Category Archives: bankstreetjohn

What are Ocassional Papers?

Do you know about Bank Street’s Occasional Papers? You might have seen some posters near the oft-traveled elevators, announcing the addition of a new Occasional Paper. I was intrigued when I first saw one of these postings, but also reluctant to take a look because I had plenty to read already. However, I took some time over the summer to read a few of these papers, and now I find myself returning to them in between readings for classes. They offer different points of view, historical context to educational issues, and even contain some exploration of taboo subjects. Take this paper, by Bank Street graduate Cilo Stearns. She connects a few of her teaching experiences to research by Cohler and Galatzer-Levy (2006), who write about eroticism between teacher and student playing a role in effective teaching practice. While it might sound offensive in abstract, the essay is reflective, based in professional research, and absorbing to read.

Drawing With Milo,” by Jared Rosello, continues the adventurous nature of Occasional Papers by being written as a graphic novel. Graphic novels are commonly thought of as similar to a comic book but with richer, darker story lines. Some, including renown comic book artist Alan Moore, find that the term “graphic novel” is merely a new name for “comic book,” and that adult…

“…readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in [finding] a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal.”

Those are strong, and somewhat judgemental words to criticize the genre and its fans by.  I hope readers here would consider that Rosello’s work seems to challenge those words in many ways. The subject material is emotionally rich, and Rosello cites references to sources throughout, the way an academic essay might. Rosello also fills his work with the type of reflection we practice here at Bank Street. For example, he writes about his thought process working with Milo and what transpired. He incorporates into the story what he could have done differently, and if his goals changed and why. On another level, it is a graphic novel about making comic books – a clever metacognitive idea which to me suggests Rosello grasps the disagreements by critics about the validity of comic books and graphic novels as legitimate literature.

In my experience working with students who have literacy challenges, graphic novels have served as a gateway to larger concepts like theme and character development. The drawbacks have been that students rely heavily on drawings for comprehension instead of text inferences. If you are enticed to take a look at Rosello’s work, head on over here …if this leads you to browse some non-graphic novel Occasional Papers, here we have an example of how the graphic novel can engage the curious or reluctant reader!


Supervised Fieldwork Demystified

These are questions I often hear about Supervised Fieldwork at Bank Street:
  • How does Bank Street help you get your placement? 
  • When do you find out?
  • What do you do when you find out?
  • How do you survive a year with no income?
  • What’s the best part of it?

Supervised Fieldwork

As I approached the end of my first year of Bank Street, I met with my supervisor about supervised field work placements. I described my previous experience in schools, plus any concerns I had about where I would be placed. Staying in touch over the next few weeks, there were a few forms to fill out, including one that asks where you live in the city. In the late spring, my supervisor organized a get together for students going into supervised field work and those currently in it. In true Bank Street style, snacks and iced tea were provided. The students shared their current experience and fielded questions as well.

Then, in late June or early July, I received an email with my placement information. My supervisor suggested I email the teachers I’d be working with, but warned that I may not hear back until closer to the school year was to begin. That was true, but I took it upon myself to take a look at the school’s website and get to know the schedule and name of the principal. I sent both teachers I would start with an email, as well as the principal.

I then had to go to the Department of Education and get fingerprinted (it was at 65 Court St, Brooklyn at the time). I also had to get some paper work done by signing up online with the Department of Education. You have to input the school’s information in your online profile, which you create, and print a letter saying you’re approved. That whole process took about an hour, and it was great to have the whole summer to do it! Then I heard back from the teachers and principal with some starting dates, and enjoyed a week or two more of vacation before starting at the end of August.

The school is very close to where I live, and it really does feel like a good “fit” for me, from a personality and professional standpoint. I feel that my supervisor listened to what I had to say and picked a good school. I am  comfortable there but also feel like I am expanding my teaching experience with new challenges. Field work is 4 days a week for me. For some programs it is 3 days a week. The supervised fieldwork is for pretty much all of the school year – it ends in early June. My advisor will come in periodically and observe me teaching a lesson, then give feedback on the spot as well as written notes later.

A big challenge that was on my mind at the time of organizing supervised fieldwork was how I was going to finance myself for the year. I met with the financial aid office ahead of time and they were very helpful in making sure my loan information was correct. Once I filled out some forms there I received a letter with a very clear breakdown of how much money I could receive for living expenses via a GradPlus loan. I requested just enough to cover rent, bills, and groceries. Most grad students I talk to in supervised fieldwork have picked up little odds and ends jobs like tutoring or subbing, coaching or teaching musical lessons after school hours or on the weekends to supplement the living allowance from the loan.

So far, the best part of supervised fieldwork is meeting with my conference group. Every Wednesday, we meet at Bank Street, much like any other class would, but there are only 6 of us and our supervisor. It is a very positive environment that can range from a vent session to serious lesson planning ideas. You’ll be able to reflect, share, and get ideas to try out next time. It’s stress free and I look forward to it very much every week.

Hopefully this answers some of your questions. Many people already have a job before doing this, and that transition is hard for sure. But you’ll quickly get into your new role and routine. I’ll be sure to write again once the experience is over, and talk about the ending of the experience!

Smart Board

As part of student teaching for my dual certification for Literacy and General Education, my supervised field work includes a 2nd grade classroom at a Magnet School in Brooklyn. I am there 4 days a week, and I very much feel less like an observer and more like a teacher there. I help with lesson planning, organize activities for reading groups, assess with running records, and my input is valued by the head teacher, especially when it pertains to good literacy strategies. Since this is a general education classroom, I still have to tackle an occasional math lesson.

Math has always been challenging for me personally, and many of my colleagues and friends here at Bank Street have expressed the same sentiment. I know this because of a wonderful class I took here with Linda Metnetsky, called Mathematics for Teachers. In Linda’s class, we learned about Piaget, an educational theorist who encouraged students to make mistakes in order to learn. By experiencing “disequilibrium” (which became my favorite new word at the time), learners must explore and struggle to make sense of new problems. The course trained us in the use of many hands-on and experiential based activities like 10-frames, computer games, geoboards with rubber bands for geometry, and the like. These materials are both visual and sensory in nature. The 10 frames help students subitize, which is to just see, for example, “7 dots”, without counting each dot. The computer games helped students make 10 in various ways, all with colorful and fun animations. The geoboards allowed us to explore area and perimeter with strings and rubber bands. When I was growing up, math was very worksheet and memory oriented.

Flash-forward to just yesterday, when the students began a unit on measurement that needed a big, juicy, and engaging opener lesson. My cooperating teacher and I had the students using centimeter cubes to measure lengths of objects at their tables, but still many struggled to grasp the concept. It occurred to me suddenly to use the Smart Board in the room. I opened a new ‘notebook’, sketched a crayon (one of their objects), and then drew squares underneath, to model how to line up the centimeter cubes. By selecting a square with the cursor icon, I quickly went to edit-copy, then again to edit-paste, and was able to place the pasted square next to the first. I repeated the process until I showed that the crayon was 7 centimeter cubes in length. A lot of noisy little light-bulbs went off behind me. I could hear them go “ooh” and “aah”. That visual really helped. I think another great aspect of the Smart Board was the spontaneity of it as a resource. The kids saw us trying something new when the first thing wasn’t working.

What I saw was that having that visual representation and modeling the open-minded trial and error process of learning math is so vital to help young learners succeed with math concepts.

The Smart Board, while scary to some, can take a bit of fiddling with to master. But I try to think of it as no different than a computer. The notebook program is remarkably similar to basic PC programs like MS Paint that have been around for nearly two decades. Of course, there is so much more to do with a Smart Board, particularly with math, than what I did. If your classroom is equipped with a Smart Board, make an effort to get to know it. Great technology will never replace a great teacher, but if you’ve got the tools at the ready, don’t waste them! Here is just one of many videos available that teachers might want to check out if they are looking for Smart Board inspiration.

Hard at work on blog post topics


Hard at work on blog post topics  (11/11/2013)

Meet our Student Blogger

john kuckens blog

Hello out there. My name is John Kuckens, and I am delighted to be your graduate admissions blogger for the 2013-2014 school year at Bank Street College.

Many of you are brought to the blog because you are curious about applying to Bank Street, or you are new students. I think you will see through posts on the blog that Bank Street is a wonderful and supportive environment for those who decide to attend. I’m sure you have many questions and  let’s face it, fears, associated with applying and attending (I did too it’s OK), what classes are like, and what financial aid is like. I’ll do my best to answer and alleviate these concerns in the posts, and also try to respond to questions in the comments section (in between classes and readings, if I can!).

As for me, I grew up on Long Island and in Connecticut, went to Wheaton College in Massachusetts for my undergrad, and began teaching right after that. I didn’t have a certification and it was hard to find just the right place to do it. I was always so inspired by the work of literacy intervention teams in the schools I had worked in, and felt it would be a good avenue for me since reading was always something I struggled with. I moved to NYC and was lucky enough to discover Bank Street. Now I am working towards my Masters in the Teaching Literacy and Childhood Education program. The courses here have certainly helped me find my voice as a teacher and harness my own interests for the purpose of helping and teaching others.

I once had a conference at Bank Street where the professor handed out name tags to wear that said “hello, my favorite author is _________” or, “hello, my favorite book is ________.” What a wonderful way to meet a new person! In the spirit of breaking the ice here at the blog, feel free to post below below in the comments section an answer to this hypothetical name tag:

“hello, I am (or want to become) an educator because ______”.

I am looking forward to some responses to break the ice with readers of the blog!

– John