I’m standing at the front of the line at the buffet. I have my empty plate in hand as I scan the options ahead of me. My first thought is that I wish my plate were a little bit bigger. I’m hungry—scratch that... I’m starvin’ like Marvin and the food looks real good. The bad news is that this restaurants is costing me an arm and a leg just. In fact, I had to take out two loans just to get in the door. Do you see where this is going? The good news is that I’m hungry and the food looks real good—scratch that... the food is world class.
I just finished a long week of orientation at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I’m feeling good. My most important task for the last week was to select and register for my classes. Sounds simple, right? Browse the catalogue, pick the classes, enroll in the classes. Yeah, no. It works a little differently here. After some orientation events and meetings on Monday, I had two days to “shop classes.” Shopping classes is like standing in that buffet line, trying to decide which delectable (or required) goodies to pile on your plate. Fortunately, since I’m in the Special Studies Program, I’m not required to eat any specific thing being offered (take that, Grandma!). So, on Tuesday and Wednesday, I scrambled around campus to sit in on various mini-lectures and presentations from different professors. The point is to get a better idea of what the class is really all about, and how the professor likes to run his or her show. For some of the more popular classes/professors, you actually have to “apply” just to get into the class.
Unlike the Sizzler, this buffet has certain rules that can’t be bent. For example, I’m not allowed to just try a little bit of everything. I am limited to only four, but this buffet is offering about 100 different dishes in the Fall. And that doesn’t count any of the courses that I could take at the Harvard Business School, The Kennedy School of Government, The School of Public Health, etc. It also doesn’t count any of the dishes being served up at M.I.T.*—but I am slightly allergic to math and science, so that’s a moot point.
Eventually, I made a game plan, and I’ve loaded up my plate. Here’s what I’ll be dining on for the next few months.
This is definitely one of the most popular courses at HGSE, with space for only half of the students that try to get in every fall. Luckily, I won the lottery, so I’m in.
AT-113 - Educational Effectiveness: Examining Influences on Student Achievement (Prof. Heather C. Hill)
First of all, even the professor admitted that this course needs a new title. This statistics-heavy course explores the education production function, seeking to identify the factors that have the most influence on a student’s performance. Is it great schools, great teachers, great neighborhoods, great families? The answers may surprise you.
H-107 - Introduction to Educational Neuroscience and Education (Prof. L. Todd Rose)
This course was on the bubble until I attending the shopping session. About two minutes in, I knew that I needed this one in my life. Two great quotes from the Professor on day one... “There is such a thing as a dumb question,” and “Some people like to ask questions, not because they want to know the answer, but because they want to sound smart. If you do that in this class, I WILL call you out.” This one’s gonna be good.
S-997 Field Experience Program (Advisors: Prof. Vicki Jacobs & Prof. Thomas Hehir)
Simply put, this is an internship. I’m still in the process of setting up the details, so stay tuned for more information on this one.
Between shopping classes, advising, and other orientation events, it’s been hectic in ways that life in the Peace Corps never, EVER, was. So far, I think I’ve done great job of handling the workload. I give myself an “A+” in Orientation. Maybe this grad school thing isn’t as hard as everyone says it is. Wait... I haven’t even taken a class yet and I’m swamped (shout out to Javi, mi llave). This could get ugly.
* I am only required to take four out of my eight classes at the School of Education. The other four can be taken through other schools at Harvard or at other universities in the Boston area.