Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"The drive and enthusiasm to be a fantastic teacher" --Mentorship Experience at Mountain View Elementary

My cadet teacher was KR, a senior at Legacy High School in Broomfield.  K worked in my classroom for a few hours in the morning Monday through Thursday of each week from January 31 to April 26, 2013.  During that time, K was very active and assumed many responsibilities.  It should be noted that our fourth-grade teaching team “departmentalized” this year, and I was the math, science, and social studies teacher for two homerooms—55 students in all.  There was a wide range of ability levels, from gifted and talented to significantly below grade level, students on IEPs and literacy action plans (for below grade-level readers), ELL students, one autistic student, and one student with severe emotional and behavioral issues.  I did not teach reading and writing.

K jumped right in on the first day and helped students with their math.  She was able to build a solid rapport with the students very quickly.  During her time in our classroom, K did the following:  observed me teaching; taught a few math lessons herself (reading a pictograph and estimating products); added valuable comments during my teaching; co-taught lessons; circulated and helped the students with math, science, and social studies in both individual and small-group settings; helped me to set up science experiments; helped prepare students for TCAP; assisted me in proctoring TCAP; and attended a weekly 4th-grade team meeting.

I wanted K to see the students taking the TCAP test, but it didn’t make sense for her to spend two weeks of her time doing so.  And because I didn’t explicitly teach literacy this year, I knew she would benefit from seeing this, too.  I arranged for K to work in a second-grade colleague’s classroom for a few days.  K was able to observe this teacher’s reading groups, read with some students, helped to set up and manage students working in “centers,” and also did some quick assessments with students.  This second-grade teacher said that K worked wonderfully with her students, and K remarked that she enjoyed the experience, too.

Due to the nature of my classroom and the schedule, what K did most was to circulate and help my students with their math during the guided and independent practice phases of the lessons.  This was invaluable, as it allowed twice as many students to get individualized help.

This was the first time that I had mentored a cadet teacher, and it was a very powerful experience for me.  The main reason is because I was K’s fourth-grade teacher nine years ago.  I remember K as a hardworking, kind, and respectful fourth-grade student.  I was very impressed with what a motivated, responsible, caring, and confident young woman she has become.  What a rare gift it was for me to see her each day and to get to be her teacher again, although now in a different way.  I was honored that K had sought me out as the teacher she wanted to do her cadet teaching experience with.  One of the things I really treasured about this experience was the deep conversations we had about teaching, in general, as well as processing events and situations that occurred each day.

K has no illusions about the teaching profession and some of the challenges that she will face.  Her mother is a teacher and her father is a school counselor.  K has spent hundreds and hundreds of hours helping out in her mother’s classrooms growing up.  This has helped her to develop good teaching instincts that were in evidence during her cadet teaching experience.  We had many candid conversations about the challenges of teaching today and nothing was sugarcoated.

K simply has the drive and enthusiasm to be a fantastic teacher.   During one of her final days in our classroom, K said to me, “I can’t wait to have my own classroom.”  I believe this young woman was born to teach, and I know she will have a profound influence on her students, colleagues, and families.  I know I can honestly say that this experience has had a profound effect on me.

Teacher Cadet at Cotton Creek Elementary with Joan Knapp

The Teacher Cadet (TC) program through Adams12 Five Star Schools is excellent.  This year I was happy to learn that I would have a TC for the second time in my career with Adams 12!  It had been several years since my last TC, and I was really happy to be part of this program again.
     I met my TC in a professional interview-like setting.  She was prepared with a calendar of the dates she would be in my kindergarten classroom.  Her duties and responsibilities were outlined clearly.  She asked in-depth questions about my classroom routines, students, and school culture.
     My TC instantly bonded with the 28 students in my PM kindergarten class.  She was immediately proactive and intuitive, and it quickly became apparent how deeply she cared for each one.
     Throughout her time in the classroom, my TC showed great potential as a future educator.  She took time to learn a bit about each student's educational history and family, she noticed both positive and negative relationships between students in the classroom and worked to provide support to continue to develop the positive ones and to problem solve the negative ones.
     I was most impressed with my TC's knowledge of technology.  She used the classroom iPad to create lesson plans, keep anecdotal notes on student progress, and supplement lessons with miscellaneous apps.  When I made suggestions for instructing a particular small group, she immediately searched for an appropriate technological component.  She was careful to preview any app., photo, or internet site before introducing it to the kindergartners.  She taught me many more uses for the iPad as well!
     This TC spent far more time in my classroom than her required minimum hours.  She stayed for some grade-level meetings and a school-wide professional development meeting.  She was able to use her knowledge of Standards-Based Grading (done in her high school currently) and apply it to the new setting in the elementary school-giving me insight from a student perspective.  She attended an evening performance to support the class outside of school hours.
     One morning, my TC took the initiative to come to school during my AM kindergarten class time.  She was quite interested in comparing class culture, and immediately noticed many of the nuances that made the two classes so different!
     I highly recommend the Teacher Cadet program to any teacher who needs some extra support in the classroom.  The students are well prepared by instructor Sue Less to become future educators.  They transition to college educator-formation programs with so much background knowledge and practical experience.  I look forward to another year with a TC!