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.

My Education Degree Will Take Me Places

By Navraj Narula, SED 2016

CER

I will always and forever want to be a teacher. When I was younger, I dreamed of becoming an actress. I can also see myself as a writer, lawyer, CS programmer, or photographer – these careers encompass things I am passionate about; however, when it came time to pick a major, I went with education and I do not regret it all. I still want to be a teacher, more than anything else.

This summer, I applied to Boston University Study Abroad’s internship program in Washington, D.C. I expected my program manager to seek out an internship in a summer school program, a tutoring service company, or anything related to me having direct contact with students. However, this was not the case. Instead, I was advised to apply to non-profit think tanks. I felt as if a lot of these places were not even remotely related to my major, except perhaps The Center for Education Reform (CER). So, I sent in my application to CER hoping to hear back from them with a “Yes!”

That “Yes!” from the organization’s executive vice president may have been about the best thing that had ever happened to me yet. I am an international student, ethnically Indian and born and raised in Thailand. Having the chance to intern in the capital of the United States, even at a non-profit organization a lot of people have never really heard about (although they should!), was a big deal to me. I was excited to learn what the working world was like and I came back to Boston University truly as a young professional.

At my internship, I did not receive the opportunity to work with students directly; and for the first time, I found that okay. I worked with my office instead: the development team, the communications team, and even the leadership team. I planned an event, featuring panelists specializing in educational policy, with my fellow interns. Additionally, I attended a policy briefing on the Hill related to rural education and was even able to meet with Katherine Haley, a policy advisor to the Speaker of the House, to discuss educational policy.

Policy – it was everywhere. I researched it at my internship, wrote an essay on it in my political strategies class, and came home to find my friends pushing for one interest over another. I had never considered a subject like political science to be of interest to me. I thought I would be studying governmental structure, the law-making process, and the philosophy of the Framers. However, political science is more than that. It is advocating for an issue you care about; it is lobbying in all areas and diversity represented in one room, as it should be. It is just interesting. Do I want to be a lawyer now? No. However, I can see myself involved in a career in educational policy. My biggest takeaway from CER and interning in D.C. is that if I set my mind to something, I actually could accomplish that task – better than I thought I ever would.

I still want to be a teacher, but I am thankful for my policy-related internship. There are many things that an education major can do, and I am glad that I at least know that I have the option to engage in another profession if I wanted to.

Navraj Narula is a junior in the School of Education, majoring in English Education and concentrating in TESOL.

My Summer at Camp

By Michelle Yelaska, SED 2016

The perfect summer consists of fun, games, and absorbing as much sun as possible. This summer, I worked at a day camp for students with special needs ages 13-22. As a math education major here in the School of Education, I had no previous experience working with students with disabilities. Due to my inexperience, my first day of work was terrifying. Although extremely hesitant at the beginning, I grew to love, respect, and have a deeper understanding of students with special needs while having fun, playing games, and basking in the sun.

One of my favorite memories from summer camp was the talent show. Even though some campers were quiet and reserved, most students performed without coercion from the counselors. The most memorable performances were campers who went for it: a crowd-pleasing rendition of Bon Jovi, street worthy break dancing, and athletic basketball trick shots. On stage, I loved the students’ energy and enthusiasm for their various passions. My expectations of shy and socially withdrawn campers disintegrated as they took the stage with excitement and vigor. Each student brought something unique to the talent show, making every camper special in my heart.

In addition to special events like the talent show, we played several daily games with physical activity. When bowling, students stood in their lines and didn’t cut each other. If a camper hadn’t received a turn yet, their peers allowed them to cut so everyone had a chance to play the game. In the occasion that a camper was emotionally distraught, one student in particular comforted them immediately. During these games, although campers displayed occasional sass, I gained their respect and they gained mine. In the end, our mutual relationships were based on taking into consideration each other’s feelings and needs.

Since the other half of the year consists of huddling by a heater, we spent quality time outdoors. Counselors designed activities for participants to share favorite hobbies, movies, and interests. Through these games, everyone learned about the students as people. Additionally, this was a great opportunity to work on my communication skills. For example, with nonverbal students, we used our hands to give two options such as “Yes” or “No” where the students could point to what they were thinking. While getting to know the students, I learned multiple techniques for communicating with students.

Overall, this summer I not only enjoyed my job, but also had fun, played games, spent time outdoors, and as a bonus, learned many new tools to use in my classroom. Although outside my comfort zone at the beginning, I grew to love my experience as a camp counselor for students with special needs. As I became closer to my campers, I respected them as people, not as students with special needs. Finally, I learned strategies to communicate with students of unique disabilities. For a broader worldview, I strongly encourage every education major to work with students you would not normally work with. Whether an Elementary education major tutoring high school students in the SATs or an English education major working with bilingual students, moving outside of your education safe bubble will expand your mindset.

SED’s Transitional Mentor Program #tmfamily

By Amanda Dolce, SED 2016

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing colors. The air is getting crisper. The Transitional Mentor Program is frolicking about SED, BU, and Boston! My favorite part of coming back to BU in the fall has always been the start of the Transitional Mentor Program, a student group which works to acclimate new Terriers to life in SED, BU, and Boston.

AmandaTMBlogPhoto

Through the program, each new Terrier in the School of Education is matched with an upper-class student who will serve as a mentor.

The job of the mentor is to answer questions and be a resource for anything new students might need. The mentors and their “mentees,” as the new students are affectionately called, communicate over the summer and get the opportunity to bond at the many exciting events the TM Program hosts. The mentor-mentee bond is unique to the SED family, meriting its own Twitter and Instagram hashtags, #tmlove and #tmfamily.

That family love is never more present than at the annual TM Program Boston Harbor Cruise! A night filled with food, dancing, and sightseeing is exactly what everyone needs to start off the new year. It is by far my favorite TM event and my best SED memory.

As a former mentee, mentor, and now a Transitional Mentor Coordinator, I may be biased, but I can easily say the program has made my time here exponentially better than I expected. The memories, friends, and mentor skills it has provided for me are priceless. The hard work and dedication that everyone involved with the program displays truly pays tribute to the community here at the School of Education.

For more information check out our website: bu.edu/sedadmitted/transitional-mentors/

The Charter School Debate

By Amanda Dolce, SED 2016

It’s not hard to find complaints regarding today’s educational system. Any newspaper, news channel, or overheard conversation can tell you that. As a result of this unrest, society has crafted several proposal and theories to test different ways to better our education system and thus better our children. One of these proposals is the use of charter schools.

What is a charter school? The term has become a hot word in debates but for most, the term, and the frenzy surrounding it, remains unclear. A charter school is a public school that is funded independently by a private group, or many groups. Theses groups are given a charter to venture out and design their own public school. As a result, the charter schools have much more autonomy in whom they hire to teach, what they teach, and how they teach it. To some, these new independent schools are sources of experimental hope, while to others they are a waste of time and resources.

photo credit: Merrimack College via photopin cc

photo credit: Merrimack College via photopin cc

Those who support charter schools view them as a chance to experiment. Much like a science experiment in a lab, charter schools can theorize the best education practices, test them, and then analyze the results. Some say this is a great way to discover what can help improve education. Once they find these conclusions they can be applied to the larger public school system. Others praise charter schools for the savior role they play. Many parents and teachers support charter schools because they view them as a superior alternative to the norm. For instance, some parents in low-income Harlem, New York are thankful for charter schools because they fear the neighborhood public schools their students would otherwise have to attend. They like the choice to go elsewhere; they feel charter schools give them some control in their fate. They see charter schools as a blessing.

To others though, it is a curse. Opponents express anger over the whole movement. Some argue that the money invested in the few charter schools should be invested in the whole public school system. This way, they argue, the money will help all children, not just the students in the charter school. Similarly, opponents feel that changes need to be made for all, not just the few students who are picked out of the lottery. If charter schools are better, why should only a few be served? Further, those against charter schools argue that test results indicate that most charter schools are performing at the same level or below public schools. A crucial criticism of charter schools is that they are simply a fad that is distracting from the real problems in public education.

As with most educational topics, there are two strong sides to the charter school debate. Time will tell whether they are indeed a fad or a solution to our problems. As future educators, this, long with others, is a debate worth looking into and figuring out where we personally stand.

Check out these quotes about charter schools and then find your own voice! (From Intellectual Takeout)

“I don’t mean to imply that charter schools by themselves are the solution. But by freeing education entrepreneurs from regulations and letting them hire the best teachers—‘certified’ or not—they can rescue at least a few kids from America’s flunking educational system.”
-Edwin J. Feulner Ph.D., Charter Schools Are Smarter Schools, The Heritage Foundation, August 14, 1998

“And what about the kids who are not motivated to apply to special schools where they will have a special learning experience? Will charter schools help us do a better job of educating all our students – which is what we must do if we are to salvage public education? Or are they an escape valve to keep those who are dissatisfied from deserting the system.”
-Albert Shanker, Where We Stand: Questions About Charters, New York Times, December 18, 1994

*Amanda Dolce is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education studying special education.

Those Who Can, Teach

By Jessica Gulotta, SED 2017

photo credit: ThomasThomas via photopin cc

photo credit: ThomasThomas via photopin cc

As a complete science geek, Albert Einstein is undoubtedly someone I look up to. I was reading quotes by him and I came across one where he said, “it is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression in knowledge.” This quote struck me pretty hard because an expectation of a teacher, given by Einstein himself, is something that I would whole-heartedly commit to.

It got me thinking about education as a career and how hard it really is. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard the phrase, “those who can’t, teach.” And every time, my skin crawls. Those who can’t teach? I would argue that those who can, teach.

Teachers get up every day knowing they have the power to inspire somebody, get to know somebody, and to completely change somebody. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I definitely don’t know of any other career path that allows for this type of life-molding power. I personally can say that a big part of who I am is due to the inspiration and wisdom that my past teachers instilled in me.

And so, I will argue.

Those who can, teach. Those who can selflessly dedicate their lives to the betterment of others can teach. Those who can immerse themselves in the knowledge that they must convey, can teach. Those who find pure happiness in others fully succeeding, can teach. Those who can take Einstein’s request to awaken joy in students, can most definitely teach.

Those who can, teach.

*Jessica Gulotta is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education studying science education.