Daily Defense

The Special Studies program (SSP) here at HGSE has been the perfect fit for me, and now that I’m more than halfway done, I’m better prepared to articulate why this is true. I’m the type of learner that thrives on autonomy, and that is exactly what SSP is all about. Being in SSP means that you don’t quite fit into any of the other twelve Ed.M programs here. That sounds fun and interesting, right? Well, the challenging part is that, when it comes to finding a job, you may not fit perfectly into any of the positions that they are looking to fill!

I’ve been knee-deep in the job search process for a couple months now, and it’s actually been a great experience. It’s almost like another class in itself—it’s certainly that much work, if done correctly. Just last Friday alone I had five interviews! The reason why it’s been a great experience is because it has pushed me to advocate for my work as a Youth Development Specialist. Part of that advocacy means challenging the labels “extra-curricular” and “enrichment” when discussing the role of sports, arts, and all types of other areas of learning. If a school is paying someone to teach it, then it should be approached as “curricular.” And let’s be honest: “enrichment” might as well mean “sprinkles on top.” That’s just not how I see my work.

Almost everyday, I find myself making the case for Service Learning and other forms of project-based curricula as a great way to tackle the challenge of increasing student engagement in the learning process. The good news is that my classes here have given me the opportunity to sharpen and refine my argument, based on educational research and my practical work.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll land a great job somewhere, so that’s a plus. But beyond that, the process has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the work that I’ve been doing, and for where my career is taking me.

Andrew F. Williams is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Special Studies program. He is a youth development specialist and soccer coach, working with young players in the U.S., Africa, and Latin America. He is currently developing a soccer-based academic enrichment curriculum for elementary aged students.

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