The Moment I realized I might not want to Teach in 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:

Dastous

Quidditch
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.

Hello
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!

City Life

By Tali Cowen, SED’16

I have to be completely transparent and admit that I didn’t think I’d ever consider myself a city-loving gal. I grew up in a suburban cul-de-sac where there would be kids playing basketball and drawing with chalk on any given afternoon after school let out. My Mom drove a blue minivan to and from the grocery store, decorated with bumper stickers for all the sports we were involved in, and my Dad commuted to DC for work. It was lively and happy during the day, and quiet at night. I chose to come to Boston because BU has the Deaf Studies program of my dreams. Not liking the hustle and bustle of city living was less important to me than having the best education for my interests. And while I definitely still prefer waking up to birds chirping than the train halting to a stop, I’ve come to appreciate all that Boston has to offer. I decided to compile a list of where to explore in Boston based on your mood.

Where to go in Boston when you’re feeling…

Hungry

Quincy Market
With two long hallways filled with foods for all palates, Quincy market is definitely the place to go when one friend wants Chinese food, one friend wants pizza, and you want a lobster roll (and you absolutely should always want a lobster roll.) Speaking of lobster rolls, there are many vendors in Quincy market that sell them, but my Grandma and I are pretty sure we’ve narrowed down the BEST lobster roll in Quincy market. We have a routine when she comes to visit, and I often carry out this routine even when she’s not around. While one of us heads to The Monkey Bar for a fruity smoothie, the other goes two vendors down to Boston Chowda Company and orders two warm lobster rolls. After devouring the buttery seafood goodness and washing it down, we grab a chocolate covered apple, some cupcakes in a jar (for later, of course) from Wicked Good Cupcakes (yep, the one featured on Shark Tank!), and mosey around the surrounding Faneuil Hall clothing and shoe stores.

Reflective or in need of inspiration

The Esplanade
Whether you’re an avid runner or not, the Esplanade is a fantastic place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and quiet your mind. (The “or not” was for anyone who is like me that will only run when being chased by a bear). My favorite part about the esplanade is being able to look out at the water and feel its serenity, but still seeing the beautiful city skyline right behind it. Whether you’re catching up with a friend or taking some time to yourself, there are plenty of grassy areas to sit and relax, as well as benches. Or if you need some movement, there’s a great path that runs for a few miles; just remember to walk on the right side so those people being chased by bears can pass you on the left! My second favorite part about the Esplanade is that people LOVE to walk their dogs there, and I LOVE dogs, so it’s a win for everyone.

Cultural

The North End or Chinatown
Perhaps this could be interpreted as another version of feeling hungry. Nevertheless, both the North End and Boston’s Chinatown are really fun (and delicious) places to spend some time. Some people may disagree, but I think all the restaurants in the North End are relatively similar, however there is one place in the North End different from all the rest. Monica’s Mercato is your one stop shop for everything Italian, and everything you need for that girls night, complete with cheese, cured meats, crackers, chocolate, and wine (if you’re of age, of course). The little secret about this place is the pizza shop they also own right beneath the small market; hot, fresh, and delicious pizzas made to order. Amazing.

As far as Chinatown goes, I have to admit that I’ve only been once or twice, but I had to make a shameless plug for a delectable vegan Thai restaurant that I’ve been to. As a pescetarian, I have plenty of options at traditional Asian food restaurants, but for my vegan friend’s birthday, she dragged all of us (well, dragged for some, I went willingly) to My Thai Vegan Cafe. Absolutely delicious and a very cozy little hole in the wall place!

The Sunday morning blues

Trident Booksellers & Cafe
Just a two-minute walk from the Hynes Convention Center T station, I can remember the first time I came to Trident as a freshman with my parents during parents’ weekend. I was absolutely in awe of just how homey the place felt, without being too small. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been here since then because it’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner! Personally, I rarely steer away from my usual order of smoked salmon scramble with a wheat bagel, but Trident’s menu has all your favorite comfort foods with some other healthy options like quinoa bowls and a hummus plate with fresh pita. What makes this place unique is their selection of cute and quirky gifts. From hysterical socks to a manatee tea steeper, this place has gifts and clever cards for everyone you know (including yourself!) And of course, as mentioned in the name, don’t forget to check out all the books they carry upstairs and downstairs!

In need of retail therapy

Newbury Street
The trick here is to take the green line to Hynes Convention Center, and do this at a reasonable time in the morning. Stop at Trident for some brunch, and then make your way all the way down Newbury until you hit the Boston Commons, or you become exhausted and need a nap, whichever comes first. Along the way you’ll find reasonably priced stores, wildly priced stores, a variety of secondhand stores, chain stores, little boutiques, and lots of places to stop for a snack or a cup of coffee. Among all of the places, there are a few I recommend. Definitely make a stop in Deluca’s Market; while it’s not somewhere most college students can afford to do their weekly grocery shopping, it’s definitely nice to splurge and treat yourself once in awhile to their wide variety of chocolate bars, small brand pastas, and array of sauces. Keep walking and you’ll hit a store called No Rest for Bridget; originally opened in California, this boutique has high quality clothes for any occasion and at fair prices, you’re really getting what you’re paying for. Lastly, if you make it further down towards Copley Square, Nordstrom Rack and Marshall’s are always fan favorites.

Honorable Mentions

Theater in Boston
My roommate and I share a love of finding fun nightlife in Boston that isn’t parties or bars. Every once in awhile we log on to Groupon, and the past couple of times we’ve found some great deals for hysterical comedy shows! Did you know the host of Cupcake Wars, Justin Willman, is a comedic magician? Neither did we!

Harvard, Cambridge area
I had an internship at Harvard University during the fall of my sophomore year so I became familiar with the area. Every now and then I would head over to Cambridge early enough to grab a snack or some lunch before I needed to be at my internship. On a very snowy day, I stumbled into Crema Café for some tea (I just recently started drinking coffee, it’s dangerous), and saw they had a peach flavored tea. After letting it cool, I drank it down and declared it the best tea I’ve ever had in my entire life; and I have a tea collection. Along with Crema, I sometimes found myself at this wonderful candy shop called Hidden Sweets, which has all different prepackaged candy, or you can opt for the fill-your-own-bag system. Lastly, a restaurant that I discovered just recently when my friend’s parents were in town is the Red House Restaurant. I really think this place used to be someone’s home, and while the tables are very close together, it adds to the feeling of hospitality and coziness you get when being someone’s dinner guest. It even has a fireplace, and the food is out of this world!

SOWA Market
Earlier this year, one of my roommates came home with all these neat little tchotchkes, and told us we needed to explore SOWA market in the South End of Boston on a Sunday. So the next Sunday, another roommate and I set out for SOWA, and we were impressed! Hidden in the South End is a park of vendors set up under tents selling everything from homemade jewelry to vases made from wine bottles. We ventured further and found another park of tents, but these had food, ice cream, and the most delicious iced tea I’ve ever tasted (yes, it was peach flavored). Finally, in an underground basement of a building, we found vendor upon vendor selling very cool antiques, including framed old maps; my friend found one of her hometown!

Be a Bostonian and “Pass the Line”

By Heather Cohen, SED’17 

Heather with Scott Hoying, a member of Pentatonix.

Heather with Scott Hoying, a member of Pentatonix.

I have always been a lover of music. Whether I am doing homework, walking in Boston, or trying to fall asleep, I am always listening to music. I never leave anywhere without my headphones, and Spotify has become my best friend. But nothing comes close to hearing the music you love, performed right in front of you.

One of the great things about going to school in a city like Boston is not only the fact that almost every musical artist makes a stop here, but we have one of the best venues (in my opinion), The House of Blues. The House of Blues is right across from Fenway Park and is in walking distance of almost every student who lives on campus. It feels like a small venue but it can still hold over 2,000 people. I have had the privilege of seeing 5 concerts at this venue and for all of them, I was 3rd row or closer. The beauty of the House of Blues is that you have the option of buying tickets with seats or standing room tickets. So if you prefer to get there on time instead of getting there early for good spots, getting a seat ticket is the way to go. However, I will share a little trick with you that might change your mind about waiting in line for standing room tickets.

When I went to see the incredibly talented acapella group, Pentatonix, I got there 6 hours early because I wanted to be as close as I possibly could to the stage. I had waited forever to see this group and I had my heart set on front row. When I got to the venue, there were only two girls there and since I had gone by myself, we started making conversation to pass the time. They told me that there were VIP tickets, so those lucky people would go in first by doing something called “pass the line.” I had never heard of this, so they explained it to me.

The House of Blues has a restaurant right next to the concert venue. If you eat at the restaurant before the concert and you order off a certain menu, your waiter will sign your receipt. With that, you automatically get put into a different line. So you “pass” the main line and go ahead of them. Since Pentatonix had VIP tickets sold, VIP members went in first, then the “pass the line,” and then the general admission line.

This trick (that most people don’t know!) has allowed me to see Walk the Moon (twice), Matt and Kim, and Twenty One Pilots from the first or second row. And for these concerts, I didn’t have to stand in line for 6 hours. If the doors opened at 7:30, I got to the restaurant by 6:00, had a nice meal and was in line by 7:00. Then I only had to wait for a half an hour to see some of my favorite bands perform right in front of me.

So the next time your favorite artist is in town, and they’re playing at the House of Blues, show your knowledge of being a Bostonian and Pass the Line.

Addressing Diversity in the Classroom: English Language Learners

By Alisha Parikh, SED’17

As students in the School of Education training to be professional educators, we often hear in our courses of the importance of promoting and addressing diversity in our classrooms. I have always thought that addressing students’ diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and experiences is of utmost importance. However, until this past semester, I had not had the opportunity to actually see this idea played out in a real classroom setting. This semester I have been student teaching in the Early Childhood Learning Lab Preschool at Boston University. In a class of seventeen children ages two-and-nine-months to five years old, we have six English Language Learners (ELLs). Learning how to more effectively work and interact with the ELL students we have in our classrooms has been an extremely valuable opportunity for me.

The first languages of the ELL students I’m working with are not the same. We have a range of languages, including Vietnamese, Korean, Cantonese, and Spanish, among others. It might at first seem difficult to address such a diverse array of first languages of our students. Though instruction at the ECLL is delivered in English, the various first languages of students are incorporated into our classroom activities through greetings in the morning message and counting at morning meeting. I have seen ELL students become more engaged and enthusiastic when they hear or see their language represented through greeting or counting activities. Incorporating the various languages is also a way of validating children’s linguistic and cultural backgrounds, something that is extremely important in a classroom of such young children.

Perhaps more important is the progression that I have seen in the language expression and skill of the ELL children. Initially, most of these children either did not express themselves much in any language or communicated only in their first language. After a few weeks, only a few of the children remained  less expressive to other children or to the teachers. Then, as if something had clicked or sparked in their minds, these children began to use more and more English words, especially during their play. This was amazing to me. I recalled having read in One Child, Two Languages by Patton O. Tabors, Ph.D., about the progression that ELL students go through in learning a second language; now, I was seeing this progression more or less play out in these children in the preschool. The book mentions that while initially ELL students may not be communicating with others in English, they are picking up cues, words, and phrases from the other students and teachers that are speaking English around them. The ELL children at the preschool who all of a sudden began introducing English words and phrases in their play must have had this same experience: that of perhaps not necessarily communicating in English but picking up the language from those around them. Though these children are not yet fluent in English today, the progression that I have seen them go through from the beginning of the semester until now has been extremely valuable, and serves as a reminder of what their young minds are capable of.

I think so highly of this experience because it is such an extraordinary example of how we are able to see in action the theoretical lessons we learn through our courses in the School of Education. The theory and research we read of plays out in a real world context through our student teaching/practical experience.  It has also been extremely valuable for me to experience something that I feel so strongly about in classroom settings; that this experience also addresses a greater idea of how to be a better educator within a diverse of student population, is more evidence of how valuable my student teaching experience here has been.

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