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I lived in Boston and commuted to campus all year.

Harvard is in Cambridge, Mass., but my house is not. With two medium-sized dogs, one of whom is a pit bull and not loved by society, finding an apartment was not a walk in the park. However, in Dorchester, a neighborhood in Boston south of downtown, my pups and I live across from a park in a three-family Victorian.

the park across the street (taken from the front window of my dining room in fall 2014)

the park across the street (taken from the front window of my dining room in fall 2014)

Dorchester is accessible to downtown and Harvard by the red line subway (or, T, as it’s called here). Some parts of Dorchester are a little bit of a walk away from the T, but I got lucky and live two blocks from a T stop. When I hop on the train, I’m generally at Harvard in 35 minutes, giving me time to read a paper or just enjoy the ride. (Note: during winter storms, I won’t lie: my commute was a nightmare…but so was everyone elses.)

I really love my apartment–it has loads of charm and space for the price tag I’d pay for a much smaller apartment in Cambridge. I love that my dogs have a park across the street as well as a larger park, about a 20 minute walk away, which we walk to every day for exercise.

Dorchester Park, a twenty minute walk away

Dorchester Park, a twenty minute walk away

Of course there are some cons, too. Living a little farther away, I have to plan my time on campus strategically and come equipped with all the things I will need for the day. It’s not really feasible to run home for lunch, etc. I’ve gotten use to this, though, and don’t really mind it. It actually ends up making me be more organized. I have to be prepared for the day when I leave!

I’m not telling you to live in Dorchester (though I think it’s a great choice), but I am telling you that it’s okay not to live in Harvard Square.  You’ll see plenty of Cambridge even if you live elsewhere.

PS: These cuties are pretty happy with their apartment.

Hans, dressed festively for the holidays

Hans, dressed festively for the holidays

Lily was really thankful to have a coat this past winter!

Lily, thankful to have a coat this past winter!

Joshua Jenkins is an Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy strand, pursuing licensure as a reading specialist. Josh was a special educator and reading interventionist in New Orleans and is interested in the research on reading disabilities and what all grown-ups can do to help bolster reading development for all children.

 

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Trisha & Garth come to HGSE and school us on LIFE

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Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks receive special one-of-a-kind HGSE belt buckles as a thank you for their visit!

 

Grammy-award winning country music artists Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks came to the Harvard Ed School today. Wow–that sentence sounds weird, right?! That pretty much sums up Harvard’s offerings–there are always a million (and unexpected) things happening. I’m so happy that they stopped by HGSE while making a tour stop here in Boston.

Here are a few ways Garth and Trisha schooled us on LIFE here at HGSE today–but first an important anecdote about why I personally love them and their music.

I grew up in East Tennessee–the same county another famous country music star, Dolly Parton, hails from–so naturally country music, particularly from the 1990s, is near and dear to me. Hearing songs from Garth and Trisha have that Proust-and-the-madeleine-effect. Our senses trigger nostalgia and memory in such a strange and beautiful way. One line of “The Dance” by Garth or “She’s in Love with the Boy” by Trisha, and I am sitting in my grandfather’s old Ford pickup driving down the road on a hot July day. Their music is very special to me, and it was a delight to see and hear from them today!


Trisha and Garth’s Life Lessons

1. It takes courage to follow your dreams–but it’s worth it. Throughout, they shared stories and advice about how it takes courage to dream big and make things happen. Garth and Trisha reflected about the courage it took to leave their hometowns to pursue their passion for music as well as the courage to keep moving forward after some rough patches.

2. Perseverance. In the same vein, they discussed how failure is often the path to getting better. Trisha laughed and shared how when she first started out, she was singing in a bowling alley. Garth shared his story as well, starting out in “Willie’s Saloon,” covering Billy Joel songs. They didn’t give up!

3. Generosity. Trisha and Garth shared their values, one of which kept coming back to being generous and making a contribution to society, a value they emphasized as a high priority to instill in their children. They also shared about some of their work with Habitat for Humanity, Trisha’s work empowering young girls to dream big and be themselves, and Garth’s own Teammates for Kids, which helps support programming for kids who need it the most.

4.  Take risks and be yourself. Garth talked a lot about how he wasn’t always the most popular or applauded and actually chastised by the music community in the earlier 1990s for his music, such as the line “When we’re free to love anyone we choose” from his song that speaks about social justice, “We Shall be Free,” but that he was just being himself. Trisha talked about how her cookbooks and cooking show was the last thing she thought would happen but that it was a good risk to take as it’s a fun second career.

All in all, it was a delightful afternoon at HGSE! I wonder who will stroll onto Appian Way next…

From left to right, Me (Josh Jenkins), Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, and an equally excited fan and classmate, Holly Boerner!

From left to right, Me (Josh Jenkins), Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, and an equally excited fan and classmate, Holly Boerner!

Joshua Jenkins is an Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy strand, pursuing licensure as a reading specialist. Josh was a special educator and reading interventionist in New Orleans and is interested in the research on reading disabilities and what all grown-ups can do to help bolster reading development for all children.

 

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Tips for Surviving Finals

My top 5 pieces of advice for surviving finals (in no real order). And, also I didn’t follow some of my own advice…but I will learn from my mistakes next semester!

5. Sleep/Rest. Finals are a busy and crazy time. Don’t forgo sleep or rest at the sake of writing a paper! With a clear head that’s had some rest, you’ll be in a better spot to think clearly and more coherent. You don’t want to accidentally have an off-topic sentence about bagel hockey in your paper about adolescent literacy.

4. Work at the time you’re at your best. I’m a morning person–I do my best thinking and writing in the morning. I had a couple of times during finals, however, where I ended up working in the late evening. When I woke up the next morning, I looked over my work…and, well, see the above statement about bagel hockey. As I looked over my work the next morning, I realized how silly so many things I’d written the night before sounded, and I ended up doing some heavy revision that could have been avoided if I’d arranged to do my work in the morning when I’m at my best.

3. Treat yourself to something (or things) you enjoy. You must take breaks and have a little fun along the way. Getting away from the work actually would help me revise and look over my papers when I reread them after a little break. Netflix, a glass of wine, Taylor Swift’s 1989, soft cheese (Okay, so those are all things I personally enjoy. Insert whatever makes you happy.)

4. The Starbucks App makes for very easy caffeine refills. And you’re going to need caffeine.

so easy...okay also a bit dangerous!

so easy…okay also a bit dangerous!

5. Plan ahead. Make a to-do list of all the things you need to do–not just this paper and that paper. But the components themselves, e.g., research and take notes on the Class X topic, outline for Class X paper, draft paper, revise paper, insert references. Try to plan a mix of different things to work on each day, making sure to start each assignment as far in advance as possible.

Joshua Jenkins is an Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy strand, pursuing licensure as a reading specialist. Josh was a special educator and reading interventionist in New Orleans and is interested in the research on reading disabilities and what all grown-ups can do to help bolster reading development for all children.

Big Kids like Arts and Crafts, too.

A few weeks into the semester of a class on reading development and instruction, our professor assigned groups to read a dense article about different theoretical models of reading development. Talk about irony–I was reading about how readers make mistakes and slow down when text is complex and understanding breaks down.

As I was reading this, I was also experiencing it! I walked into class thinking, “Am I the only one who struggled reading this beast of an article?!” And, I had to laugh at myself for experiencing the very thing I was reading about as I was reading about it!

Luckily, I was not alone. And luckily, the professor did this quite purposefully. We spent the class discussing these jam-packed, dense readings in our groups, ultimately making visual representations of the articles to share with our class.

Such a teachable moment and an argument for group dialogue and art in classrooms! Making the visual forced us have a really clear grasp of the theoretical model we had read, and the opportunity for time to talk through it led us to this common understanding.

So while the professor scaffolded her own instruction to ensure our understanding, she doubly demonstrated to us how impactful this is for our own students. Turns out big kids need art too.

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Visual model of “The Psycholinguistic Guessing Game” (Goodman, 1979).

 

Joshua Jenkins is an Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy strand, pursuing licensure as a reading specialist. Josh was a special educator and reading interventionist in New Orleans and is interested in the research on reading disabilities and what all grown-ups can do to help bolster reading development for all children.

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This is the last class, but first, let’s take a selfie!

One of my fall semester courses met for the last time tonight: bittersweet. I loved EVERYTHING about this class. The assignments were FUN to write, and the readings were always engaging. BUT–the professor and my classmates–priceless! The culture of this class was one of exploration and taking risks in thinking; folks could share a nascent thought or raise a question.

Before we all got up to leave for the last time, we had a few moments of reflection, followed, of course, by a class selfie. HASHTAGwinning.

H821 Literacy Coaching, on the last night of class. Front and center: Professor Lisa Messina (aka selfie-taker)!

H821 Literacy Coaching, on the last night of class. Front and center: Professor Lisa Messina (aka selfie-taker)!

 

Joshua Jenkins is an master’s candidate in the Language and Literacy strand, pursuing licensure as a reading specialist. Josh was a special educator and reading interventionist in New Orleans and is interested in the research on reading disabilities and what all grown-ups can do to help bolster reading development for all children. 

It’s fall, y’all, and the trees are Crimson.

I’m a southern boy at heart from the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee–but I’d been living in New Orleans the past four years where it’s pretty much always hot and sticky and the seasons are summer and Mardi Gras. Moving up to Massachusetts, I was excited to see the oranges, yellows, and reds (err, crimson?!) of fall, my favorite season.

A street in Cambridge, just north of HGSE on the walk back from my practicum site.

A street in Cambridge, just north of HGSE on the walk back from my practicum site.

Twice a week, I tutor at a local public school as part of my Reading Specialist licensure requirement. On my walk back to HGSE from school, I frequently wind through various side streets filled with lovely houses dappled with beautiful fall color. A cup of coffee in hand, a bag of books on my shoulder, and I’m at peace with the world.

There’s something about fall that makes academic work seem perfect; I’ve thought so since I sat outside reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo in high school, so I’m showing my bias. There’s just something about sitting in your dining room or at the library, staring out at the trees, with some coffee and some scholarly research. Is there anything more essentially Harvard than that?

Dorchester Park, Boston

Taking a break from studying at Dorchester Park, Boston

 Joshua Jenkins is an master’s candidate in the Language and Literacy strand, pursuing licensure as a reading specialist. Josh was a special educator and reading interventionist in New Orleans and is interested in the research on reading disabilities and what all grown-ups can do to help bolster reading development for all children. 

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