Nora Dowley '04

Hi, my name is Nora Dowley. I am originally from Middletown, CT and I am a member of the Class of 2004. I graduated with a Government and Legal Studies major and a minor in Education. 

Nora DowleyMy first education class was Education 101 which I took in the fall of my first year at Bowdoin College. As a first year, I was very intimidated by college life and extremely shy in my classes. Education 101, taught by the incredibly talented and passionate, Nancy Jennings, was the only class in which I felt comfortable during those first three months. She has an amazing ability to immediately engage students in the material; fostering an environment in the classroom that encourages the class to think outside of the box and challenge one another's thoughts and philosophies. 

Nancy's intense love and passion for education quickly spread to her students. Every time I walked into that classroom, I could not wait to hear her lecture. I knew whether the topic was school vouchers or gender equity in the classroom, she would find some way to pull me into the discussion. I think this is where my love for education and my desire to be a teacher began. Nancy's passion was so contagious; I wanted to experience that same emotion. I was intrigued by many of the unanswerable questions: why is there such inequity among public schools, why are teachers underpaid, why can't American students compete internationally, etc. With every question posed, my intellectual curiosity became more stimulated. It was an absolutely amazing experience.  

I took several other education classes at Bowdoin ranging from Education 203 (Educating All Children) to Education 301 (Teaching). However, I would say the most energy-consuming, most challenging and most rewarding and fun class over my four years was Education 303, Student Teaching Practicum.  

In this class, seniors are placed in a local school classroom and are thrown into 14 weeks of student teaching consisting of three sections of class a day. This course takes place during senior spring. While the majority of my friends were lying around the quad enjoying the last few months of college, I was waking up at 6:30 a.m., grabbing a coffee and heading off to high school. 

In the earlier education classes, students had learned and debated a great deal of the theory and philosophy behind education yet never had put their knowledge and ideas into practice. This course throws the student teacher to the wolves! It was exciting, frustrating, mind-blowing, awkward, intense, stressful and fun. It provided an excellent look into how the classroom truly operates on a daily basis and it gave me a taste of how much work a teacher has to do every single day and yes, it's true the job does not end at 3:30. 

The best part of the Education Department and most departments at Bowdoin College is the faculty and staff. While coming from a variety of diverse backgrounds and experiences, there is certainly a common thread that runs through the Education faculty--their willingness to not only help the students learn and grow in the classroom, but to get to know each and every student on a personal level. Every faculty member I met was truly there to help me be a better student, person and educator. Each education minor is required to choose an advisor and luckily, I was blessed with two. The purpose of the advisory system is to help the student through course selection as well as guide the student through the excellent, yet often frustrating academic rigors of Bowdoin College. While the primary role of the advisor is to focus on academics, my two education advisors, Professor Jennings and Professor Dorn, were available to me at all times especially when facing new challenges and self-doubts. Gratefully, I am still in contact with them both and they continue to provide constant support and counsel especially this year as I struggled through my first year in the greal world.

The Education Department has taught me that all students regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender or culture can achieve and the role and job of a successful educator is to determine how to motivate, inspire and engage each and every child. I am very far from mastering these goals but the passion to continue in that quest was instilled in me five years ago and is still running strong, and hopefully, will be there forever.  

I currently reside in Washington, D.C. and am finishing my first year of teaching in an urban charter high school in the district. Next year, I will be teaching at a private school in Alexandria, Virginia.