Check out a Q&A to understand the perspective of a new teacher just two months into her career.
Walking into Angelina Cook’s classroom at Eagle Ridge Elementary in Paradise Valley School District, you will notice community agreements posted on the wall, bright bulletin boards filled with student work, and a welcoming smile on this first-year teacher’s face. She has created a warm environment for the kindergarten students that fill her classroom each day all the while keeping academic development at the heart of her focus. Read more to get her feelings and thoughts two months into her first year of teaching. Cook brings us hope and admiration for all new teachers. It shows how solid teacher preparation programs that provide ample time in the classroom, during preservice years, make an impact on the self-efficacy and confidence of first-year teachers.
How are you feeling?
“I am feeling great! My student teaching through the ASU iTeachAZ program has really prepared me for everything that I have been experiencing. It’s helped me with everything from lesson planning, classroom management, to upholding my professionalism. I owe every compliment and comment of a job well done on the program! It has also been fun connecting with the families of my students! I always leave about 10- to 5 minutes after school every day to socialize with the parents of my kids and let them know of the fun little parts of the day! (I’m currently working on a kindergarten first-year teachers survival guide blog).”
What has surprised you about teaching thus far?
“Just how much more the kids have taught me. Kindergarteners go at their own pace and that was something I learned quickly. You are teaching them how to be a student in a school. You are teaching them what is right and wrong and how to use their words to tell how they feel. If you do plan to teach them, you have to make the lesson 10 minutes max and then move on! Otherwise, you will have a flood of behavior problems! “
In terms of support, what is/has been most helpful?
“The staff! I do not just mean in my school either. Everyone in the district has been so supportive! My mentor teacher, Jen Nelson, has been so great in sending me resources and being available to chat about my classroom experience thus far. My principal, Allison Barbor, has been great on being available to answer any questions that I might have. I feel like I can walk up to anyone at my school and ask them a question, and they are always more than willing to help.”
How are you finding balance?
“I cut myself off and make a designated ‘late’ night. No matter what I am doing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I cut myself off from work at 4 p.m., and I go to the gym to relax from the day. Tuesdays are usually meeting days and Thursdays are usually my late night to work on lesson plans, make copies, and get everything ready for the next week. This makes the weekend free for quality time for my husband, family, friends, and myself.”
What excites you about your new position?
“The kids. As a kindergarten teacher I have already seen so much progress in the first month. Not just in the academic way, but in their social and emotional development and watching them learn to be apart of a community. For example, I have a lot of kids that are only children and so sharing was difficult. Now those kids are great with sharing and taking turns with their peers and working well with others. *Knock on wood!*”
What is one thing you wish you could have a “do over on” and how would you do it differently?
“There are times that I am so busy teaching these little kids how to be a student and teaching them the expectations that I forget that sometimes their behavior is them really telling me what is wrong. I had a student who had a really rough week in every definition of the word. I was talking to his parents and was told of some hardships the student was going through. The student was not showing any signs of these at home, just at school. It was then when I realized that the student was trying to tell me what was wrong with him in his own way. I have a lot of students who are dealing with some adult stuff and they do not know how to process it. I have been teaching myself to look out for patterns or key things that set off some students and try to make the learning environment fit that student best. It is not always easy, but once I reminded myself to see the student and not the behavior at hand and see the behavior as a way that the student was trying to connect and tell me what was wrong, I have been able to create strong bonds with those students and help them better. It has made me a better teacher already.”
Cook mentions the support she is receiving in her district is a contributing factor to her success. Check out How Teacher-Mentors Are Changing Education and Mentors Mold Teacher Leaders to read more on how mentoring effectively supports the newest teachers to our profession.