Author Archives: jfaith12

Boston Bucket List

Today, the weather was warm and sunny, and I spent the day enjoying the New England Spring. For whatever reason, winter didn’t really come this year so I survived without experiencing a blizzard or really even seeing more than a few inches of snow. I pray that all of you warm weather lovers will be as lucky as I have been!

I woke up and did some writing outdoors underneath the blooming flowers, and then I made my way to the Franklin Park Zoo. It was a bit of a journey to get there, but I enjoyed being able to people watch and enjoy the weather. The zoo was nice, and I visited the park where the original zoo from 1912 use to be. It was like stepping back in time! After the zoo, I ventured over Newbury Street, did some window shopping, and grabbed some sushi at one of the trendy restaurants in the area.

In these last few weeks, it is my goal to see as much of Boston as I can. This city has a very rich history, tons of culture, and a wealth of fun things to do in between working on research papers and policy memos. For those of you who will be here in the fall, definitely take the time to make a “Boston Bucket List” and explore your temporary home. I will be returning to Texas in a few weeks, but I am taking a ton of great experiences and memories from my time in Massachusetts with me!

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This Time Last Year II

Around this time last year, I was in a rather interesting predicament. In early March, I found that I had been accepted into a doctoral program at a very good school and the masters program at HGSE. I initially applied to a doctoral program at HGSE, but also chose the option to be considered for a masters not thinking that I would really get in at all. When I got the welcome email and video from HGSE I was elated, but since I already had two other masters degrees, I had to do some serious “soul searching” as I tried to decided between working on a third masters and moving on to get my doctorate.

Both options had their pros and cons. It took me several weeks to research, pray and weigh both options, but eventually I decided that HGSE was the best place for me at that point in time. Since making the decision to come to HGSE, I have had no regrets. This has been the best year of my life! I have learned so much about education, made lifelong friendships, and grown as a person in ways that I don’t think I could have anywhere else. Some days I think back and laugh at the fact that I even considered not coming. This year has flown by, and I can’t believe that it is almost over. After graduation, I will start working on a Ph.D. at the school that I originally considered last year. Everything has come full circle and worked out so that I could have the best possible outcomes, and I am grateful for that. For those of you trying to decide between HGSE and other schools, I definitely advise you to do your own “soul searching” to find the school that will give you what you need; however, in my biased opinion HGSE is that place for all of you! 🙂

Students!

Having spent three years as a middle and high school teacher, I had grown quite fond of working with children. I knew that when I decided to go back to school full-time that I would one day find myself missing my students. That day came rather early last semester, but my schedule did not allow me to work with children in the capacity that I had wanted.

With that in mind, I was able to plan my spring semester so that I could have an internship where I would be able to work directly with children and have my very own students again. Today was my first day as the Project Coordinator for the Tutors for All (T4A) program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). As part of my Field Experience Program internship for Learning & Teaching’s Instructional Leadership strand, I will be working with literacy students and tutors and their students for the semester.

As soon as I arrived at my site and saw groups of young high school students hanging out, I got excited. When they entered the classroom carrying on with their lively discussions, I was all smiles! Before their tutoring sessions started, I got to talk to them about school and their goals, and it was the highlight of my day! A few of the students even said that they one day hope to attend Harvard and asked if I would give them advice when the time came, to which I gladly agreed and gave them my email address to use in the future. More than just providing instruction, I have always viewed teaching as ways to build meaningful and beneficial relationships with future generations. I am so happy to be back in a setting where I can work with young people and help them learn and grow in all sorts of ways!

Group Work!

I can’t believe that J Term is already over and that the Spring semester will begin in a few short days. The last two weeks have been intense, but well worth it. While I taught special education classes for three years, as a teacher there was so much that I did not know that I have learned in two weeks from Professor Hehir and the wonderful Teaching Fellows.

As part of the class, I was grouped with four other students and we had the opportunity to collaborate on a policy memo to address an issue in special education. We chose to focus on reading-related learning disabilities and how some populations are over-represented while others are underrepresented. For two weeks, we met regularly to design our proposed intervention which included increased Title I funding for more reading specialists in low income schools as well an added section to Race to the Top that focuses specifically on literacy. The process of working in a group was great because we all had different strengths that we used to put together a well received presentation and a rather thorough memo. It was also fun just to get to meet new people who were like minded but who also had different perspectives on things.

The people that I have gotten to meet and work with are, by far, my favorite thing about HGSE. I am so excited for the start of the spring semester, and the new friends that it will bring!

And I’m Back…

Before I came to Cambridge, I never thought that I could call another place home; however, after being away from Appian Way for a few weeks, I definitely found myself missing HGSE. While I enjoyed the sunny skies and warm weather of Houston, Texas, part of me could not wait get back to the sunny smiles and warm friendships that I have grown quite fond of at HGSE.

Today was my first day back from winter break, and it felt good to walk around Appian Way and Harvard Square and have quick catch-up conversations with my friends. I was glad to hear that everyone I talked to had relaxing breaks at home with family or traveling abroad. With all of the conversations, everyone, no matter where they had been, expressed how glad they were to be home at HGSE!

In addition to spending the day catching up with my friends, I also had my first day of my J Term course with Professor Tom Hehir. At first, I was reluctant to take a winter term class because it was going to cut my vacation short, but since I will be in a special education doctoral program next year, I could not pass up the opportunity to learn from such an expert in the field. As I waited outside for class to start, Professor Hehir came over and warmly introduced himself to those of us who were waiting outside of the lecture hall. He was very energetic and excited to meet us and here where we were coming from. His excitement definitely carried over into his lecture, as the first day of my Critical Issues in Special Education Policy and Practice class was phenomenal. Professor Hehir’s passion for special education issues is contagious, and I am looking forward to the next two weeks of learning as much as I can from him!

The Highlight of My Day!

The highlight of my day was doing the “Wobble” line dance with about 15 other people, including Professor Deborah Jewell – Sherman, at the end of the Alumni of Color Conference (AOCC) social. That’s just not something that I thought I would do at Harvard, but I did, and it made me very happy!

The Alumni of Color Conference is an annual event where members from the HGSE community and the community at large, come together to discuss issues related to educational equity. This semester, I have been working on the publicity team to advertise the event, and I will continue to do so next semester until the conference is held in March. There are several other committees, and a number of people who are working on planning the event despite being busy HGSE students.

Tonight, we all just got together to wrap up the semester and have a good time. Professor Jewell – Sherman, the AOCC advisor, graciously hosted us in her lovely home, and welcomed everyone with hugs and smiles. While some time was spent on each team giving progress updates, we spent most of the night eating tasty treats, talking about life, doing a White Elephant gift exchange, and dancing a little. Everyone left the social with big smiles on their faces, and the positive vibes that I got from spending time with my friends gave me the energy to finish one of my final papers. I can’t believe I’m almost done with my first semester at HGSE! I guess time flies when you are having fun and working hard…and making your work fun!

Fireside Chat

One thing that has been quite surprising to me during my time in Cambridge is the weather. Before I moved here from Houston, Texas, I had heard my fair share of horror stories about the “bone-chilling” New England weather. The day after what I call the “Halloween Blizzard,” my mother rushed me a care package full of gloves, scarves, and what I think may be a parka. I was ready for the cold and snow; however, since October, the weather has been quite nice. As the month of December begins, there is definitely more of a chill in the air, and I have embraced the opportunities to try my hand at dressing in layers, experimenting with various types of warm beverages, and cozying up to share warm experiences with my HGSE family.

Tonight, I attended a “Fireside Chat” that was sponsored by the HGSE Black Student Union. Professors Karen Mapp and Ron Ferguson sat in the middle of a semicircle made up of HGSE students and simply chatted with us for 90 minutes. To keep true to the theme, there was even a huge campfire projected on the screens in the meeting room. It really warmed my heart to hear the fascinating stories of two people who I one day aspire to be like. Professor Mapp shared of how she transitioned from the corporate world into education. Professor Ferguson talked about the challenges he faced in getting his dissertation topic approved. Both professors were also very candid about their varied experiences as people of color, both as students and later on as faculty members. Students were able to ask questions to gain insight and receive advice, and both professors were great about giving thoughtful, helpful answers. Despite having a million and one pages to write, I was glad that I was able to attend the chat. I left with “warm fuzzies” brought on by the sense of togetherness that I felt being a part of the HGSE community. I can’t wait for more moments like this!

An Answer To A Question

One of the things that I love the most about HGSE is the approachability and genuine friendliness of the faculty.  My previous universities were small, which facilitated relationships where I had frequent access to my professors and they knew me well. Before I came to HGSE, I wondered if my experiences would be the same here. Would I be able to get to know my professors? Would they have an interest in me and my goals?  Today, these questions were definitely answered.

After a great lecture in A-139: Pursuing Teacher Quality, myself and 2 other students attended lunch with Professor Susan Moore Johnson.  Over the course of the semester, Professor Johnson has made time to have either breakfast or lunch meetings with small groups of students just to get to know more about them. During lunch, Professor Johnson asked me questions about my background, and even shared some useful information about a big research paper that I am currently working on.  Professor Johnson was also open to questions from me and the two other students in attendance, and it was a really great feeling being able to have a casual conversation with someone who I look up to.

Later on in the day, I attended my small group section for A-107: The Ecology of Education. Professor Sara Lawrence Lightfoot attended the class, and for 90 minutes she sat in our circle and answered questions from the group. She was candid, honest, and shared her thoughts on all sorts of topics ranging from ecological boundary crossings to her personal experiences as a young professor. The time spent with Professor Lawrence Lightfoot was really warm and inspiring.

Days like today are becoming all the more frequent for me.  Beyond getting to know professors in the courses that I am taking, I have also found that it is really easy to connect with faculty to learn more about their interests. They are always so willing to help students. HGSE really is a community of learners with faculty members who are accessible and supportive, and that is yet another reason why I am glad to call HGSE home!

This Time Last Year

If someone had told me a year ago that I would be at Harvard University writing a paper for a course with famed educator and sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, I would not have believed them.  This time last year, I was not even sure if I was going to apply to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I certainly wasn’t sure that I would get in. In October of 2010, I was working as a full time teacher, simultaneously completing two M.Ed. degrees, and applying to doctoral programs. Having spent two and a half years as a public school teacher and having witnessed the injustices that many students were subjected to, I was motivated to learn as much as I could to prepare myself to improve America’s educational system. I wanted to learn more so that I could do more, and one of my professors recommended that HGSE was the place that I needed to go to learn.

On taking the advice of my professor, I decided to apply and I began working on my application. I spent the first few days working to identify the program that would be the best fit for me. While I did apply for a doctoral program, I also selected the option to be considered for an Ed.M. in Learning & Teaching because I really liked what the L&T program had to offer. After I identified the programs that I was going to apply to and had taken care of the basic parts of the application, I spent several weeks thinking about my statement of purpose.  This, of course, was the most difficult part of the application for me, but I did some soul searching and deep reflecting on where I wanted to be in a year. I determined that I wanted to be at HGSE studying ways to empower teachers and support students. Through this process, I was also able to channel my reasons for wanting to transform education as well as develop questions that I wanted to find the answers to at HGSE.  Those thoughts became the makings of my personal statement, and guided me as I wrote.

As I think about the readings that I have done for my classes and the papers that I am in the process of writing, it is almost funny to see how those very things that I wrote about in my personal statement are the very things that I am learning how to do. The questions that I had before I came here are starting to be answered, and I am so glad that I took the leap of faith to apply. I can’t imagine having the learning experiences that I have had at HGSE anywhere else, and even though I am up at 2:30am writing a paper, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The Game!

Today, I attended “The Game,” also known as the football match between Harvard and Yale. As you may know Harvard and Yale have a big rivalry that dates back centuries. Since my first days at Harvard, I had heard that this event was not one to miss.  A few weeks ago I got together with some of my new found friends and started planning a trip to New Haven, CT to be in attendance.  The wonderful way in which the trip came together is a testament to how HGSE is a great place to make new lifelong friends! Initially, there was only going to be three of us, but over time, the group grew to eleven lovely ladies. “The more, the merrier” is one of my favorite sayings, so when I started to plan the mini road trip, I asked my friends to invite their friends. Sure enough, several ladies signed up to join the crew, and in the weeks leading up to today, we bought tickets, reserved cars, and even planned a snack menu for our tailgating. We all pitched in, and it was a team effort in planning for our fun.

Going to “The Game” was one of my most memorable college experiences. Taking a road trip with a group of amazing people provided time for deep conversations about educational issues, current events, and other important things in life like guys and shoes. The game itself was also a delight. Harvard won, and it was great cheering on the Crimson with thousands of alumni and current students. I had a blast, and I am looking forward to more experiences like today in the coming months. I am truly thankful for my HGSE family and all of the fun that we have!