Last spring, Perry Eaton’s advisor at Tufts University put him in touch with Joe Christy at Beaver. “It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship, not only with a great educator, but with a school unlike any other I’ve experienced,” Eaton said. Since then, Eaton has spent the past year working as a student teacher in Beaver’s Global History Department. He shares his experience below in part one of a three-part series on life as a BVR student teacher.
My work as a Beaver student teacher began in the fall of 2016. From day one, I was immersed in the Beaver culture. Working closely with the Head of the Global History Department Yolanda Wilcox Gonzalez and many others in the Upper School, I was able to understand the dedication necessary to become an effective educator and member of such a vibrant community. At Beaver’s new teacher orientation, in addition to learning the nuts and bolts of the school (the daily schedule, lesson-planning, student assessments, etc.), I was also enlightened to Beaver’s overarching goal of unlearning – a concept I watched unfold throughout the term in clear and eye-opening ways
Here are some ways I “unlearned” this fall:
I was under the impression this was just jargon – something you read in pamphlets for schools. However, at Beaver, students are the nucleus of every class. My Tufts advisor encouraged me early on to, as a teacher, ask at least one question every day that I didn’t know the answer to, and I saw Beaver faculty doing this regularly. Questions as simple as, “What do you think?” and more classroom culture-building questions like, “What do you want to learn about a specific topic this term?” Doing this creates a mini-democracy in each classroom where members are contributing authentically and organically (yes, for real!). This alone was a measure in unlearning. I’m not sure about you, but my high school experience was largely lecture-based, working from test to test and relying solely on individual note-taking for academic success. Beaver encouraged me to take this mindset and throw it out the window. And I was happy to.
- Thinking globally, visually, and collaboratively
Coming to Beaver, I had worked for three years as a writer at The Boston Globe. As a result, my mindset was largely localized, individualized, and focused on a lot of writing. Some of this has been beneficial, but as it pertains to history, I’ve had the privilege to rebuild perspective through much more than a Western-focused lens. On top of that, Beaver’s students exemplify the constructive practice of working in teams toward small project goals, and interpreting their results in ways that aren’t strictly writing them on a page and turning them in. Upper School history teacher Melissa Alkire was a wonderful model for this learning style; Her classes experienced everything from mock trials to solving unclosed cases of history to printing 3-D maps throughout the course of a semester.
- Shadowing a student
If you’re ever in need of a good night’s sleep, I’d recommend following a Beaver student around for a day. I had the pleasure of shadowing freshman Brett Siegal to see Beaver from a different perspective. A Beaver student uses every part of their brain every day – and it shows. Brett, along with his peers, attends several classes each day, contributes to multiple extracurricular groups, is a motivated athlete, and a dedicated friend. One of those tasks alone could be enough to tucker out some folks. Beaver students, however, are driven by their own curiosity and they put in the work to see what they can create. We even played touch football at lunch! (I scored a touchdown – I’ll come out of retirement again once the weather improves.)
Through observation and interaction with Beaver community members, the fall alone was immeasurably constructive. Winter term is when I began taking those observations and putting them into practice — another step towards becoming a Beaver-caliber teacher.
Stay tuned for some of those experiences in my next post!