July 25, 2017
This July, Inspired Teaching learned about 2017 Fellow Raven’s experience during summer institute before beginning her residency year.
Why did you decide to join the Inspired Teaching Residency?
Teaching was something I always wanted to do; I just didn’t know how to get there. I was working in commercial real estate and I wasn’t happy. I had a friend who joined Inspired Teaching and when she told me about the program I thought, oh, that’s the bridge I need! I looked at other alternative certification programs, but I recognized that this program is unique. It seemed like I’d be getting more from Inspired Teaching—a masters degree, support from the cohort and staff, and the philosophy. Once I came to selection day I could tell I’d be happier here. Inspired Teaching was aligned with some of my ideals, but the questions I was asked to think about on selection day already pushed my thinking. We were asked to discuss equity and other controversial topics, and the fact that Inspired Teaching faced these topics from the beginning showed me that this program would help me not only grow as a teacher, but as a person. I put my eggs all in one basket, only applied to this program, and it all worked out.
How has summer institute influenced you so far?
The first day of summer institute we were asked to make posters about different things we like, so I put Harry Potter all over my poster. So many other people in my cohort love Harry Potter too! I realized how much I had in common with everyone. I found my people. We’ve all definitely bonded as a cohort. Now, the program continues to push my ideals—some have changed, some have been strengthened. We touch on a lot of issues that could be divisive and controversial, so having the space to talk about what we feel and hear from people from different backgrounds lets me learn about my own prejudices and beliefs. These conversations make me aware about how I’m perceived and how my own stereotypes and biases will relate to my classroom. I think I’m all around a better person.
How has being part of a cohort impacted your experience this summer?
I’ve made great friends and a great support system. These are people I can lean on. Once the school year starts and I’ll be teaching and taking coursework at the same time, I’m glad I have these people—the Fellows and facilitators—to lean on. The program staff is also a great resource for all of us; they listen, they give feedback, they push us outside of our boxes. For instance, before starting institute, I said I wasn’t a “math person,” but the Facilitators pushed me to think differently. That’s allowed me to take risks during activities that I wouldn’t always take on my own. This is a safe space to take those risks because as a cohort, the other Fellows and I are in the same boat together and we get to lean on each other.
How have you grown as a learner this summer?
This summer, I’ve been pushed outside of my comfort zone. As a student, I was the know-it-all, the “smart one,” and in some ways that can be good, but I don’t know how well I learned to not be good at things or to make a mistake. I’ve noticed that if I’m not sure if I can do something, I wont, because I don’t think I’ll be good at it. But here, I’ve been pushed out of that and I don’t get to avoid things. I’m purposefully put in situations where I’ll take a risk and make mistakes. This summer, I’ve been the one to not know the answer, or the one to not even understand the question right away, and I’ve learned that’s okay.
How do you view the role of the teacher?
I used to think of the teacher as a disciplinarian and that the rewards and consequences system was essential because I grew up with those systems and I thought that is what worked. Now, I believe the teacher is a facilitator, not someone who merely provides knowledge for his or her students. Instead of thinking the answer is the most valued part of the class, the teacher is facilitating the process. It isn’t always the teacher’s job to give students the answer; sometimes there may not even be an answer.
What are you most excited about to work with young people?
I am most excited to watch their growth. I’ve worked with children before in a motor sport camp and at the beginning of the summer the kids were afraid of driving go-karts, but by the end when they were comfortable with the course. I want to see that kind of growth in the classroom too. I feel like that’s the point of the classroom; to struggle and make mistakes and know that it is okay because if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. I want to watch my students go on that journey.