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Future teachers receive lesson in self-expression

Future school teachers are learning some unique methods of self-expression in a University at Buffalo classroom. The teachings are also being shared with a group of Buffalo Public School students. WBFO's Eileen Buckley recently visited the class of UB graduate students during a unique learning exercise taught by assistant professor of English education Stephen Goss at the North Campus in Amherst.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
UB associate professor of English education Stephen Goss with graduate students.

The lesson

UB grad students were enthusiastic to participate in a writing lesson that required them to quickly come up with concise, but thoughtful statements. It's not the first time professor Goss is working to promote education reform in and outside of the classroom.

"One of our stated goals is for our students to actually get our students voices out there and to give them real purpose behind different projects they do in my class," said Goss.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Professor Stephen Goss teaches his self-expression exercise to UB students.

Goss delivers traditional teachings. In the classroom students read short stories, poems and write, but then he uses community projects to get their work into the real world. 


Goss create theB-Heard program with Middle Early College High School, a city school in downtown Buffalo. The program is designed to cause a ripple effect of learning beyond the traditional classroom walls.

The professor uses both written word and digital media to help these urban school students to be thoughtful about learning and connect them back to their own community. 

"One of the things we always talk about, at this particular school, is that no one really knows, outside of the school do not know what a colorful and vibrant place it is and how wonderful the students are," said Goss.

Some of those Buffalo Public School students are featured on the  B-Heard Poetry Hotline. Each week Goss updates it with a different student poet.

Another B-Heard project involved bicycles. Students would paint the bikes them vibrant colors, write poetry on the bikes, and leave them behind in various locations in the city.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Goss shows slide of his bike program with Buffalo high school students from the B-Heard program.
Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Professor Goss's Story Birds.

"I think it was the first project that I had that students were taking photos of, posting on their Facebook pages, sending Twitters out, promoting it on their own without me even talking about it.  They were excited about their own work," noted Goss.

Teaching future teachers

Back in his UB classroom, Goss promotes another word exercise.  Students are asked to look at the written material they've already reviewed this semester and come up with a short saying that will live on, similar to one was created by students from the previous semester. One sign is still posted at Baldy Hall on the UB North campus says "learning should be scary."

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
UB Professor Stephen Goss holds up a sign created last semester during his word writing exercise.

"Think about those things that they want to carry with them as they become teachers -- those ideas that they don't want to forget," said Goss.

Many of these graduate students are in their final semester before they begin student teaching. Brittnay Sager participates in the word exercise program.

"Books do not simply happen to people, people also happen to books, and that's from an article we read," said Sager as she read off her written words for the classroom exercise.

But how does this future teacher prepare for the many challenges occurring in education -- from implementation of Common Core, low-test scores in a struggling city district, and concerns that some parents are not engaging and preparing their children for school. Sager believes teacher prep is also key.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
UB student Brittnay Goss.

"But I think it comes back to being a good teacher and knowing what a good teacher is," said Sager.

Professor Goss's so-called "wall" writing has popped up in other projects conducted by the Middle Early College High School students -- including his Story Birds -- outside his office at UB's North campus and Knowledge Lanterns. It's another chance for students to explore self-expression.

"Bring back the human element to our classrooms, or make sure it has a spot in our classrooms. I do think these things can fit in with the current state of education," said Goss.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
UB students learn about self-expression.

These creative teaching tools remaining within required standards for English language arts. Goss  said the "walls of the school are arbitrary" and can go anywhere in world, something education leaders and teachers should consider when crafting future education policies.