Seeing the Big Picture with Ashley Taylor ☆

“How do we teach students what it means to see the big picture in curriculum design?” Third-year doctoral student Ashley Taylor grappled with that question this summer as she prepared to teach her first methods course during the Summer B term. “It’s a really fast class of 10 sessions” but the compression meant that she “really got to know them on a different level, because we spent five hours a week together.” That closeness and repetition allowed the class to work on the same questions over several class periods. Now that she is teaching the same course in the fall, “I really, really appreciate having one semester of it under my belt because I could reflect on it so quickly, and immediately implement changes now.” The quick, two-week turnaround between summer and fall sessions gave Ashley the chance to tweak her approach to teaching the methods course while everything was still fresh in her mind.

Working over the summer, when there were no classrooms to observe, meant that some activities needed alteration. Ashleyreflected on her experiences in her own Masters-level methods course. Ashley was being careful about her presentations. “What worked for me might not work for teachers here in New York City, in an urban setting” she said, referring to her teaching experience in Puerto Rico. So she drew on the experiences of former methods teachers still at TC. “I was getting design ideas of what students thought was helpful or not helpful,” like an assessment activity that Ellen Livingston had used.

During that same time, Ashley was again coordinating the INSTEP program. “We had seven new INSTEP students, and a total of 20” across the three-year group. Helping the new students get adjusted takes a priority. Ashley helped them finalize their advisement and most importantly, “made sure everything is panned out with their financial aid.” Listening to Ashley talk about the different backgrounds and teaching experiences that INSTEP students bring, and the camaraderie that forms between participants, it’s clear that she enjoys working with the program. “They collaborate on different levels, which is really unique for a Masters program, I think.”

Ashley was one of the only incoming instructors for the summer, but she maintained her duties as one of the program’s key contact people. “I needed to learn things like what the pre-service, 38-pointers needed to do and what their program plan was going to look like.” Juggling those responsibilities, especially with fewer people around the office in the summer, made for a busy but rewarding time. Ashley said she felt better prepared coming into the Fall semester for her experiences.

Asked if she got to leave the city at all, she looked back on a long weekend for a family reunion in July and the birth of her nephew in August. “But it was ok. I like to be in the City when I don’t really have anything going on.” That lull came in the two weeks before and after summer classes, when she got to spend time walking her dog for as long as she wanted, or going shopping, “Or whatever else I don’t get to leisurely do in the City. New York and the surrounding area has so much to offer that I feel I don’t take advantage of it during the year.”