Tag Archives: student teaching

Student Perspective: English MATs attend “Educating for Change” Conference in St. Louis

This February, three current English MAT students, Victor Ha, Lucy Short, and Fritha Wright, traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to attend the Annual Educating for Change Conference, an event that focuses on social justice education in classrooms and communities. At the conference, these students had the amazing opportunity to present the results of their Teacher Research Projects, which MAT students complete during their student teaching semester as a means to explore and evaluate their own teaching practices.

Vic, Lucy, and Fritha were kind enough to share their experiences attending the conference; read their words below!


“We don’t always win, but we don’t stop fighting because we didn’t win.”
– Linda Christensen on making space for hope in the Social Justice English classroom

Fritha Wright, Victor Ha, and Lucy Short

This conference began as a dream to exchange plans, goals, and hopes for the social justice classroom. We stumbled upon the Educators for Social Justice conference, Educating for Change, while we were in between classes. Following our student-teaching semesters, we longed for the communities we’d nurtured with former students but dreamt of the curriculum we would build around our future ones.

With the combined support of the Education Department Graduate Student Conference Fund and the Brown Graduate School Graduate Student Conference Travel Fund, we ended up in St. Louis, Missouri to learn from local educators and keynote speaker, Linda Christensen. (St. Louis in February is beautiful!) After honing our Teacher Research Projects for this new audience, we felt exhilarated at the prospect of sharing the inspiring work of our students.

Vic shared his writing mini-workshops from his Race Studies unit. Researching and responding to nonfiction texts about race, students strengthened their ability to produce original analytical claims. Fritha presented her research on scaffolding literary analysis and using texts like poetry, lyrics, and music videos to engage students interests and identities and invite them to voice their unique insights and analysis. Lucy spoke with St. Louis area educators about the poetry journals her students created and how to foster expression in the ELA classroom through reading, reflection, and resistance.

As exciting as it was to share our original research with others, perhaps most meaningful of all was the opportunity to listen to, speak with, and explore alongside Linda Christensen, an educator who has devoted her life to innovating what it means to foster a simultaneously critical and hopeful classroom. In her keynote address, Christensen presented a unit on gentrification that employed student-centered inquiry to address contemporary notions of home, space, and belonging. In a workshop, Christensen engaged educators in critical discussions about how language and power shape each other. In closing, Christensen shared an incisive remark from a student about the importance of building community through honoring others’ narratives.

After the workshop, we all had the opportunity to ask Christensen questions about advice she had for us as new teachers entering the field. Her response was simple, “Be brave.” After a short but powerful weekend, we left St. Louis energized to teach expansively, think critically, and hope ardently.

Victor Ha, Brown B.A 2015, Brown English MAT 2016
Lucy Short, Brown English MAT 2016
Fritha Wright, Brown English MAT 2016

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Student Perspective: Allie Curry on Curriculum Development

Allie CurryAllie Curry is a current Master of Arts in Teaching student concentrating in Secondary English Education. During her time student teaching at Brown Summer High School, Allie discovered a passion for the backwards-design approach to curriculum development taught by the Brown MAT Program.

Allie was kind enough to share with us some of her thoughts and reflections on this approach to teaching. Read her words below!


“I often think of K–12 curriculum as too important. In the hotly contested era of the Common Core, the American public debates whether curriculum is too important to be left to states or too important to be promoted by the federal government. In some urban school districts, curriculum is viewed as too important to be developed by teachers in the community, and so many cities are purchasing boxed curricula.

The Brown MAT program has taught me that curriculum is too important in a different sense. Beginning last summer in the first days of the program, I learned an approach to curriculum design that centers around Essential Questions—challenging, relevant, and authentic questions we ask about the world—and understandings, which, in the discipline of English at least, are rarely simple answers. With my talented teaching partner (another MAT), I developed a unit for a book we would teach to a diverse classroom of 9th through 12th graders over the course of Brown Summer High School, a free summer enrichment program for Providence-area youth.

In the afternoons, we paused our planning to take a Secondary program-wide course that has greatly influenced my teaching. Literacy Across the Curriculum challenged me to rethink my understanding of literacy and create curriculum that reflects and supports the community I teach. (I’ve thought about that class a lot in the first days of February. Curriculum—culturally relevant curriculum, that is—is too important to designate only a month of the year to the accomplishments of Black Americans.)

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I posed the question in the picture above (“Does the identity of the authors we read matter?”), as a part of a unit I designed during my student teaching semester last fall at a suburban public school south of Providence, North Kingstown High School. In my student teaching semester, I iterated and refined my curriculum design process to the point that I now feel prepared, confident, and excited to begin my first teaching job in an environment that will empower me to develop curriculum of real significance to my students and community.

The Brown MAT program will teach you to design and carry out lessons, units, and learning experiences that matter. Over the course of the program, I’ve seen many times how an Essential Questions curriculum encourages students to discover and construct knowledge in ways that will transfer to their lives beyond school. Ultimately, curriculum is too important because all students deserve access to challenging, relevant questions about the world and safe, supportive classrooms in which they can develop and express their diverse understandings.”

“Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?”: Encouraging Girls to Reach their Full Potential

Current Elementary MAT Emma Gonsalves completed her fall practicum this semester at Sophia Academy, a small, nondenominational, independent middle school for girls from low-income homes in Providence. Emma was kind enough to share her experience bringing guest speaker Dr. Shelley Cyr into the classroom, who reinforced to the students that they can achieve their dreams with hard work and persistence. Read Emma’s words below!

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Sophia Academy, an all-girl independent school in Providence, is the ideal location to encourage young girls to be strong, determined, and ambitious individuals. Over the past few months, the 5th graders have been learning about Elizabeth Blackwell and her admirable persistence in becoming the first female doctor. For our class book bag project, we read the story Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone and discussed the meaning of persistence. Each week, three girls bring home the book bag, read the book to a family member, and write a story of a time when they were persistent.

In order to reinforce the importance of women in the medical field, I invited Shelley Cyr, a doctor at Brown University, to talk about her experience in pursuing a career as a doctor. Beginning at a young age, Shelley was driven to prove her worth as a female by fighting to join the all-boy track team in high school. She was the first and only girl to run alongside the boys, proving she was equally capable. Shelley explained to the 5th graders that although she faced adversity as a female, she never gave up her dream of becoming a doctor.

After answering questions the girls previously prepared, Shelley passed out stethoscopes and penlights for the girls to experiment with. Each student had the opportunity to listen to a classmate’s heartbeat, and examine how their pupils contract when exposed to light! Not only was Shelley’s story motivating, but the hands-on experience inspired many of the girls to consider becoming doctors one day. One student even exclaimed, “I want to be a doctor just like Shelley because I want to help kids feel better when they are sick!”

Watching my students become excited about their future proved the power that teachers have in encouraging their students to reach their full potential. I hope they always remember this experience and the wonderful stories Shelley shared with us! As Shelley wrote in a letter to the 5th graders, “You can do anything if you follow your dreams with persistence.”