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HGSE Beginnings: Senior Lecturer Katherine Boles

As the academic year gets underway, members of the Ed School community -- including some faculty members who began their time here as students -- look back on how their time on Appian Way began. Today's entry: Senior Lecturer Katherine Boles, Ed.D.'91.

I loved studying at HGSE.  It was tough, but wonderful and a lot of fun. I entered the Ed School in 1987 as a doctoral student in Teaching, Curriculum and Learning Environments.

I lived in Cambridge and was the mother of a five-year old daughter. My husband, Barney, was a part-time staff developer at the King School in Cambridge, and he was studying Family Therapy at night — so childcare was great.

I was what you’d call a mature student — 40 years old, and a teacher since 1971.  I’d already established myself as a teacher/researcher, having been a member of The Boston Women’s Teachers’ Group (we made up the name). We were classroom teachers who had taught ourselves how to do qualitative research. We received a grant from the National Institute of Education, wrote an article called “Teaching: An ‘Imperilled’ Profession,” and presented our work at AERA (probably the only classroom teachers in 1980 to do that). Through AERA I connected with Lee Shulman (a professor at Stanford, and until fairly recently the president of the Carnegie Foundation), who solicited a chapter from us that was published in The Handbook of Teaching and Policy in 1983. I guess that’s why the Ed School admitted me.

When I arrived at HGSE I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to study teacher-led school reform. In particular, I wanted to study the experience of a group of elementary school teachers who had changed their teaching lives by working as a cohesive, curriculum-focused team. They created new research and curricular roles for themselves while teaching, brought full-time graduate school teaching interns into their classrooms, and included special needs students full-time in their classrooms.  I had been one of the founders of the project.

HGSE worked beautifully for me. I crafted my coursework to make sure I understood all aspects of my thesis idea, and I took courses with professors who helped me enormously as my career progressed.  During my first year, [Senior Lecturer] Kay Merseth directed my work with warmth and skill, and when Kay left for a stint in California at UC Irvine, she handed me over to [Professor] Susan Moore Johnson, whom I adored (and still do).  With Susan’s expert advising, I moved quickly through coursework and finished my degree in 1991.

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