Category Archives: Tips

The Job Search

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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.

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You’ve Been Admitted to HGSE! Now What?

So, you’ve been admitted to HGSE for the 2017-18 academic year – CONGRATULATIONS! Now what? How do you decide whether to attend or not? Here are a few thoughts as you consider HGSE from Gabi and Arpi:

Q1: Where were you and what were you doing when you found out you were admitted to HGSE?

Gabi, HDP: I was out on vacation in Salvador, Brazil, with my parents. The process of gathering material and writing statements can be very stressful, so some time after I was done submitting my applications, I decided to take a work leave to let off some steam and distract myself from the anxiety of waiting for answers. One day when we got back to the hotel I checked my email and it said there was an update to my Harvard application. My parents sat down by my side as I opened the message, and we celebrated together in a crazy mix of laughing, crying and hugging.

Arpi, MBE: I was in my dorm room, running late for dinner with a friend. I was a heartbeat away from closing the lid of my laptop when suddenly the email popped up from the admissions office. In some incomprehensible blur of happiness and exhilaration I called my parents to tell them the news. I still attribute my breathlessness over the phone to the excitement of receiving the decision rather than physically racing out the door.

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Q2: What was important to you in deciding to attend HGSE?

Gabi, HDP: The factors that most influenced my decision to join Harvard were the focus on research and financial aid (I should note that financial aid information doesn’t always come at the same time as the general admission decision).

Arpi, MBE: The connection between students and professors was definitely of importance to me. I was nervous that one year was too short to make meaningful connections with our academic advisors and professors, but was impressed when I visited for the admitted student open house day how fond the students were of their professors and the connections they made with them. The professors here make themselves readily available to their students, get to know us by name and aspirations, and are genuinely invested in our achievement and success. Even Professor Brennan knew all 100+ of her students in T550 by name!

Q3: Did you speak to anyone at HGSE who helped you make the decision to enroll? What advice did they give you?

Arpi, MBE: Less than a week after being admitted, a current HGSE student in my program called to congratulate me and answer any questions. I, being pleasantly surprised by the unexpected phone call, yet again running late for dinner with a friend, and still in shock of receiving the admissions decision a few days earlier, could only formulate one question: “Do you like it there?” (Geez, could I think of a more blunt question?) The student I spoke with couldn’t convey her love of her HGSE experience more, and even rallied a few other MBE students in the room with her to express this. I also visited campus and was entirely taken by the community here, just as I had felt in my virtual interactions until then. So it wasn’t necessarily advice that solidified my decision; it was more so a vibe and reassurance that this community would be welcoming of me and my goals in the MBE program. (Note to the newly-admitted MBE students: I will be one of the current students on the HGSE end of the phone line this year during call night (woohoo!). Please feel free to ask us any questions about our experiences as MBE/HGSE/Harvard students, we’re all very excited to speak with you!)

Gabi, HDP: I spoke to so many people in order to make my decision: my family, my boyfriend, friends, HGSE alumni and my HDP Program Administrator from Harvard, other schools I was considering, and finally my undergraduate professors from Brazil. I would say it was especially helpful to talk to recent alumni, as they still had the fresh experience in their mind, but were able to have some distance when looking back. To find these people, I reached out to the Admissions Office and asked to be connected with alumni with similar backgrounds as me. I think more than giving me advice, they gave me valuable information about what the program would be like and the life I would have here, which made me confident to make my own decision.

Q4: Are you happy that you ultimately enrolled at HGSE?

Arpi, MBE: Unquestionably. I still feel butterflies whenever I walk through the main University gates, onto Appian way, or into class each day. This has persisted since day one of orientation.

Gabi, HDP: Yes. It has been a crazy few months since I arrived at Cambridge in August, but some things I know for sure: I love my friends. I learn from them everyday. I love my professors. They push me to do my best and inspire me to be my best self. I love being here.

Q5: What information do you wish you knew when you were deciding whether or not to accept your offer of admission from HGSE?

Arpi, MBE: I wish I more fully understood how quickly one year flies by. Suddenly it’s March, and the Ed.M. and finishing doctoral students are realizing that graduation is on the horizon. It makes every moment here invaluable. While I’m still incredibly happy to have enrolled in HGSE’s full-time Ed.M. program, the length of the program is certainly an important consideration and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Q6: The idea of Harvard can be intimidating. When did you begin feeling like you belong at Harvard? What helped you feel this way and what advice would you give to someone to help them along this journey?

Arpi, MBE: Oh undoubtedly, the Harvard name can be intimidating. It carries a lot of prestige and respect and I wasn’t sure if I would fit the mold. It turns out that mold does not exist – at all. Within the first hour of orientation I felt a connection to my cohort as we exchanged stories and we realized that we all had the same apprehensions and excitements for being here. When Dean Ryan came onto the dance floor at the “Back to School BBQ” before the start of classes (I have photographic proof below!), I knew that HGSE welcomed me as a person, and not just as an application for admission. It took some time for me to feel like a member of the greater University, as being admitted to HGSE tends to keep you on Appian Way, but that adjustment came with a little help from the rest of the HGSE community. We attended lectures hosted at the main campus, the Harvard-Yale football game, cross-registered for classes at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and bought a couple sweaters in the process. It only took a short walk into main campus every so often with a buddy to explore what the rest of the University had to offer for us, and that helped us first feel a sense of belonging at Harvard.

Gabi, HDP: That’s a funny question. When I decided to apply for Harvard, I wasn’t fully convinced it would be the best fit for me. However, as I gathered more information, as I watched videos and read blog posts and read about professors’ work and research, I started to realize that Harvard wants to produce research that is relevant and meaningful–and that’s what I want too. The moment I submitted my application, I knew that I could belong here. So I guess people realize they belong at different times, in different ways, and that’s okay–Harvard welcomes everyone.

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Dean Jim Ryan with members of the MBE cohort at the “Back to School BBQ”

Q7: What advice would you give to someone trying to decide what graduate program is the best fit for them?

Gabi, HDP: It’s okay to take some time to make your decision; talk to people and think about how the program you’re about to start will help you enter the next step of your career. Don’t forget that the ultimate decision is always yours. After you’ve decided, don’t look back–it is your commitment and your choices in the graduate program that will ultimately make the experience your own.

Arpi, MBE: Two things: First, consider the academic experience in its entirety. Flip through the course catalog of each program and pretend to build your dream schedule – are you excited about the course offerings or professors teaching them? Will those classes develop the skills or knowledge you need to further your goals? Go to the events pages or calendars for the schools you’re considering – which lectures or workshops would you attend? Second, visit the schools! Talk to some of the current members of your program, sit in on lectures, and take a walk around campus. If you’re considering HGSE among your options, come visit us during admitted students weekend! It’s time to more than just picture yourself here. We’re looking forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the HGSE community!

Gabriela Talarico is passionate about creativity, 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.

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.

True Life: I’m a Graduate Student at Harvard

My Monday Schedule:

7:45 am: Wake up, get ready for class

8:30 am: Leave the house and walk to HGSE

9:00 am-12:00 pm: Attend class

12:00-12:30 pm: Meet with my fellow Tri-Chairs about the Alumni of Color Conference

12:30-4:00 pm: Eat lunch, prepare for class, attend office hours, chat with friends

4:00-7:00 pm: Attend class

7:30 pm-1:00 am: Eat dinner, prepare to go to my internship the next day, complete assignments, read for class, job search, talk to family, self-care

This is a typical Monday schedule for me. I would consider this to be a calm day. One in which I do not have very many meetings and everything goes as planned. Of course, that rarely happens. During my time here at HGSE, I have been challenged beyond what I thought was possible. I have taken on many responsibilities and tasks that, at many times, make me feel as if I am being pulled in every direction. But I like this! There are so many opportunities and I am trying to take advantage of as many as possible.

Q: What do you like best about being a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education?

A: I like being surrounded by the community members at HGSE. Everyday I am learning from and with people who have done amazing things in their lives and careers. I love how humble everyone is about their accomplishments. I could be sitting next to someone who has started multiple businesses or who raises money to support kids internationally, and would never know it because people at the Ed school aren’t about competing with each other. We all just want to do what is best for kids!

Q: What is most challenging about being at HGSE?

A: Trying to do everything I possibly can in one year – and do it all well. I can honestly say that I have tried to take as much as possible from HGSE. Everyday I ask myself, “How can I take more from this experience?” I push myself to think beyond the classroom. The classroom is great, but there are so many other things to take from HGSE that is outside the classroom, and outside of HGSE as well.

Q: Did you feel prepared to come to HGSE?

A: After coming here and realizing how strategic people were in the things they wanted to see and do, I realized that I was not prepared. I was trying to figure things out as I went. Other people who knew exactly which professors they wanted to learn from, which organizations they wanted to be a member of, and how they wanted to impact the HGSE community. I didn’t. I just knew that I wanted to come here and make a name for myself and do something that would make HGSE and myself proud. That was my goal. Of course, I wanted to expand my network and learn from amazing people. But I knew I would only feel that I conquered this experience if I left a lasting mark on this school. Do I think I have positioned myself to do this? I am proud to say yes. Absolutely!

Q: Looking back, what might you have done before coming to HGSE to be more prepared?

A: If I could go back to last summer, I would have used my time more wisely. I would have actually planned out all of the opportunities I wanted to explore as well as the tangible deliverables of my time here. I feel as if there are resources that I am just now tapping into that would have been amazing to experience back in September or October. I then remind myself that it is impossible to do everything and that I have taken on a lot of responsibilities. I know that everything is working out in perfect timing and exactly as it should be. I take comfort in this. I realize that I am only one person and I cannot do everything, even though I try.

Q: What have you learned at HGSE that you will use beyond Appian Way?

A: I’ve learned so much! There is plenty to learn in the classroom and through internships. But what I have learned the most beyond that is about building my brand. Soon I will have this degree and will be back into the work to change the world. How am I going to use my knowledge to help others? How am I going to make a name for myself as a leader in education? These are things that I have learned outside the classroom through conversations with colleagues and friends. This is my focus as I progress through the semester and to graduation. At this moment in my program, I have realized that all of the work I have done here is great, but I have to keep working. I have to keep striving. I have to keep pressing.

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.

A Southerner Meets New England Winter

We recently had a big snowstorm—I know, surprise! So far, winter hasn’t been too bad this year, but it definitely showed up that day. I actually had a day off from classes, and a day off from my internship (yay for snow days!). Originally, I’m from Dallas, Texas, and while it snows gently on rare occasions, Texans and snowstorms just aren’t friends. To give you some context, see a weather comparison between Dallas and Boston below (yikes).

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Dallas, TX weather is on the top and Cambridge, MA weather is below.

Although coming from the south to winter in Boston is a big change, there are ways to be prepared and make the most out of a snow day!

First, winter supplies:

  1. Make sure you have a heavy coat—one with a real hood, down, insulation, and long. You may think you can get away with a cute light jacket that stops at your hips, but you shouldn’t try it.
  1. Boots! Not those cute fall booties, but actual boots with traction that are waterproof and higher than the ankle. When my foot was sinking into snow banks, I was grateful for my heavy-duty boots.
  1. Boot socks—invest in some thick boot socks for days when its really cold or you plan on being outside for a while (I have Cabin Socks from Cabela’s)
  1. Scarves, hats, gloves—warm ones, and I recommend gloves with touchscreen capability so that you can still change your music, use GPS, and answer phone calls without taking them off

And… how to make the most of a Cambridge/Boston snow day!

  • Get groceries before the storm—you don’t have to go crazy, but make sure you don’t have to get out to go get milk in whiteout conditions (speaking from experience—whoops)
  • A Burdick’s hot chocolate mix
  • Candles in festive scents like “Sweater Weather”
  • Netflix
  • Get ahead on assignments and reading
  • Get together with friends to play in the snow, or join the citywide snowball fight in Boston Commons (it really happened, and it was awesome)

All in all, I had fun in the snow, and snowy winters aren’t that bad if you come prepared.  I also took some awesome pictures while I was out playing in the snow!

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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.  

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.

Making Plans / Breaking Plans

Upon being accepted to HGSE, I set some lofty goals for making the absolute most of my year here. Being the natural-born planner that I am, I immediately put together a list of classes I wanted to take, clubs I wanted to join, and Boston-area organizations in which I wanted to intern. I had my whole master’s degree mapped out and needed only to execute the plan by staying on the path that I had laid out for myself. What could possibly go wrong?

(Hint: Everything.)

It didn’t take too long for all of my plans to be reduced to mere suggestions. All of the things that were a definite YES before I got to campus quickly became a definitely maybe once I arrived. And everything that had been a NO WAY turned into a hmmm, why not? I recognized very early on that not leaving room in my schedule for exploration, experimentation, and general serendipity would’ve been a huge mistake. Looking back on my Fall semester, I can honestly say that the courses and experiences that I hadn’t planned for ended up being among the most meaningful.

So, with my second and final semester at Harvard on the horizon, I will plan how I want Spring 2017 to look (because, again, that’s who I am), but, this time, with the expectation that those plans can and should be broken.

Monique Hall is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Technology, Innovation, and Education program. She is passionate about children’s media, ice cream, and educational equity.

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. 

Scholarly Reflections

At this time in my life, the setting is just right to reflect. Reflect on the previous semester. Reflect on my Harvard experience so far. Reflect on my future. Reflect on all the things I still want from this experience.

Coming to Harvard, I had little expectations besides knowing that I would receive an education from a world-renowned university. That was it. I was not like certain classmates who had researched all the professors and knew exactly what they wanted. I came to Harvard with more of a blank slate mentality–I was ready to be used and molded by my experiences at HGSE. I only remember thinking that I would push myself to try new things on a regular basis and that I would take advantage of every opportunity possible. I can honestly say I have done just that. I am actually concerned by what new experiences I will be able to have next semester, because I took advantage of so many during the fall! This is actually the best problem to have. When I look back on this experience, I know that there will not be things that I wished I would have done. That’s the best position to be in. This is Harvard, so I am confident that there will be just as many, if not more, experiences for me to have next semester.

I was actually very sad as I finished my last few Fall finals, said good-bye at my internship, and walked away from Gutman Library for the last time in 2016. It is amazing how the people and environment that I have only known for a few short months has such a hold on me and my life. I know that I am truly changed by this experience. There really is not a way to explain it. For me, the one word that sums up everything this experience has been is blessed. I am truly blessed. With that, I will continue to engage in personal reflections. Just know that I want to spread this blessing to others. Everyone should be able to have this privilege. Education is such an important thing that so many people are denied. Being at the Harvard Graduate School of Education has solidified my career, my calling to be an educator. There’s no turning back. I want to use this experience and this degree to bless others. I am not ashamed of that at all. I’m actually very proud. Proud that I was entrusted with this amazing opportunity.      

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.

Doing Research and The 2016 NCTE Conference

If you’re interested in research, HGSE has an abundance of resources and grants to help you make conducing and presenting research a reality. First, there plenty of ways to present research within the Harvard community, including at the Alumni of Color Conference in the spring and the Student Research Conference. Additionally, there are ways for students to get involved in faculty research or to do their own research. If you have a conference in mind that is off campus, or even in a different state, don’t let that discourage you. This year, I continued my work with a professor from my undergraduate institution and presented at the National Council of Teachers of English conference with the help of grants. Below is my NCTE experience; I highly recommend getting involved with research and attending a conference.

At the end of November, I presented at the annual NCTE Conference in Atlanta, Georgia alongside Dr. Susan Weinstein of Louisiana State University. Our presentation discussed the value of implementing spoken word poetry as central pedagogy in the classroom—not simply throwing some in on the side, or excluding it altogether. The premise of our work is that youth spoken word poetry presents rich material from which students can study culture, current events, personal identity formation, and attributes and functions of text. Additionally, spoken word can be studied in its written format via transcripts, as well as in the traditional oral format.

Our research pulled from modern-day examples, including “Kaona” performed by Jamaica Osorio and Ittai Wong in Hawai’i, which incorporate traditional language, historical references, and the passage of and importance of holding onto language. Performed by youth poets, this poem allows students to discuss connections to culture and language, and it gives them an example of literature created by youth. As articulated by Dr. Susan Weinstein, this piece is “carefully crafted to educate and affect the audience on intellectual, emotional, sensory, and even kinesthetic levels.” The other two featured poems discussed were “Columbusing” and “Knock-Off Native,” which dive into cultural appropriation and who defines identity, respectively. As in traditional canonical literature, all three are rich with allusions, metaphors, and imagery that assists in conveying their important messages. As a passionate supporter of culturally responsive pedagogy and youth authors, this presentation reflected my ideas (as well as Dr. Weinstein’s) about reimagining what is positioned at the center of classroom curriculum, and who has cultural capital.

In addition to presenting at the conference, I was able to reflect on my own teaching and leadership practices, and to immerse myself in learning about how to make education better for the students that I serve. One of the sessions I attended reimagined memoirs in the classroom, and sought to honor Native traditions of storytelling in classrooms serving a predominantly Native American student body. As a Native American student, I was ecstatic to see the many ways that this conference moved beyond the binary to include cultures and student experiences that defied the traditional Black/White lens. Other sessions I attended discussed adolescent literature with LGBTQ characters, instruction for ELLs (English Language Learners) and differentiation, being an advocate for students, and rethinking traditional grading practices. All of the conference sessions built on my work and the learning that I’ve done at HGSE, including ideas about reading development and instruction and lenses from CRT (Critical Race Theory). Overall, I was able to share in my commitment to honoring cultures and histories outside of the dominant narrative, accumulate valuable tools for working in education, and meet several influential and inspiring people from across the education sector.

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.