous students. Asking, “What homework do you have? Do you have any projects to start? Should we study for an upcoming test?” Dan responded with short quips. Clearly he wanted nothing to do with me. I took a moment and thought to myself, “why should Dan want to work with me? He knows nothing about me and I know nothing about him.” At this point I realized I was beginning in all the wrong places. Looking at Dan’s backpack I noticed that he ran cross-country and track. I began asking Dan about his experiences running. I had run myself in high school; this knowledge helped me catch Dan’s interest. From talking about running we began discussing other aspects of his life. Being from East Africa, Dan had plenty to share that I had never encountered. Once Dan was finished sharing he then began asking me about myself. We spent 80 minutes learning about each other. We completed no academic work but when the bell rang we had completed an invaluable experience.

In the following days and weeks Dan was eager to work on his assignments with me. Using the methods that I had to learn about Dan and build a connection with him I had began working with other students in the learning center. Many of the students, including Dan, were seniors hoping to go to college. I noticed that despite having the desire to attend college, many of these students lacked a concrete plan to achieve their goals. All of the students I was working with would be the first of their families to attend college. These students and their families lacked experience with the college application process: when to take tests, how to speak with admission representatives, how to write an effective personal essay– these were all areas that I began working on with the students. During this work I felt that a new light went off in my head. My students and I were creating great progress. I loved teaching students about what I would describe as ‘life skills.’

When my student teaching experience was wrapping up, I was lucky to hear from my students that many of them had applied to college. I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride. Reflecting on my experiences I realized that I could be an effective educator in a capacity that I had previously never heard of.  As I look ahead to the days after graduation I hope to pursue jobs working with first generation students assisting them in the college application process. After completing my student teaching I was convinced that I am an educator, but what I had not anticipated was that I would want to work as a an educator outside of the classroom.

Top Four ‘Teacher Sayings’

By Emily Doughan, SED’16

Emily Doughan_SMAs a recent twenty-something year old, I often hear about how one day I’ll sound just like mother. I’ll say a lot of the same things she says without even realizing it (–not a bad thing! She’s a great lady. HI MOM). However, fresh off of completing my first full-time student teaching placement, I have realized that I’ve begun to sound just like all of the teachers that I have ever had, using sayings I have heard in the classroom my whole life; now I say them in the same tone my teachers used. Here are my top four favorites:


  1. “I’m looking for some new hands.”

This one is the best way to extend wait time, arguably one of the greatest tools in a teacher’s arsenal. Every classroom has that one kid who really enjoys running the show. I know I was that kid and needed to be told it would be unfair if I were called on every time. As a teacher, you really need to hear from everyone. A quick, “I’m looking for new hands” lets students who might not be the most outspoken know I’m waiting for them, while at the same time acknowledging the students who always have their hands raised.

  1. “I will wait” and/or “You are wasting your own time.”

For teachers and students alike, time is so valuable. More often than not, the form of currency between students and teachers is free time. My students knew if they weren’t quiet while lining up for recess, they would have to wait until they were. My time and my students’ time are precious, so when this phrase slips out, we must have something important to do.

  1. “Put that away or I will put it on my desk”

For those avid “Gilmore Girls” fans out there, remember the episode where Luke Danes says that kids are always sticky because they have jam on their hands, even if there is no jam in their house, and he has no idea how it happens but it just does? Well, I think he was wrong about the jam thing, but I empathize with how he was feeling. In my classroom, my kids were always playing with little trinkets, gadgets, or toys from their pockets! I didn’t even know where they all would come from! So many times, I had to ask students to please put them away because it was distracting to their fellow classmates. What was nice about this experience was it really made me think about how I would introduce a concentration toolbox in my own classroom. It was clear that my former students really needed something kinesthetic to play with while learning. With my own concentration toolbox, I’ll be able to model my own expectations for these toys so that they add to the learning experience instead of taking away from it.

  1. “Is it an emergency?”

Nothing ruins a lesson better than an ill-placed bathroom break!  While my friends with other majors discuss the various frustrations of being an unpaid intern, my contribution to the conversation is, “And then he had to go to the bathroom right in the middle of my lesson!” It’s not the most glamorous aspect of our job but it definitely does matter. My practicum definitely made me consider the importance of scheduled bathroom break time, but emergencies do occur. Let’s just say, I’ve become very good at noticing when a student starts to dance…

I’m pretty honored that I sound like all of the teachers I’ve ever had. Frankly it feels like I’ve made it. Every classroom experience, whether I was in front of the class or sitting at my desk in pigtails, has made me the educator I am today. I’m proud to sound like my teachers. I think it means I’m doing my job.

Three things that pushed me out of my comfort zone in my junior year

By Grace Dastous, SED’17

As junior year approached, I felt like I had finally found my home at BU. I have made some amazing friends, I have joined great clubs like Special Olympics and SED Deans Host, and as the year began, I fell into a familiar routine. To some, this would be ideal. I, however, made a promise to myself going into college that I would try something new and out of the ordinary each year. During freshman and sophomore year everything feels new, but by junior year, people stop trying new things in college and start focusing on internships and jobs. I didn’t want to stop trying new things, since college is too short to stop looking for all of the amazing opportunities offered, so I decided to experience things that I would never have done as an underclassman. Here are a few:


I joined the Quidditch team this year. I know some may think that Quidditch is super geeky and nerdy, but it is a real sport. If you look it up online, it is a full contact sport that involves tackling and endurance. As a high schooler, I played sports such as softball, basketball, and soccer. My first two years of college involved playing many intramural club games, but I missed the thrill of being a part of a serious team. I could not have asked for a better team, and I am so grateful to have met so many amazing people through this experience. Although I was very skeptical about trying out for the team so late in my college career, I am so glad I committed to Quidditch because it has made my junior year memorable.

Alternative Service Break (ASB)
I have been a part of many leadership clubs in SED such as Deans Host and the Transitional Mentors program. It is honestly easy to get engulfed into everything that is SED and not branch out. But through ASB, I was able to do so. I had never done a service break before, but through my involvement with FYSOP (the First Year Student Outreach Program), I was inspired to apply for an ASB coordinator position. Along with my co-coordinator, we were in charge of planning the logistics of the trip. We went to Goshen, Indiana, and worked with La Casa, Inc., an organization that helps rebuild affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness in the county. I could not have been more excited, and this has helped bridge my growing relationship with the Community Service Center at BU.

This is so cheesy and probably does not fit with the things that I have listed so far but I do not care. I love Adele’s song “Hello.” It pushed me out of my comfort zone (obviously in a good way!). The release of this amazing song led to hours of fun and endless nights, singing loudly with my friends, not to mention the hundreds of parodies that followed. I feel as though this song brought my friends and I all together and allowed us to bond and release stress. Thanks Adele for rocking this (but I’m sure my neighbors would not thank you after all of the singing).

Although that last one was silly, I am really serious that people need go out of their comfort zone in college. This is the last time you are not going to be responsible for rent and jobs and other commitments. Do something that you never would have done. Even if it doesn’t stick, I promise it will be worth it!