September 24, 2015
(Photo: Brittney Oswald/Center for Inspired Teaching)
A conversation with Liane Alves – 2014 Inspired Teaching Fellow and preK teacher at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School:
“PreK is wonderful – there is so much creativity. There are so many possibilities. I can pick up any book, and we can have a lesson on it. If it’s snowing outside, then let’s go see how cold the snow is. Will it melt if we do this? I feel that I can do anything with my students. I feel that there’s a structure in place, but there’s a lot of freedom, too, and I love that about preK.”
Hometown: Washington, DC
Undergrad & Major: Rutgers University, Cultural Anthropology & Caribbean Studies
Postgraduate: University of Hawaii, Masters in Anthropology
Favorite Book: Matilda
What is your favorite thing about teaching in DC?
I like teaching in DC because I grew up here, and I feel like DC has a rough rap for education. I’m happy to be in a place where I feel that I belong and that I can make a difference.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I wasn’t that great of a student. I was a much better student in college than I was in elementary through high school because the things I didn’t care about, I just didn’t bother to try. Some of the things, if they’d been presented in a different way, I think I might have cared more about them. I felt that I wasn’t very smart, but that wasn’t it. It was the way things were presented to me. I thought that it was important that I learned to be a good teacher so that I could present information in a lot of different ways and reach a lot of different students.
Is there a teacher who made a difference in your life?
My high school English teacher, Mr. van Hooven. He was actually very young, 23, and he was the first person to realize that I had a lot of thoughts, but I didn’t know how to organize them. He helped me with that, and I’ve been writing the same way ever since. That was very important to me.
What drew you to the Inspired Teacher Certification Program?
What really drew me to the program was the holistic focus on becoming a teacher. Not focusing on “we have to close the gap!” Or that “there are all these problems we have to fix!” A kid is more than academics. They have a lot of pieces that have to go together, and a lot of times they just need someone to care about them. I think I got that from my cultural anthropology experience, which is very holistic – you have to look at an entire culture, and the entire picture – and I think Inspired Teaching has that same approach to teaching children.
What’s been your biggest achievement in the classroom so far?
I think gaining several students’ trust and also learning behavior management strategies. You can’t have one tool that fits all. You can’t just stand in front of the room and expect children to listen to you. Managing a classroom is my biggest achievement so far because it’s something I didn’t think I could begin to do at the beginning of my first year. The creativity, the fun, the joking, that comes naturally, but finding ways to keep attention and keep kids safe in a way that’s still authentic to me – that was very important to develop.
What advice would you give to teachers on their first day?
“Breathe,” because there are going to be a lot of things going on. Time moves so quickly. There are a lot of things that happen in the Inspired Teacher Certification Program and a lot of demands on you from lots of individuals and lots of institutions, and you have to keep things in perspective. You will be a teacher for years, all these other things will fall into place, but you will never be with this group of kids again. So it might be overwhelming, but if you’re so caught up in what’s due or what you have to do, you can lose out on those special moments in the classroom. Those other parts of the program are there to help you and to enable you to be a certified teacher, but being a teacher means focusing on the classroom. So just breathe.