Monthly Archives: November 2012

If I Can Make It There…

Though I was very familiar with the Big Apple before I officially moved here, there is still a lot I have to learn. I was apprehensive about wasting money since rent and transportation can add up quickly. Luckily I am a resourceful gal, and quickly found an arsenal of websites that encourage people like me to have rich experiences in the five boroughs without breaking the bank.
Several websites, which have pages on Facebook and downloadable apps, offer discounts on food, drink, entertainment and shopping, that can be sent right to your inbox. Here are a few of my favorites.

Time Out NY– I had been reading the print version of this for years before moving here, drooling over all that this city has to offer. They do a great job of organizing things to do by neighborhood, by day of the week and by subject making exploring the city a lot less overwhelming. Scoutmob is an app that I learned about from one of my first roommates here.  They offer discounts, (mostly on food and drink) with humor. Living Social, Amazon LocalGroupon, and Zozi are similar sites.

In terms of shopping for unique clothing, furniture or books I have to recommend Buffalo Exchange and Housing Works. I was an avid thrifter back home, but in the city, it’s a different ballgame. A lot of second hand shops here charge twice if not three times the amount that a real thrift store would in the ‘burbs. I have found that Buffalo Exchange is quite fair in their pricing. They operate on trade, which means you can also sell things there for cash or store credit. They always have a diverse selection to peruse, in a handful of stores between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Housing Works operates at least a dozen thrift shops with clothes, furniture and random treasures between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe

Housing Works also operates my favorite bookshop in the world, on Crosby Street in Soho. They also operate on donations; even the wee café in the back. I have seen musical acts perform here, and I have attended lectures that were made all the more special just by the atmosphere in this beautiful two story space lined with dark wooden bookcases and staircases. Best of all, Housing Works profits benefit people suffering with HIV and AIDS.

Sometimes the events here are free, though for the best ones,  I’ve found you’ll need to buy a ticket. Another great place to catch authors and musicians is Barnes and Noble, particularly the one located on the north end of Union Square. I’ve seen Rufus Wainwright, Anderson Cooper, Sondre Lerche, Badly Drawn Boy and three of the Golden Girls at such events, among others. Yes, that’s right, I have Betty White, Bea Arthur, and Rue McClanahan’s autographs!

Another unique entertainment experience that costs nothing is attending a taping of a TV show. I have been to tapings of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (at the end of the taping he runs through the audience, and he grasped my hand for what felt like a heavenly eternity), Anderson Live (he is even more beautiful in person!), Last Call with Carson Daly, and Conan O’Brien, back when he filmed in New York. Shows like these are much easier to get tickets for than Saturday Night Live, which isn’t to say you shouldn’t try! I am one crazy person who waited in the standby line recently at 6am on a Saturday, only to get a ticket, but be turned away later that night when they reached capacity. Still an adventure – I literally bumped into Tom Brokaw! Just be prepared to wait in long lines for these tapings.

Another site I have to recommend, particularly for outdoor excursions, is MeetUp. You can find groups that take walks around various neighborhoods, or even walk around the entire perimeter of Manhattan. This is a nice alternative to meeting people with similar interests outside of the nightlife scene.

If you prefer to spend some quiet nights at home, such as on these brutally cold winter nights, you can find an enormous selection of DVDs, and of course books, at the New York Public Library. Their website is extremely useful, allowing you to organize materials and even coordinating having them sent to a branch that is convenient for you. I frequent the Morningside Heights  branch located two blocks North of Bank Street, right on Broadway.They have an extensive range of foreign and classic films, as well as TV shows. Thanks to the library, I recently re-watched many seasons of PeeWee’s Playhouse!

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What Are You Thankful For?

Around this time of year I like to reflect on what I have to be grateful for. It’s easy to take for granted one’s health, warm shelter, and any number of creature comforts. This Thanksgiving, especially, after the wild weather that Mother Nature has delivered, I think it’s important to focus on blessings.

Personally, I am grateful to be a Bank Street student, finally feeling as though I am on the right path for my career. Here, I feel I am seen as a whole person, and I have advisors who are genuinely interested in me, and invested in my success. I don’t think that is easy to find just anywhere.

I am also immensely thankful for the opportunities that come with being a Bank Street student; such as student teaching in some of the best schools in the city, or gaining experience in some of the finest museums and cultural institutions. On a lighter note, I am thankful that the Bank Street kitchen serves Stumptown coffee, without which this blog may never get written.

Living in this city is something I am very grateful for, despite sacrifices made to get here and stay here. I know that experiences I have had here are unique to this city, and I’ll remember them no matter where I go.

I’ve made friends since moving here, including within the Bank Street community, that I hope to have for years to come. Family doesn’t have to be limited to blood relation, but can be a collection of kindred spirits collected along the way.

I am thankful for actual relatives, of course, for encouraging me to follow my calling, and occasionally schlepping furniture and odds and ends across state lines. I’m indebted to them for believing in me, even when I thought it was a good idea to move into an apartment in Brooklyn hardly wider than my arm span, or when I left a secure full time job to become a student again.

I have endless gratitude for children, who continuously give me a sense of purpose and show me that I am meant to educate. They inspire me and keep me believing in creativity, justice and truth. They help me to stay young at heart, though some may argue that I don’t need help in that department.

So I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! Whatever you believe in, and however you celebrate, I hope you have a moment to reflect on your gratitude as well.”

Learning About Ourselves, Through Museums

One of my favorite aspects of my Bank Street education is the emphasis on learning through doing. For my program of study, this not only means placements within classrooms, but also plenty of experiences in museums and cultural institutions.

When you visit a museum, there is not only the opportunity to learn about new art, peoples, or history, but also yourself. You can draw connections between exhibits and your life, and discover new perspectives. Personally, I have found it extremely enriching to be able to visit museums with my cohort. They interject fresh ideas and inquiry into any subject matter.

Our first trip together was to the Weeksville Heritage Center, one of the few remaining historical sites of pre-Civil War African-American communities tucked away in Brooklyn. Hearing about the struggles of the people who created this community was inspiring, especially being able to stand in the very homes of the people who worked together to fight for justice.

On our tour of the houses, we were asked to find a buddy and discuss how the houses were similar and different to those that we grew up in. I thought that was a brilliant, simple exercise to help us get acquainted. There may not have been an organic opportunity to discuss such history with my peers. As John Dewey believed, “all human experience is ultimately social, it involves contact and communication.” What we learn or feel from an experience only deepens when we share it with others, and we gain insight from their experience as well.

Before long, as a student at Bank Street, you will become familiar with the work of John Dewey. An educational reformer in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dewey was a major advocate of progressive education. He believed that all students perform better when they are afforded an active role in their curriculum. In other words, Dewey would not be happy to see rows of students completing pages of photocopied work.

I am sure that as I continue in my path at Bank Street I will become more and more steeped in experiential learning. My professors model the theory they teach, and in the trips they lead us on, show us how to lead our future students. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for museums and cultural institutions, for which I already thought I had a deep appreciation.

Around Bank Street

In just my first few months at Bank Street College, I have found some favored spots around Morningside Heights. I think this is an ideal neighborhood for a graduate school, with a relaxed atmosphere, away from the madding tourist crowds that so many other areas of this city attract. There are gems in this locale worth people from far and wide trekking to.

One of my favorite spots is St. John the Divine Cathedral, just one block  down West 112th Street on Amsterdam Avenue. Walking towards the cathedral – the world’s largest gothic style, by the way – is awe inspiring. In fact, it often leads me to feel like I’m in a European city. Next to the cathedral is a beautiful little park, centered around the Peace Fountain, a sculpture by Greg Wyatt, the sculptor-in-residence of the cathedral. One could sit and ponder the depth of meaning in this work for days.

Another great spot for reflection, and art appreciation, is the Roerich Museum. I recently discovered this gem, thanks to my program at Bank Street. On West 107th Street near Riverside, this former home (containing a collection of the work of Russian artist Nicolas Roerich) is a surprising sanctuary.

Morningside Heights also offers plenty of green space for exercise, or if you’re like me, for running around like you’re a kid again. During one break between classes, friends from my cohort and I took advantage of the vacant swing set in Riverside Park, just one block  from Bank Street.

Luckily this neighborhood offers diverse food options for the student on the go. Even I, the vegan, have options! Maoz falafel is already somewhat of an addiction. Mostly, when I’m in a hurry, I’ll grab something from the myriad of options at West Side Market, or a bagel with a vegan schmear (non-dairy cream cheese!) from Nussbaum and Wu. That’s my favorite bagel place in the area, which also has a great environment for wiling away hours on their free wifi. It’s also a nice option for meeting someone for coffee, when the chain coffee-shops are overflowing.

I suppose I should divulge my favorite coffee secret. There is a Joe the Art of Coffee at West 120th Street, on the second level of a Columbia University building. When I have the time, I make a point of stopping their for there high octane java. There is also a beautiful patch of grass on a roof, a level above that cafe, where you can enjoy your coffee outside.

Lastly, I’d be remiss to not include Book Culture. This is a great bookshop, actually with two locations in Morningside Heights – one on West 112th Street (just next to the post office between Broadway and Amsterdam) and another on Broadway and the corner of West 114th Street. The location on 112th boast an adorable little dog as a mascot, usually to be found on the second floor.

I think Morningside Heights is a really special pocket of Manhattan. If you are considering attending Bank Street, and aren’t familiar with New York City, you should definitely visit. If you do, you’ll find that this neighborhood is not as hectic as others, and holds many charming spots that will enrich your unique experience as a student.

Open House – November 13 at 5:15 p.m.

We hope to see you at the Open House! RSVP here.

Student Teaching

I have been student teaching at a private school for the past nine weeks. This placement was arranged by my course advisor, who was kind enough to take into consideration how long my commute would be. It was up to my cooperating teacher and me to discuss my schedule. Due to my courses, this turned out to be Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 8:30 AM to 3:20PM – basically the entire school day.

My cooperating teacher was very eager to have me actively teaching, and I found myself at the helm of a descriptive writing unit. It was wonderful to help the students create their own versions of Little Red Riding Hood, and see them develop from web graphs to multiple paragraphs.

In my student teaching placement, I interacted with many fine additions to my realm of influence everyday. My cooperating teacher has a wealth of knowledge, not only in terms of this private school, but also the public school system, where she previously taught. She has a contagious, enthusiastic approach to teaching, and a strong and versatile character that has carried her through both school systems, and allows her to field anything that springs up during a school day.

There is so much to learn from in a placement beyond the actual curriculum. Relationships between teachers and other professionals in the building afford insight into how much work goes into keeping a school functioning healthily for the benefit of the students. I love to see great teachers succeeding in relating their lesson content, learning from each other and even enjoying working together!

And I can’t forget the kids. They are first and last the inspiration and my reason for pursing education. The fifth graders I am teaching inspire me with their fresh outlooks, their curiosity, and their lighthearted nature. They remind me to lighten up and try to see things from different angles. With this experience, I discovered that I am far more comfortable standing at the front of the room than I anticipated, and I love to encourage children to think more deeply.

It’s amazing the impact you can have on a class without even realizing it. On my last day, one student bashfully said to me, in response to my departure, “Who’s gonna listen to me?” I had no idea that my moments with him, revising his writing webs and talking about vikings, actually meant more to him. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to that placement.

Visit us at CCNY!

CCNY Graduate & Professional School Fair – Thursday, November 8, 2012
Shepard Hall, The Great Hall
(located on Convent Avenue between 135th & 138th Streets)
12:30pm – 3:00pm