GSE Reflections: Jen Misthal

As they prepare to graduate, we asked our GSE Student Ambassadors to reflect on their experiences at Fordham and at the Graduate School of Education. Jen Misthal will receive her M.S.T. in Adolescence English this May.

“I’ve clocked 36 credit hours as a student in Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education. These are 36 hours devoted to keeping students engaged in classroom activities and helping them achieve academic goals. These are 36 hours I will revisit throughout my career as an English Language Arts teacher for grades 7 through 12. There are 36 hours that don’t include the hours devoted to developing lesson plans, reading contemporary adolescent literature and learning how to use a SMART Board.

The Graduate School of Education’s Curriculum and Teaching program is cognizant of what really goes on in New York City’s public schools. Every assignment and every reading contains an element of practicality and applicability. This produces a unique synergy that allows me to apply what I’ve read while substantively reflecting on my extensive fieldwork as a student teacher. Thanks to Fordham, reflection is an integral part my work as an educator. I am constantly asking myself what worked and what didn’t; how can I keep students engaged; what I can do differently the next time? Not only does this on-going reflection help me improve as an educator, but also it gives me the opportunity to consider a situation from a different perspective. I am never without my notebook to record these reflections. Stepping back to assess myself as an educator was a requirement for several of my Fordham assignments. The faculty understands teachers need to be thinking about their students and how to reach them effectively. They do are doing it too.

The Curriculum and Teaching program is built around a rigorous fieldwork component that distinguishes Fordham from other programs. For 14 weeks in the fall, I observed a seventh grade class. When I arrived, I simply sat in the back of the room and tried not to get in anyone’s way. When I left, I was part of the class and heartbroken that I wouldn’t be spending the rest of the year there. But in January, I arrived at a high school, where I would complete another, more intense 14-week observation. I became a part of both schools’ communities, and at every step, I had support to guide and challenge me. My Fordham classes gave me a place to reflect and develop my educational philosophy. My professors and fellow students were mentors. And the schools provided me with a place to put my ideas into action. Looking back, student teaching was exhausting and challenging, but it was illuminating and rewarding in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

As a student teacher, I came to see that no two students are alike: each one has diverse needs that must be addressed in order for the student to succeed. This notion of diversity is at the heart of the Graduate School of Education; Fordham understands students come in different shapes and sizes. Some work well with partners; others need to use their hands to really understand a concept. Successful teachers can address these different modes of learning in their classrooms; my field experience and courses gave me exposure to techniques I can implement to help my students. As I embark on my post-graduate job hunt, I am surprised when principals and educators use the terms I learned as a student teacher at Fordham. But then, Fordham has its finger on the pulse of adolescent education in New York City. And that means I’m prepared to begin my teaching career. My teacher training has been extensive and practical. For that, I am grateful — thank you Fordham!”

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