Author Archives: saraedewolf

The Job Search

career

With just over a month left before graduation, landing a dream job is high on many HGSE students’ priority lists. I’m still working on defining exactly what a “dream job” looks like to me, but luckily I have plenty of resources here to help me figure it out.

The HGSE Career Services Office (CSO) is your main source for support, and is available to students starting Day 1 and remains accessible after graduation. I’ve had multiple one-on-one meetings with career services counselors, and these meetings have been great for clarifying my goals, narrowing the scope of my search and updating my resume. I’ve also attended a few career services workshops. One helpful workshop I attended last month dealt with salary negotiations. The workshop gave tips on how to calculate your target salary and how to sell yourself to get your number. The workshop also touched on how to negotiate other aspects of job offers like flexible schedules, adjusted responsibilities, and job titles. A great perk about CSO is that they will see you within 48 hours if you have a job offer to help you strategize with salary negotiations.

In addition to offering individual meetings and group workshops, career services also holds several job fairs. Two recent examples are the Social Impact Expo, with nonprofit and mission driven employers, and the Education PreK-12 Expo, with charter, private, public and nonprofit schools. I’ve also attended job fairs at other graduate schools on campus, like the Harvard Kennedy School’s Urban Innovations Employer Connections Event. These events are a great way to get an idea of the types of jobs available and network with employers.

As a HGSE student and alum, you have access to Hired which is a job database with a wealth of career opportunities across the country and internationally. Start looking at this as soon as you can. You also have access to a huge network of alumni, professors and classmates with connections in the field. HGSE graduates are all over the world, and being a part of that network of leaders and change agents is valuable not only for your initial job search, but for the rest of your sure-to-be-amazing career!

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.

Advertisements

Soak it All Up

The realization of how little time I have left at HGSE hit me hard at the beginning of second semester. I have learned so much here, and there is so much more I want to soak up before I graduate. Luckily, there is no shortage of fantastic speakers and events. Here is a glimpse at some of the education leaders I’ve had a chance to learn from over the past few weeks.

At the beginning of the month, I attended a lecture series with Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, a distinguished professor at HGSE who is the first African-American woman in Harvard’s history to have an endowed professorship named in her honor. The series focused on three of Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot’s books, and examined the relationships parents have with their children and with their children’s teachers. Having played all three roles of teacher, parent and child myself, I was intensely interested in the subject matter. I was also both moved and inspired by Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot’s storytelling abilities. The series was a great opportunity to learn from a professor I may not have been exposed to otherwise.

Last week, I got three chances to glean some wisdom from Kaya Henderson, the former Chancellor of DC Public Schools who made amazing gains in the district during her tenure. First, we had an Education Policy and Management cohort meeting with her that was set up as a “fireside chat.” The day after the cohort meeting, I attended an Askwith Forum featuring Dr. Henderson called Driving Change: Challenges Superintendents Face in Urban Schools. Askwith forums are public lectures put on by HGSE that feature a wide range of topics and often include panels or interviews with prominent leaders in the education field. This Askwith panel also included two other well-known successful district leaders, Tom Boasberg, Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and Tommy Chang, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools. Then I got a final chance to learn from Kaya Henderson when she attended my Politics and Education Change class.

Kaya Henderson is just the tip of the iceberg with speakers I have been exposed to through my Politics and Education change class, taught by Chris Gabrieli. Other class speakers over the past few weeks have included John King, former U.S. Secretary of Education, Josh Delaney (EPM ’14), education policy advisor for Senator Elizabeth Warren, Charles Barone, policy director for Democrats for Education Reform, and Neerav Kingsland, former CEO for New Schools for New Orleans.

These are really just a small fraction of the events and lectures I could have attended this month – HGSE and the other graduate schools at Harvard have a never-ending stream of influential people lined up to speak to students. The hard part is choosing what to attend with a limited amount of hours in the day. In the few months I have left, hopefully I’ll be able to attend as many events and soak up as much wisdom as I can!

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.

 

Course Shopping

I started this semester completely indecisive. I couldn’t decide what courses to take or what career to pursue. As I talk with other HGSE students, it’s clear these are common problems in January. Luckily, HGSE provides plenty of resources to make these decisions easier. I still haven’t made any final career decisions (look out for a future post on that), but I was able to put a class schedule together that’s perfect for me thanks to course shopping.

Choosing a class schedule is so difficult because of the wealth of interesting course options. My program, Education Policy and Management, has relatively few requirements, and I had met those requirements in the Fall and January terms. That meant for Spring term, I had the option of taking almost any classes at any of the graduate schools at Harvard (or even beyond Harvard to schools like MIT). After browsing the course catalogue at HGSE and the other graduate schools, I had a good 25 classes I wanted to take. The abundance of choice can be overwhelming when you only have time to take 4 or 5.

shoppingThankfully, course shopping is held the week before classes start. At HGSE, course shopping is a two-day event where you have the opportunity to attend 45-minute sessions on any class that interests you. The session is led by the professor who teaches the course and gives you a chance to hear about the course structure, course goals, and an overview of the assignments. Shopping sessions also give you a good feel for a professor’s style. Each course has two sessions during the shopping period which makes it easy to fit every course you’ve been eyeing into your shopping schedule.

My experience with shopping has been that it’s incredibly helpful. That was especially true this semester when I lacked a solid idea of what I wanted. Like clothes shopping, there are some outfits that seem perfect in the store window, but once you try them on you realize the fit isn’t right. On the other hand, you may try something on as an afterthought that turns out to be perfect for you. Both of those phenomena happened to me this semester with my classes. Shopping also gave me chance to put together a diverse schedule of classes with different types of assignments and subject matter. My schedule now includes a politics class full of interesting speakers, a class where I will work on a design project for innovating teacher preparation, a statistics class, and a Harvard Kennedy School class examining inequality. I started shopping feeling overwhelmed and indecisive, but finished feeling excited about the semester ahead.

Another added benefit of shopping is that you get exposure to a wide array of classes and professors. If you find yourself here next year, go to as many shopping sessions as you can, even for classes you know you won’t take. Each session gives you a glimpse of what’s going on in different areas of the field and the chance to learn more about the professors here. You’ll also get a syllabus at each session, and I actually save those in case I want to refer to any readings in the future.

Course shopping may not have solved all my problems with making big decisions, but it certainly helped me make the most of my time on Appian Way!

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.

Taking Advantage of J-Term

winter-studying

One of the many amazing things about being a student at HGSE is the flexibility you have in creating your schedule. January term (or “J-term” as its called more frequently) is a great example. J-term is a three-week period in January that offers both for-credit and noncredit opportunities. It is entirely optional, and many students opt to take the month off to recharge. Others choose to take advantage of the courses, workshops and lectures offered. I decided to use J-term to take a 2-credit course, and I am so glad I came back to Cambridge to spend this chilly January in the warm halls of HGSE!

My J-term course is Elements of Effective Family-School Partnerships with Dr. Karen Mapp. As has been the case with all my HGSE courses, I find the course content and professor incredibly interesting and inspiring. What makes J-term unique is that it has allowed me to take a deep dive into one subject area without the buzz of distractions that accompany the regular semester. Being able to focus my time and energy on one class has made it a meaningful learning experience despite the short duration of the course (it only meets six times). And, as always, it is an excellent opportunity to meet and hear perspectives from more of my amazing classmates.

If you find yourself at HGSE next year, be sure to consider returning to campus for J-term. I think I speak for most Ed.M. candidates when I say that we share a fear of missing out on the wealth of opportunities Harvard has to offer. J-term is a great way to calm that fear and add something into your schedule that may not fit into the Spring or Fall. It is just one more way to make the most out of your year at HGSE!

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.

Group Shot!

consulting-group

My State Ed Policy Consulting Group

We just wrapped up the last week of classes at HGSE, and for me, the week included two group presentations. These were projects we have been working on for much (in one case all) of this semester. Group work has it challenges, but in the end it’s an incredibly valuable experience.

Group work is something you can expect at HGSE. Some people love it, some people hate it, but we all need to embrace it. As much as we would like to change the world, no one can change the world on their own. We need to know how to work well with others in order to create something better than what we could have created alone.

You won’t have to worry about people not pulling their weight here – everyone at HGSE is smart, driven and hard-working. The friction that occurs in groups is more likely to be caused by having so many people who are used to achieving success on their own try to tackle a complicated assignment together. We all care about quality work and efficiency, but we all have different styles. The beauty in group work is learning to be flexible. It’s about understanding where you have expertise, and where you should step back and learn from others. It’s about learning how to handle disagreements with respect, and working with each other instead of against each other. In the end, it’s also about having fun and getting to know more of your amazing classmates.

In case you’re wondering what kinds of group projects you can expect at HGSE, I’ll give you quick explanations of mine:

nonprofit-group

Group photo in Larsen Hall.

The first was a semester-long consulting project in my A125: State Education Policy class. My group was advising the Chair of the Massachusetts Legislature Joint Committee on Education about teacher induction and mentoring policies. It allowed us to work with people in the Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and leaders in individual school districts. It was fantastic practical experience.

The second was a project in A019: Education Sector Nonprofits class. It was a presentation and paper on (appropriately for this blog post) how leaders of nonprofits can balance the expectations for their individual organization’s performance with the expectations for their organization’s contribution to collective impact initiatives.

So if you already love group work and collaborating with others, HGSE is the place to hone those skills. If you don’t love group work, HGSE is the place to learn how to navigate collective efforts. Either way, HGSE will help prepare you to work effectively with others to solve education’s most complex problems.

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.

Things to do with Kids in Cambridge/Boston

If you are thinking about coming to HGSE and you have kids, you will eventually need a great list of kid-friendly activities in the area. Here are some of my favorite places to get you started.

Cambridge is full of kid-friendly spots. The Cambridge Commons playground is right down the street from HGSE and is a must-do if you have little ones. Another must-do is the Museum of Science – don’t miss the butterfly garden and planetarium. The Cambridge Public Library is also fantastic and has cute story hours. If you are looking for outdoor activities, make sure to check out Memorial Drive on Sundays. From late April to early November, the street is closed to traffic every Sunday from 11am to 7pm. My kids are there every weekend riding their bikes. Another great outdoor activity is kayaking on the Charles River. The kayak rental location in Allston is our favorite because it’s on a calm stretch of the river away from the larger boats.

In Boston, make sure to check out the Boston Public Library and the Boston Children’s Museum. Boston Common and the Public Garden are also a favorite spot for us. We are eagerly awaiting the seasonal opening of the ice skating rink in the Common!

apple-picking

When you get to HGSE, you will find a warm community of student parents. There are several organized events throughout the year, including movie nights and an annual Halloween party. In October, we went on a HGSE apple picking “field trip” at a local farm, and my three-year-old is still talking about it. If you find yourself apple picking next year, make sure to try the spiced donuts. Trust me on that one.

And finally, if the thought of coming to HGSE with children sounds daunting – don’t worry. Many of the students here are in the same boat, and there will be plenty of people to give you advice. Cambridge and Boston are both great cities for families, and there is no shortage of things to do. I look at my year here as an adventure for all of us!

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.   

Why HGSE?

At this time last year, I was both excited and anxious about my application to HGSE. My biggest worry was whether it was time to go back to grad school. I was debating whether it was a good idea to make the career shift away from law practice back towards education, the sector where I began my career. I am also in my mid-thirties with a family, so it is no small feat to move my entire life across the country. At any age and stage though, it is a major decision to invest the time and money to go to graduate school.

I am happy to say that after two months in the Education Policy and Management (EPM) program, I am confident that I made the right decision. There are multiple reasons I think HGSE is worth all the effort it took to get here. No one will claim that a degree from Harvard looks bad on your resume – earning the credential is a legitimate reason to come.  A better reason would be to learn from professors who are the leading experts in the education field. That is absolutely one of the reasons I came here, and I have already learned an incredible amount from my courses. What I find to be the most compelling thing about HGSE, however, is the community of students. It is the energy and inspiration I get from my classmates that I find most valuable about the entire grad school experience.

There is something very refreshing about spending a year in Cambridge with a group of people who are all passionate about improving education. It is fascinating to hear the stories of how people got here, and where they plan to go next. I also find it valuable to hear everyone’s different perspectives. Even though we all want to make the system better, we approach solving the education sector’s problems from different angles, no doubt influenced by our varied backgrounds. I think understanding these different motivations will make us all better education leaders when we are out in the field next year. For now, there is no place I would rather be than HGSE!

Sara DeWolf is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Education Policy and Management program. She has experience as both a civil litigation attorney and a public school teacher. When she’s not at HGSE, you can find her playing with her daughters and exploring Boston.