Teacher Feature: Mr. Morris

Thomas Morris, Inspired Teaching Fellow (’18)

Hometown: Durham, NC Undergrad & Major: Hamilton College, Economics Favorite Book as a Child: The Redwall Series

  Why did you decide to become a teacher? From a young age, I enjoyed tutoring and helping my peers. Over the course of college, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and as I studied education, I realized I want to be a teacher. I enjoy the day to day of working with students and, on a larger scale, I also appreciate the broader impact of education on society.

What attracted you to the Inspired Teaching Residency’s model?

I was looking for a program that offered teacher training because I knew I didn’t have the tools I needed to just hop into a classroom. I wanted coaching and a way that I could phase into the responsibilities of managing classroom. The big decision that I needed to make was whether I wanted to teach high school or elementary school. As soon as I came to selection day, knew I would be choosing elementary school, because Inspired Teaching was the program for me. Many places say they are built with joy, and focus on experiential learning, but only Inspired Teaching presented that firsthand. I knew that, since even the interview process was engaging and joyful, that Inspired Teaching really models their philosophy in all that they do.

How has the cohort model affected your experience so far?

The cohort model has been really good for me because I just moved to DC in July. I know some people here but not many and it pretty immediately gave me a group of people, I consider friends at this point. It’s very clear that they will be a support system throughout the year. It will be so helpful to have that built in – a group of people who understand, who I can get advice from or vent to. Since we’re teaching different grades and are at different schools, we will also be able to share a variety of different experiences with each other.

Are there any takeaways from Summer Institute that have already impacted the way you think about teaching & learning? Is there an “ah-ha!” moment you can share?

I learned that there is no one right way to teach. One issue I had throughout Summer Institute was that, while knew there wasn’t a secret formula, I still wanted concrete answers. What I have learned is there isn’t a clear, correct answer about how to teach, but rather the key is the mindset that you use to approach teaching. Everything else will be influenced by who you are as a person. The fact that we had several different facilitators, who all led activities effectively but differently, really drove this point home.

If halfway through the school year, I asked your students to describe you, how do you hope they will respond?

Fun, imaginative, creative (I’m working on this one!). Somebody who lets them be who they want to be in the classroom.

Is there a teacher who made a difference in your life?

Too many to count! I think one of my most influential teachers was Mr. Albright, my high school Creative Writing teacher. He taught me that teaching is an avenue where you can really share what you love with children. He showed me that teaching doesn’t have to fit into the traditional model. He taught a novel writing class in a public high school. It made me realize that teaching could be what I wanted it to be, not just the cookie cutter experience people typically think of when they think of school.

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