On March 28, 2015, we gave applicants to our teacher preparation programs an opportunity to discover Bank Street and meet members of our community. They got to meet various faculty and staff members, participate in model lessons, and hear from a group of current students and alumni. During the event, we asked the applicants to write down questions for our panelists and unfortunately ran out of time! Three members of our panel followed up with their responses to the questions that were handed to us. Since we received A LOT of questions, we’re presenting the information in two separate blog posts. Here is information on our panelists followed by their answers to your questions (Admissions will chime in, as well):
Shavon Frazier: Alumna of the Early Childhood Special Education Program
Sharon Leatherwood: Current Student in the Early Childhood & Childhood General Education Program (and our blogger!)
Julie Lee: Alumna of the Early Childhood Special Education Program
1. What is a typical schedule like for students in the early childhood and childhood program?
Sharon: It depends on if you are student teaching, or working as a head or assistant teacher in a classroom. Classes are 4:45-6:45 or 7-9 on weeknights. My schedule this semester has been student teaching Tuesday, Thursday, & Friday. Conference group meets Wednesday from 4:45-6:45. I take another class Wednesday evening from 7-9. Then I take another class Thursdays from 4:45 to 6:45. You can really tailor your schedule to meet your needs. (Sharon has a blog post for “A Day in the Life.” Check it out!)
Shavon: Typically, you’ll have 2 to 3 classes per semester. Classes run on once a week Monday-Friday and the classes are 4:45 PM to 6:45 PM or 7 PM to 9 PM. Sometimes you’ll have both of your classes in one night and only be at Bank Street once a week and sometimes your classes will be more spread out. It all depends on the courses that you’re taking and what semester you’re taking them.
Julie: My program was in the evenings (after 4pm) so it allowed me to work and go to school. I took an average of 3 classes per semester. The late classes go until about 9pm if it starts at 7pm.
2. If I want to go into administration, or start a charter school, or just not stay in the classroom forever… is there mobility to move in that direction after Bank Street?
Admissions: Much of what dictates an educator’s administrative career is the years of culminating experience they have as a head teacher. After you meet those prerequisites, there are definitely options at Bank Street to pursue it further (like our Leadership Programs). Bank Street graduates have opened over 80 schools in NYC and beyond. Our current President (and graduate of one of our Leadership programs), Shael Polakow-Suransky, was the second-in-command at the Department of Education before he joined us back at Bank Street last year.
Shavon: Bank Street provides a variety of degree options for students who would like to advance their career beyond the classroom. For example, this fall I will be beginning my second Masters at Bank Street in the Early Childhood Leadershipprogram. Once I finish that two-year program, I will have a degree as well as certification in that area (School Building Leader). This will allow me to be a school director or elementary school principal because that is my overall goal.
Julie: There is definitely lots of mobility as long as you study and follow what the position requires of you. For instance, I know that if you want to be an administrator in the public schools, you definitely have to have a School Leader/Supervisory Certificate. For charter school leadership, I know you don’t necessarily have to have a leadership certificate. Fortunately, Bank Street Graduates are everywhere and you can always connect with them through Bank Street’s Alumni network.
3. Do Bank Street students teach forever?
Admissions: Bank Street graduate students are committed to serving in education, with an attrition rate far less than the average in the field. After teaching, many graduates pursue administrative licensure in New York and even open up schools.
Shavon: That is an interesting question, I don’t know if Bank Street graduates teach forever, however I do know that Bank Street graduates move on to do other things within the field of education. Things such as administration, policy work, special education, advocacy, etc. It all depends on what your vision is for your career. My goal is to be the director of an early childhood program and eventually own my own center, so I won’t be in the classroom all my life, but I will be working with children.
4. How large are class sizes?
Admissions: Class sizes are capped at 27 students.
Shavon: The college strives to have small classes to meet the needs of the students. As asked during the panel discussion, when you have your conference group it will only be 5 to 7 people.
Sharon: It depends on the class, but even in my largest classes I have been able to establish a relationship with my professor. I have never felt the class sizes were too big.
5. Will I end up taking classes with the same people in my program?
Shavon: You will typically have the same courses with students who enter at the same time as you and who also plan on pursuing the same degree as you. At times, you will have courses with people who are not in your program.
Sharon: Yes and also with people in different programs. It’s really great to have class with students from other programs and hear their prospective on things!
Julie: Speaking true to the family style environment at Bank Street, you will see many of the same faces within your program. It’s a great opportunity to make friends, share notes and to get through the program together.
6. What proportion of students are from out of state? What is the out of state experience life? Do most people stay in NYC after graduate school?
Admissions: Although exact figures are not available for currently matriculated students, we do have a large number of applicants who are from outside of the New York City area. Of these students, many of them have lived or done their schooling at undergraduate institutions all over the Northeast and the Great Lakes region. Increasingly, southern states and California residents are making their move to Bank Street.
7. Golden Books + Head Start began at Bank Street. But what has Bank Street done RECENTLY?
Admissions: As part of New York City’s push for Universal Pre-Kindergarten, the DOE contracted our Graduate School to conduct professional development sessions for nearly 4,000 UPK teachers ahead of the Fall semester. We’re also collaborating with BronxWorks to offer a community-based master’s program in the borough. We’re also bringing progressive pedagogy to an online environment, and have been offered a number of grants to continue the work. In an era of globalization, Bank Street is now working and providing support for children and educators in several countries, including Bulgaria,Nepal, South Africa, Dubai, and China. Keep track of our eventsand news to see what Bank Street is up to next!
8. Most challenging class?
Sharon: I haven’t taken it yet… but I hear the teaching of reading writing and literacy is a challenging course.
9. If I want to eventually go into education policy/reform/or leadership in the future, do you feel Bank Street is the right choice since it is so focused on hands-on, experiential learning?
Julie: I am constantly surprised by seeing Bank Street graduates in policy making entities, the NYC Department of Education (the current president went there and worked as one of the top administrators at the DOE!). Just recently, I went to a roundtable discussion lead by Educators for Excellence, an organization made by teachers interested in education policy, and met an alumni that graduated 20 years ago!
Shavon: Hands-on and experiential learning is just as important in leadership and educational policy/reform as it is when it comes to working with children. Within a leadership role, you will still need to be hands-on with the staff that you support. Hands on with supporting them through professional development, emotional development and the overall functioning of your position. It is especially important that as a leader you are hands on when you’re thinking about policy and reform– all decisions that are made to create policies should be heavily influenced by experiences from the classroom and the teachers that are in it.
10. Do you feel you have the flexibility and freedom to focus your research in a very specific niche? Can you speak about the final integrative project?
Shavon: I absolutely love the fact that Bank Street College provides its students with multiple ways to showcase what they have learned during their studies. Bank Street offers three different options for students to complete their integrative masters project. The first one is a site-based project, the second one is collaborating with a faculty member and the third is choosing a topic of your choice and writing the traditional paper (Editor’s Note: There are additional options here). While I was at Bank Street, I chose to do the site-based project. During that year, I worked at the Bank Street Family Center. While I was there, I had to find a problem, and this was my first time in the classroom with actual responsibility. I began to think about the fact that I was working in a special bneeds classroom but had no formal training or experience in that area. As a general education teacher, what happens when I finally get my job and I have children with special needs in my classroom but I don’t have the special needs background to support them? This is how my site-based project was born. Children with sensory integration issues intrigued me. I decided to make a study of simple techniques and strategies that a general education teacher can use for children who struggle with sensory integration: children who are hypersensitive or hypo-sensitive to sensory stimuli. I researched difference techniques and strategies an tried them in the classroom with two children in particular. From there I wrote up an informational pamphlet for general education teachers explaining what sensory integration is and how the techniques discussed helps. I thought this project worked for me because I was able to identify a problem, work it out with my teaching team and my advisor, and pursue it throughout the course of the school year so I did not simply research but tried it.
Sharon: I know that you can focus your final project on a topic that is important to you. I’ve been considering focusing my final project on teaching sustainability, something that is an important topic to me.
11. How are you evaluated for fieldwork?
Shavon: During fieldwork, your cooperating teacher as well as your advisor collaborate to give you the best possible experience. You are evaluated on multiple things: your ability to reflect on your practice and use that reflection to influence your practice, your ability to use classroom management to run a safe and lively classroom, and ability to take feedback and apply it (among other things). The fieldwork experience is highly individualized for the person being evaluated. Advisors are going to look at someone who has education experience a little bit differently compared to someone who is just starting on the road to becoming an educator.
Sharon: Your adviser comes to observe you in the classroom and after each placement the teacher fills out an evaluation form. Other than the evaluation form, I would describe it as pretty informal. After your adviser observes you in the classroom you usually have a very open and thoughtful discussion about the students, school, or lesson afterwards.
12. For those with education experience, how repetitive is course work?
Shavon: I have education experience (as I mentioned before, I did study early childhood general education during my undergraduate coursework). At Bank Street I chose to study early childhood special education for my coursework so although I did have child development (which was a little bit repetitive), once I began the special education course work it was very rich and not repetitive at all because it’s more focused than when you do undergrad.
13. Are Bank Street graduates who become teachers practitioners? Or are they professional educators?
14. What is the acceptance rate?
Admissions: Our acceptance rate generally hovers in the 80s in any given year. Many of our students are self-selecting, and the prospective students that end up applying often have similar undergraduate experiences, GPAs, are articulate in their writing, and have real world experience with children.
15. While being in school at BSC or when you already graduated, how do you feel as a teacher? Do you feel more confident, less overwhelmed? Do you feel good as a teacher?
Shavon: During my coursework at Bank Street (as well as after graduation) I must say I feel exceedingly confident in my ability to teach and my ability to reach my children. I feel that I was adequately prepared through the readings, the coursework, my fieldwork experience and constantly reflecting on my practice and how it affects the children. I took all that I learned, added my own unique flavor and made it mine. My ability to reflect on myself, my beliefs, and my practice I feel is what makes me most successful as a teacher. Being a teacher is very overwhelming and although I do feel confident with the education that I received, there are many many many other factors that contribute to this feeling of being overwhelmed or feeling of content. It all depends on where you live, the children that you have in your class that year, and the support that you have. With that being said, I do want to let you know that if you are still feeling overwhelmed after graduation, you can still reach out to your instructors, classmates, and colleagues to use them for networking and as a support system. Once a Bank Streeter always a Bank Streeter!
Sharon: I feel very comfortable and confident in the classroom. I also feel that other teachers in the school value my opinion and input.
Julie: I felt really confident because I had so many tools I learned that I can pull out and add to my pedagogy.
Each classroom is different year to year and each school’s culture and philosophy may be different. But I think the philosophy of really thinking about a child’s development and supporting their social-emotional needs all comes from Bank Street. I also think Bank Street gives a firm foundation for a teacher to make good choices for their students, instead of getting stuck on certain research, marketing, or a fad that might be happening in the world of education. You get to cut through all that and be truly creative and innovative too because you are always changing things or sometimes staying firm to what each child needs.
16. How difficult was it to get your certification?
Admissions: The Certification At-A-Glance page is helpful in navigating the processs.
Shavon: Certification and the level of difficulty at which it takes you to get it all depends on how you’re going about getting it. If you are a career changer it is a little bit more difficult because you have a lot more paperwork and tests to take as opposed to someone who studied education during their undergraduate coursework.
Sharon: New York state has made the certification process a little harder in the last couple of years, but Bank Street offers as much support and guidance as possible. There are many certification workshops through out the year to give information and advice.
Julie: Depending on your pathway, the graduate program will lead to an initial certificate. However, to get your professional certificate, you have to have patience and be on top of the requirements! Bank Street has been helpful in answering some of these questions after I left the program because it can be confusing.