Though these new students have already amassed a grand total of 3,450 years of professional experience and 19,300 years of life experience, Dean Kathleen McCartney assured that there is still plenty of experience to be had.
“Each year, I give this advice to incoming students about how to make your experience here the best it can be: surrender to this place,” she said. “Let me tell you what I mean by this. Many of you are coming here with experiences that have informed your beliefs, with education ideologies, and with plans for the future. Now, there is nothing wrong with learning from experience, nothing wrong with developing ideologies, and nothing wrong with making plans. But I ask you to open your hearts and minds to your studies here.”
The entering class consists of 620 master’s students, 29 doctoral students, 11 certificate of advanced study students, and the second cohort of 25 Doctor of Education Leadership Program (Ed.L.D.) students. The average age of entering students is 28; 73 percent are female and 27 percent are male. The class is composed of students representing 38 countries and 43 states. Fourteen percent are international students and 31 percent identify as students of color.
During her remarks, McCartney shared a video from The Oprah Winfrey Show’s farewell celebration in which 20 dancers trained some 800 fans, who, in turn, taught 20,000 audience members a flash mob routine to a Black Eyed Peas performance. Calling the teaching of all those audience members a model similar to what is used at the Ed School, McCartney noted how the video and “our work demonstrate the power of teaching and the joy of learning.” “It’s a good lesson to remember,” she said.
The faculty speaker, Senior Lecturer Joe Blatt, Ed.M.’77, winner of the 2011 Morningstar Family Teaching Award, urged students to ponder three imperatives: “Get the coverage; mind the gap; and put down the duckie.” Coverage, Blatt explained, is a filmmaking term for the variety of camera angles and perspectives needed to tell an effective story. He encouraged students to look for new perspectives in their studies and in Harvard and Cambridge more broadly, in order to fashion their own stories. Blatt called students’ attention to the “joy gap,” suggesting they embrace the pleasures of discovery and insight in their own studies, and help others discover the joys of learning. As Ernie discovers in a clip Blatt showed from Sesame Street, you have to “put down the duckie” – let go of old ideas – if you want to learn something new.
Doctoral student Liz Dawes Duraisingh, Ed.M.’07, concurred with Blatt’s tips and also shared reflections on her own time at HGSE, especially the anxiety that occurs in those early days. She reassured the students, however, that in the end the journey is well worth any initial doubts or stress.
“[This is a journey] that will hopefully expose you to many new ideas and perspectives and possibly completely change the way you think about yourself, your work, and the educational environments in which you have worked or will work, whatever and wherever they may be,” she said. “The journey can be very intense and also at times exhausting; however, it can also be inspiring, interesting, fun, and ultimately very rewarding on both a personal and professional level. That has been my experience at least.”