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Elsa Chen

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Elsa Chen

Elsa Chen

At the first of two convocation ceremonies for TC's masters degree students, student speaker Elsa Chen, who was receiving her degree in International and Transcultural Studies, credited Teachers College with changing her outlook toward the world - right down to the stories she tells herself about the people she sees every day on the New York City subways.

"The disheveled man sitting across from me is no longer a homeless bum, but now a Bohemian poet," Chen said. "I look at people and I smile to myself imagining the greatness that they embody. This is what TC has done to me-'"it has made me a smiling fool."

Her optimism has grown directly out of her observations of children in her teaching field placements, Chen said.

"Hearing eight year-old Tommy Parker from Alphabet City speak Mandarin with his classmate Sharon Wang from Flushing has opened my eyes to the wonderful possibilities of making cultural and social connections through language. I've learned to relish different perspectives and I have an increased appreciation for our diverse world."

Yet not all Chen's realizations at TC have been uplifting ones.

"Now that I know more about educational practices, systems, and policies, I find myself wanting to shake people on the street and ask, 'Do you know what's not happening in our schools?!' We are being asked to leave no child behind as though this had been our plan all along.  As Teachers College graduates, we must all be ambassadors for education because we are uniquely armed to challenge the status quo and to raise the bar."

Calling upon her fellow graduates to "take a moment now and think of one ideal that you will never compromise," Chen closed by quoting advice from Urie Bronfenbrenner, a psychologist who co-founded the Head Start program: "If a child is to develop well, the child needs at least one person who is irrationally crazy about her or him."

"Let us be the one person who is irrationally crazy," Chen said, "and smiling like a fool no matter where we go."

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