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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis Education Department offers a true education

Published: December 5, 2014
Section: Opinions

I believe that classes in the Education Department at Brandeis are some of the most valuable at this school, for any student. Even for people who have never had any interest in teaching as a career, or people who lack the patience to become teachers, taking education classes is still worthwhile.

I entered Brandeis knowing what I wanted to major in (English and creative writing). Then I toyed around a little bit with the idea of adding psychology as a major but instead chose to pursue a secondary education minor—an option that would allow me to graduate with a teaching license. I observed public high school and middle school classes at three different schools in Waltham and Newton. I created lesson plans on “The Iliad” and a middle-grade book called “Seedfolks.” I considered my (imaginary) student’s possible obstacles, from second-language learners to students with special needs.

I saw myself as a middle-school teacher, preferably for eighth grade. I thought that in middle school, I could truly make a difference in the lives of children who are on the cusp of becoming teenagers, kids who are dealing with many challenges from puberty to bullying. I read in my education classes that if people intervene in a child’s life during middle school and show that child the vast amount of opportunities and doors that can be opened to them (including college and even grad school), then these children become much more motivated to do well in high school. I wanted to be a teacher who inspired that kind of change.

However, real life got in the way. After two years, I decided not to pursue my secondary education minor. I still see myself becoming a teacher, in some capacity, at some point in my life—just not right now. I chose to focus on my writing, my thesis project and my interest in public relations and communications. However, I have never regretted taking any education courses at Brandeis, despite the many hours of observation in classrooms and work that they require. This is why I feel able to recommend to other students that an education class is beneficial, regardless of what major you’re pursuing.

First off, the faculty members are fantastic. They are experts in their field (all teachers, some former superintendents and all educators of educators). They have first-hand experience in the classroom and on the ground level, and have also implemented policy changes. The way they teach their classes at Brandeis is also great, and includes dynamic classroom lessons. I have always had the utmost respect for the faculty in the education department and they have been some of my favorite professors here. They also go out of their way to help students. Education classes are primarily small, so the instructor gets to know each student well. Personally, one of my mentors went above and beyond when trying to find me a student-teaching placement, considering my needs and my own goals for teaching in the process. She also wrote me a recommendation.

It is also important to consider that many of the professors at any college or university do not actually have a degree in pedagogy. While they may have a lot of knowledge about their field, be it math or history, they are usually not as well versed in teaching methodologies and how to best reach different kinds of students. Education professors, on the other hand, are very practiced in this, and it shows in the way their classes are engaging.

Education classes often examine the state of the world as a whole, which is important for students to know about. Better education policy across the United States could affect many areas and empower many children. Encouraging women to be scientists and children to take accountability for their actions can all be done in the classroom. Teachers change children’s lives and therefore change the world, and it is fascinating what someone can discover in an education class. Motivating entire groups of people is possible with a better education system.

The classes at Brandeis explore how different types of learners can grasp the same material, and how teachers can scaffold learning. This then becomes helpful in figuring out what kind of learner you yourself are, so you can become a better student.

Students also discover the hardships of people who do not walk in their shoes. I took an English-language learners education class and discovered just how hard it is for people who are not native English speakers to navigate the American classroom. Imagine going into your biology class, and all of a sudden your teacher spoke half in English, half in Japanese. How much material would you grasp? How well would you do on the exam? How long would it take before you got frustrated? I realized that my whole life, I had been very lucky in my educational journey. I am a native English speaker. My parents read to me as a child and impressed upon me the importance of academics. They praised me when I did well and motivated me. My entire family has attended college and expected it of me. There are many who have a much more difficult educational path.

My recommendation is this: Take an education class before you graduate.