By Ashley Kuropatkin and Bridget O’Connor
As a history student-teacher who observed and taught history classes at Walpole since January, Benjamin Alden completed his practicum on Friday, April 27. Alden received his undergraduate degree in political science from George Washington University between 2011-2015, where he also minored in history. Alden then attended Suffolk University Law School for one semester in the fall of 2016 before dropping out in order to become a history teacher. Expected to graduate this May, Alden will receive his Masters Degree from Endicott College between the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018.
“Once I was in law school, I realized that I could be doing something that I loved a lot more, and my career evolved into teaching,” Alden said.
Outside of school, during the summers of 2013 and 2014, Alden worked at Everwood Day Camp in Sharon. As a division leader at camp, he was in charge of about twenty staff members and one hundred third and fourth graders. He ensured that his staff had resources to provide a great experience for the campers, as well as contacting parents when needed due to any behavioral or social issues with campers.
“I think working those two summers made me fall in love with working with kids, and it kind of gave me that initial idea of wanting to work with kids in the future,” Alden said.
In the third grade, Alden found out that his family came to America on the Mayflower in 1620. Because of this discovery, Alden’s love for history allows him to engage students and easily interact, whether teaching himself or observing.
“I’ve been obsessed with history, learning people’s stories, the stories of countries, and just seeing how time and civilizations have evolved,” Alden said.
With history teacher Samantha Rafferty as his mentor teacher, Alden observed and taught in four United States history classes, both level one and two, along with a government elective. Based on his observations so far, Alden saw many similarities between himself and Rafferty, including their ability to connect with their students on a deeper level. He felt that he had the ability to understand what his students go through on a day to day basis, both in and out of school.
“I see a lot of myself in [Miss Rafferty], and I hope I can continue to grow under her,” Alden said.
The two faculty members were paired together by Michael Donahue, the head of the history department. Both Alden and Rafferty shared an interest in politics and government, while also having similar backgrounds. Rafferty enjoyed sharing her ideas with Alden.
“Having a student teacher is easier and more fun because we can share ideas, and having an extra set of hands and eyes in the room is really helpful too,” said Rafferty.
In his practicum, he learned that flexibility and humor can go a long way in the classroom.
“Some challenges of student teaching are [things] I’m not used to yet, and with lessons you have to figure out a way to make class fun and interesting for the kids,” Alden said.
In his own education, Alden remembered the disconnect between the students and teachers when he was in school. Teachers thought one way, and some students thought or learned in a completely different way which was and still is a challenge. Through his student teaching, he saw what worked for the students—whether watching videos or working on Chromebooks rather than watching Powerpoint slideshows and listening to lectures.
“Personally, I think history comes alive everyday and I think it’s fascinating, but to reach those kids that aren’t a fan of history, or don’t know the material yet, finding different ways to do that can be challenging at times,” Alden said.
Although initially Alden wanted to teach in a middle school level, he now is now looking for his first teaching job at a high school after his positive experience.
“Being able to work with older kids at a high school level and have more thoughtful conversations about history is a lot better than working with younger kids in a middle school,” Alden said.
Alden is willing to teach in any school or environment. He believes that each type of setting provides its own benefits and challenges that would allow Alden to increase his knowledge on teaching in the future.
“I think that is a really awesome thing because he can relate to some of the students on that level and he also has great ideas,” Rafferty said.