Category Archives: Courses

A Day in the Life of a Spring Semester TEP Student

Hi everyone! Spring semester of the Teacher Education Program (TEP) looks very different than a lot of other Ed.M. programs at HGSE. That’s because we are completing full-time teaching practicums for our Massachusetts teaching certification. Here’s what a typical Monday is like for me:

5:20 a.m. – Alarm goes off. Yikes. I hit snooze a bunch of times before eventually rolling out of bed to start my day.

6:15-7:00 a.m. – Commute to my school site. I live kind of far and take the train (MBTA), but I actually don’t mind the long commute at all. I consider my mornings as an important built in time for self-care. I listen to music, drink my coffee, and get mentally ready for the day.  Plus, I get to see this stellar view every day:

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Sunrise view of the Boston skyline from Charlestown, MA

7:15 a.m. – School starts! I work in a middle school that has an advisory period every morning. This spring, I am running a book club two days a week during this time for students who need an additional challenge. Every TEP student is required to take on an “additional responsibility” outside of teaching during practicum, so this is mine.

8:15 a.m. – 2:25 p.m. – The rest of school. My mentor teacher and I co-teach four sections of 6th grade ELA. This spring, two of the classes have become my primary responsibility. Between teaching, IEP and team meetings, and a planning period, the day always goes by super fast!

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My 6th Grade Classroom!

3:15 p.m. – Arrive at HGSE. Grab a quick snack in Gutman Café. (Gutman chocolate chip cookies are the best afternoon snack on busy days! Seriously – get one. You won’t regret it.) Chat with some friends, catch up on emails, and prepare for my 4:00 class.

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Outside Gutman Library

4:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Time for class. Since TEP students start earlier than the rest of the Master’s programs, we technically aren’t required to take courses at HGSE during our spring practicum. But many of us still do since there are so many good classes to choose from. This semester, I’m taking Educating to Transform Society: Preparing Students to Disrupt and Dismantle Racism with Dr. Aaliyah El-Amin. It’s been one of the most powerful classes I’ve taken this year.

7:30 – Finally home! I make dinner, do some last minute review of the next day’s lessons, and occasionally watch some mindless reality TV with my roommates (looking at you The Bachelor…sorry/not sorry).

10:00 – Lights out. Time to sleep and do it all again tomorrow.

Sarah Mintz is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Teacher Education Program, pursuing licensure as a middle school English teacher. She comes to HGSE from Washington, D.C., where she worked at an independent school and a non-profit serving incarcerated youth. Outside of education, she loves to spend her time cooking and exploring the city with friends

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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.

J-Term: “Putting a new memory in the minds of children…”

Harvard Graduate School of Education, in collaboration with the other Harvard graduate schools, offers January term (J-term) courses. After I submitted my last final in mid-December, I turned off my laptop for a much needed rest–both for me, and my Mac–and I contemplated whether or not I wanted to extend my break as long as possible. I debated whether I should come back to campus a week earlier to participate in J-term. Thankfully, I did. I enrolled in Professor Joseph Kalt‘s PED 501M: Native Americans in the 21st Century: Nation Building I.

I sat in the same room for four consecutive six and a half-hour days with thirty minute breaks for lunch, and I wasn’t bored for a minute. We unpacked the history and contemporary truths of the myriad sovereign Native nations. Stories after stories: this course unearthed the marginalization, resilience, and preservation of Indian country, which was never shared at any checkpoint of my k-12 or college education. PED 501M made me stop and think: how is it that none of my history courses ever talked about the sovereignty of the indigenous with reverence? This reminded me of the theory I learned in Professor Karen Mapp‘s course, Leadership in Social Change Organization, ‘asset’ versus ‘deficit’ models of thinking. I was socialized to see the deficit of Natives in my educational upbringing, never their cultural capital, which is not only in absolute abundance but in incredible nuance distinguished by tribes. Meanwhile, Professor Kalt shared a quote from an elder Native about the self-determination towards “putting a new memory in the minds of children.”

I ended up jotting down a series of quotes that will be prompts on my future journals:

  • “Even wolves have a constitution” (partially in reference to the projection of Native ‘savagery’) .
  • “I believe that friend, family, and foe should be treated equally.”
  • “Self-esteem is the ability to stop the endless loop of checking if your reasoning is true–not just reasoning, but your reasoning about your reasoning.”
  • “Education is your greatest weapon. With education, you are the white man’s equal, without education you are his victim and so shall remain all of your lives. Study, learn, help one another always. Remember there is only poverty and misery in idleness and dreams – but in work there is self-respect and independence.” -Chief Plenty Coups
  • “A sense of entitlement is one of the most dangerous things of all.”
  • “We don’t ‘eat the seed corn'” – Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett
  • “Growing up, I had about 70 first cousins–that’s a lot. Now, I have about less than 30 still alive.”

J-term revived my spirits and prepared my mind to dive back into next semester with hype. If in 11 months, you’re debating whether you should register for J-term as you’re binging Game of Thrones for the third time because you’re thoroughly convinced you learn more about EVERY character–I say commit. Plan to return in early January with your heavy coat, and be prepared to install a major intellectual update.

Taaha Mohamedali is a Master’s of Education candidate in Higher Education. Prior to enrolling at Harvard, Taaha was an admissions officer coordinating efforts to improve access for marginalized groups at Lafayette College.  He hopes to improve transitional support structures for these groups in the years to come. His passions include spoken word, comedy, and rock, paper, scissors.

Taking Advantage of J-Term

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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.

Q&A with Gabi and Arpi

 

Many of the programs at HGSE overlap in course requirements and student interests. We (Gabi and Arpi) are in two related masters programs – Human Development and Psychology and Mind, Brain, and Education, respectively, and have many shared and unique experiences from our first semester that we would love to share with you through this combined Q&A between bloggers.

Q#1: What is your favorite place to go study?

Gabi (HDP): I’m not sure if it’s my favorite place, more of a love-hate relationship, but you can always find me at the Cronkhite reading room, hahaha! It is our dorm room study lounge, very cozy, almost always silent and occasionally we have guests who bring treats and great stories. One place I would like to explore more is the Music Department Library – it has a homey feel, with nice curtains, long wooden desks and chairs that have harps carved in them. I really liked the day I spent over there.

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Arpi (MBE): Apart from the Cronkhite reading room, I love the first floor of Gutman Library. The first floor is designated a collaborative space, so you’ll often run into classmates and cohort members working on their next big project and getting excited about their work. The cafe is also a few steps away from the study area and is quite the hidden gem of graduate school cafes at Harvard. I especially loved that during finals, the Dean’s office and Office of Student Life also provided everyone with free coffee and tea in the library! They certainly know how to support us in a stressful academic time.

Q#2: What is the coolest event you have attended here so far?

Gabi (HDP): There have been so many cool events around here! I enjoyed the Student Night offered by the Harvard Art Museum. In addition to the tours, which were lovely, they had snacks inspired by the art collections, printed replicas of art pieces which you could rent to show in your own room and temporary tattoos of art pieces. I would crack myself up every time I looked at my ankle and saw Van Gogh’s face.

Arpi (MBE): My favorite event this semester was the Harvard-Yale game, hands down! HGSE organized a fun tailgate with breakfast in the morning, after which my cohort sat together in the graduate student section, all decked out in Harvard gear. I haven’t quite found a better word to sum up the experience other than as a “phenomenon.” I have never seen so much school pride in one stadium (from both teams), and although Harvard lost, it was such a fun few hours away from our pre-finals workload!

 

Q#3: What did you do this semester that you never thought you would do?

 

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Gabi’s electrical circuit.

Gabi (HDP): I never thought I would ever build an electrical circuit! In one of our classes, Designing for Learning by Creating, we had one amazing guest from the MIT Media Lab who guided us through the process of making a simple circuit with an LED and I was surprised at how easy and accessible it was! Watching my circuit light up filled me with joy and pride.

 

Arpi (MBE): I never thought I would willingly and enjoyably stay up until the early hours of the morning to finish a class project. The professors instill you with such motivation and excitement to complete your work, which often has potential for real-world application (or is actually being applied!)

Q#4: How did you choose your Ed.M. program at HGSE?

Gabi (HDP): I knew that I wanted to study creativity, so I found out where scholars who studied creativity were, and a lot of them worked in Psychology programs inside Education schools. In addition to that, I was very interested in the idea of creativity as a process that develops over time, while we evolve as human beings. So the Human Development and Psychology program was the only one that made sense to me.

Arpi (MBE): I’m broadly interested in cognition and cognitive development, and wanted to gain a holistic understanding of how the brain develops and how we learn. Because my background is in the natural sciences, I wanted to not only continue studying this from a neuroscience end, but also gain perspective from the psychology and education fields. The MBE program was perfect for me to explore all of these fields and grapple with them equally for my research interest.

Q#5: What do you wish people knew about the HGSE cohort?

Gabi (HDP): I wish they knew how diverse the cohort is; there is no recipe for what an HGSE student is like. It is comforting for me to see that everyone is insecure about one thing or another. At the same time, everyone has so much knowledge to share. I’m probably learning as much from my peers as I am from my professors!

Arpi (MBE): I hope everyone knows that the HGSE experience is unique for each person as well. There is no singular experience or path to take here, or next step to take after HGSE. It makes for such a vibrant community and shows that everyone has an important voice to contribute to the field of education.

 

Arpi Youssoufian is a masters candidate in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. A biologist by training, she is fascinated by the classic nature-nurture debate in the context of learning development, and wishes she could take every class in the HGSE course book. She hopes to pursue either a neuroscience doctoral program or medical school to bridge research and practice in the future.

Gabriela Talarico is passionate about creativity, self-regulation, education, and qualitative research. She joins HGSE from Brazil as a Jorge Paulo Lemann Fellow and is currently a Master’s in Education Candidate in the Human Development and Psychology Program.

Looking back at a Semester of belonging.

I remember this time last year, being still unsure of the exact route I wanted my career to take and of my shortlisted colleges that somehow seemed to lead up to that. A compulsive curiosity to know everything I can so I can get a “feel” of it, I had just spent 7 hours straight watching videos from HGSE, trying to see if I could picture myself there. I was far from convinced. Until I came across a goofy “Stories from Appian Way” video about a man in search of a Harvard bag. In that video-marathon-induced delirium, I thought that was the most hilarious thing I had seen in a while. More importantly though, something about that told me, I would fit in. From then on, in the admissions process, it was mostly just trying to put into words why as I completed my application essays, knowing in my gut that this was the only place I wanted to really go.

A year later, after having gotten 7 hours of sleep for the first time after 3 weeks of finals, that gut feeling is probably what has still stayed with me. It’s been a semester of moments like that. That warmth in the belly that comes from knowing I belong. I don’t know how else to describe the roller-coaster of a semester it’s been – unlearning and relearning everything I have known about the world, learning about all the possibilities of the people I could be, and finding out that each one of those seems to find comfortable belonging here.

It’s a montage of moments like these that I would send to the me a year ago to ease all that anxiety: Sitting by the mound outside Gutman Library in the first month here, basking in the sun, discussing the belief systems we brought here, and watching them unfold as we added layers from each others’ experiences. Sitting in the massive T-550 class, rediscovering everything I have known about learning, and arranging these aha-moments collectively on post-its. Hearing 140 students stand up in the Public Narratives class, describe their stories and hope in 10 seconds one after the other. Reflecting on my “researcher” identity at the end of “Interviewing for Qualitative research” class, and hearing back from the professor with personalized comments in response. Coming clean to my statistics professor about my fear for stats, and have him respond most reassuringly, putting my learning at the center of the conversation. “I want you to walk away comfortable with stats”, as he always said. Sharing lessons and ideas from a semester with my cohort in a formal event, and having them write back with suggestions, feedback, links and resources, as well as wise words of encouragement; and learning things as varied as race theory to blacksmithing at the event. Coffee dates with classmates as we mutually reflect on the questions we picked up from our classes, and finding their connections for further exploration in the answers we also found there. Specialized Studies Fridays, where we have strung together our thoughts from the week as a cohort over a few beers. Beverages and “everything-you-know”-altering conversations in general. Having a panic attack in the middle of the library the week before finals, only to be hugged until I was calm again (and fed cookies) by a fellow classmate I have barely spoken to before, who turned out to be a secret ninja in the subject I was panicking about, willing to tutor me even in the middle of all her own madness. Finding words to my feelings and getting over my fear of the camera at the same time as I recorded my story for “Double Take”, and then ugly crying after being immensely moved by the stories others shared at the school-wide Double-Take event. Making sense of the elections through origami and art as much as through informed conversations and community meetings. Dancing to Bollywood music in the library the week before finals. The Dean serving us Thanksgiving lunch. Meeting the “bag-guy” from the aforementioned video, telling him how that video changed my decision, which led to a conversation brainstorming ways to take ahead the project I worked on over the summer.

 

The first thing we were told in our cohort orientation was, “Everything here is for the asking, all you have to do is ask”. A semester later, I see what that means. It’s been a semester of being exposed to just an unbelievable wealth of wisdom. It has been enriching in ways that has expanded my brain in directions I didn’t previously know existed.  Of having access to the people I had been studying for so long (and I am not talking only about “I almost dropped coffee on them on my way to school” kind of access); access that is comfortable enough to go in with my unformed questions and coming out with multiple pathways of discovery opened up before me. Of meeting people, who, along with having the wisest wisdom and a whole range of stories to share, are also people who you can count on to genuinely care. People filled with a certain kind of optimism, the kind which draws them to think of changing the world through education, and have them actively engage with me with that in tow. And of finding my place within it, a place that’s evolving, with a kind of faith that no matter the expansion or shape-shifting, there will still be room for it. Of learning about “asking” as an act of belonging within it.

As one of my professors once said in class, “Be a wedge in the door. And then find the community of such wedges in the doors to help open them for you”. What that girl watching those 7 hours of video didn’t know last year, is that this is what perhaps makes this place what it is, that warmth of belonging from cultivating relationships that are as much about laughter as about learning. That community of wedges in the doors, helping each other grow and evolve as they figure out their place in the world they want to create.

Jayati Doshi is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Specialized Studies Program. She is currently exploring what happens when we look at living as an act of learning, and what educating for that would look like. 

Looking Back Over the Semester

I can’t believe the semester is over…. Here are a few of my highlights!

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First day at my internship! This internship has been an amazing experience. I was welcomed with open arms and I have had a chance to learn, practice, and improve my school leadership skills!

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Arts in Education (AIE) students chose to do a project on changing the negative narrative of menstruation. They hosted a period party where we created art work and discussed our own narratives around periods. Both males and females attended and we all engaged in rich discussion! more information can be found on their website, People Have Periods, including my own period story.

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Gallery opening night for R.E.A.L. Talk Exhibit

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Tabling for the Alumni of Color Conference with one of my fellow Tri-Chairs.

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Me with Dr. Higgins on the last day of class.

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Some members of my cohort after our consultancy group with The Principal Center’s Advisory Board. I was also fortunate to complete the Mannequin Challenge with my SLP cohort and The Principal’s Center Advisory Board. It was an epic moment to incorporate work and play with principals from around the country!

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Resting Pitch Face-My cohort softball team!

 

Good times tailgating for the Harvard vs. Yale football game!

I’ve been blessed to have so many good times and memories that I will cherish forever.

Rashaida Melvin is a Master’s of Education candidate in the School Leadership Program. She has taught for three years and is excited about moving from the classroom into leadership. Rashaida is looking forward to serving both teachers and students in the future.

Reflecting on My First Semester on Appian Way

The past semester has been a challenging one, without a doubt, but it has also been one filled with immense personal growth, laughter, support, and meaningful assignments. If I said being a graduate student was easy, I’d be lying to you. However, at HGSE I’ve found support, resources, and learning that have made this semester’s journey well worth it.

Coming to the Harvard Graduate School of Education I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect, but I assumed that my professors would be largely unavailable outside of class. As a student who thrives on one-on-one interactions for my learning, this definitely made me apprehensive as decision day approached. This semester I’ve found the opposite of what I expected. Most of my professors respond to student communication promptly and effectively, work with their students’ schedules to meet with them, and are understanding of most student needs. Beyond professors, everyone who works at HGSE works hard to be available for students and student groups, including Dean Jim Ryan, the Office of Student Affairs, Career Services, and more. The environment is one that feels as though everyone there wants you to succeed, which is crucial in graduate school when the workload can be a lot to shoulder.

The fall semester introduced me to amazing people between the HGSE faculty and my peers, taught me a great deal about education, and pushed me to be a better scholar than I thought possible. First, my classes and assignments have been instrumental in pushing me to think about education in new ways. All of my classes from A608, to Critical Race Theory in Education, to Reading Instruction and Development, have engaged me in meaningful discussions with my peers, connected me to pertinent research in the field, and furnished opportunities, in both individual and group assignments, to reflect on what it means to take these lessons from Appian Way to U.S. schools. My final paper for A608, and my research projects in other courses are things that I will revisit as I move forward in my career. In addition to the amazing faculty and the undeniable learning and personal growth I’ve experienced since August, the connections I’ve made with my peers are ones that I hope to take with me well beyond May when this program ends. Overall, as I reflect on this semester, I’m thankful for each day I’ve spent on Appian Way.

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Kaci McClure is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy program. Her primary passions are increasing literacy skills among high school students; addressing inequity in low-income, largely minority schools; and culturally responsive teaching. A transplant out of Louisiana who originally hails from Texas, Kaci has an affinity for sweet tea, spicy food, and the word “y’all.” She’s also an avid supporter of conscious rap and frybread, neither correlated to the other but both very powerful.  

Group Shot!

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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:

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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.

Mushroom Learnings: Other People’s Projects

 

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My mushroom!

HGSE is full of projects. I’m currently working on a case study designing a teacher-led plan to stem teacher attrition in a school, a memo detailing how you could bring digital teacher coaching to a rural state, a proposal for a deeper-learning after school program targeting upper elementary ELLs, and a research-based rewrite of civics education to account for social media. When I came, I expected to learn a lot through doing these practice-based projects, and I am. 

What I didn’t realize I’d be learning from is other’s projects. Often people need participants to make their projects work, and being the caring friends we are, we step in for activities or focus groups or experiments. It’s been a way to sample classes I’m not in. One led to a really probing, affirming discussion the day after the election about the different ways race enters the classroom teaching in homogeneous communities and I left with a lot of new ideas, new resources, and a better understanding of what I want professionally going forward. She got quotes and I developed a life plan — fair trade. 

The most unexpected one I’ve taken part in is spore prints. It’s for T-550, “Designing for Learning by Creating.” The class is a big presence here — 150+ people, donuts before every meeting, a strong social media game — and I’m not in it. Check out @TFiveFifty or #tfivefifty on Instagram or Twitter to get a sampling and be jealous alongside me. 

Everybody has to design something, and somebody in my cohort is trying to cultivate observation and wonder through mushrooms. I couldn’t attend the walk-in-the-woods day, but I did have a lovely lunch where we observed wild mushrooms using all of our senses. We looked more closely with microscopes you could attach to your phone and finished by leaving the caps face-down on paper overnight to make a spore print. It turns out mushrooms secrete something that colors paper. Who knew? Not me!

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My spore print in the upper left and illustrations of my mushroom underside from various angles, including the cut-off stem.

Taking the time to stop, look, and wonder at something I’ve literally never thought about was a gift I didn’t know I needed. I had so much on my plate that day and almost didn’t go, but the experience was calming in the moment, taught me something about how mushrooms work, and has me looking at everyday objects differently. My final product is taped on my wall in my bedroom as a reminder to pause, be curious, and take advantage of all the wonderfully weird, wonderfully unexpected chances that come my way this year.

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A closeup. I took 15ish pictures of my mushroom using a microscope that fits on your smartphone and lets you take pictures. They’re like $10!

Becca Schouvieller is in the Instructional Leadership strand for experienced teachers within the Learning & Teaching program. She taught social studies in Maine for six years and is excited about civic education, rural education, college access and preparation, working within existing schools to improve teaching quality, and finding the best breakfast sandwich in Cambridge.