What we can learn from brand new educators

What advice would your 7th grade self give you about teaching?

what we can learn from brand new educatorsRemember when you were first starting out as an educator? The ink on your certification barely dried, and there you were, standing in front of your first class, 30-some pairs of eyeballs staring back at you, waiting for you to lead.

We hear from six amazing middle level educators graduating this spring from the University of Vermont. We ask them about their hopes, their fears, and… what their middle school selves would come back to tell them.

Congratulations to some amazing brand-new educators

A full transcript appears below.


On this episode of The 21st Century Classroom:

Shelly: I think what makes me most excited is— well, the variation day to day and just like the energy that young adolescents, in general 10, 15, 14 year olds bring. It is just such a like contagious energy, could be used for good or evil, but it’s just suddenly I look forward to seeing like what’s today bringing, you know? What kind of things are happening today?

We’re celebrating the class of 2017, and more specifically the graduating class of brand new educators. These folks have done the coursework, turned in the portfolios and survived their placements, and now they’re all set to take on classrooms of their own.

brand new educators

We’ll hear from six amazing pre-service — soon to be fulltime — middle level educators who are graduating this spring from the University of Vermont. We ask them about their hopes, their fears, and… what their middle school selves come back to tell them.

Emily: I think it’s interesting because I was not taught the way I’m being taught to teach. Then I think that sometimes seventh grade Emily would be really frustrated with students and their learning and not having the material at your fingertips all the time but I also think that it would have been really good for me as a learner.

Remember when you were first starting out as an educator? The ink on your certification barely dried, and there you were, standing in front of your first class, 30-some pairs of eyeballs staring back at you, waiting for you to lead.

Whether you’re a grizzled classroom veteran or still learning the ropes, every day you learn something new: about students, about education …and about yourself.

Shelly Blancq

brand new educators

“Just be okay if a student is not engaging like you think they should. It’s kind of just like… let them have the day.”

Shelly: My name is Shelly Blancq, 25 years old from Memphis, Tennessee.
I think what makes me most excited is— well, the variation day to day and just like the energy that young adolescents, in general 10, 15, 14 year olds bring. It is just such a like contagious energy, could be used for good or evil, but it’s just suddenly I look forward to seeing like what’s today bringing, you know? What kind of things are happening today?

So, I have 82 students in the class I teach right now and it just, sometimes, it feels like a lot of pressure to make sure that each of the student has this like awesome experience. And for me, that’s Science. So it’s like that they really love Science and they continue loving Science through their life and I feel like I could make that happen or I could fail them right then, right in the 7th or 8th grade, so that’s I think what makes me most nervous.

Know that there are a lot of things going on and that sometimes, like engagement in the classroom isn’t necessarily due to lack of excitement more that there is just a lot of things going on whether that’s like socially or at home, even academically in other classes and to… just be okay if a student is not engaging like you think they should. It’s kind of just like… let them have the day.

Emily Ranquist

“I think it’s interesting because I was not taught the way I’m being taught to teach.”

Emily: My name is Emily Ranquist. I’m 22 and my hometown is Castleton, Vermont.

When I was at Shelburne Community School, I was just so intrigued by the middle level students and I’m just really excited for their excitement of learning and how they can bring this energy to the classroom without even trying. It’s little different from the high school students I worked with so just that specific level of student’s excitement and energy is exciting to me as an educator.

I think it’s interesting because I was not taught the way I’m being taught to teach. Then I think that sometimes seventh grade Emily would be really frustrated with students and their learning and not having the material at your fingertips all the time but I also think that it would have been really good for me as a learner.

Yeah, I was a process student. I liked when there were specific steps I could follow, things that I could do that I knew would get me the right answer.

I was not comfortable with failing or making mistakes. So having a classroom where it gets trial and error and show me what you know probably would have frustrated me sometimes but I think it also would have been really good for me.

The Middle Level Teacher Education Program at UVM is a one-year graduate program designed for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree and want to become licensed to teach in the middle grades, as well as earn a master’s degree. To successfully complete the program, students study the evolution of middle grades reform and learn about the nature and needs of young adolescents.

In the fall semester students spend 3 full days per week out in middle schools. Then in the spring they complete a full semester of student teaching — 5 full days per week. And to top it all off, to graduate they prepare a portfolio showcasing what they’ve accomplished, and take a comprehensive written exam as well.

Completing this program means not just that you’ve taken the classes, but that you’ve also demonstrated the passion, courage and empathy necessary to undertake working with young adolescents.

Tony Snow

brand new educators

“Hopefully things that I find fascinating, they’ll find fascinating.”

Tony: My name is Tony Snow. I am 31 years old and I’m from Arcata, California.

The thing I loved the most is when the students have the ‘aha’ moment when I’m teaching something and there, we’re diving into a question. I teach Social Studies.

We’re diving into a question and we’re talking about how should states have representation, how should we have…should it be equal, every state gets one vote, or should be proportional. Big state gets more votes and little states… we’d really tear that apart. We talked about what’s fair and how we’re going to be equal and where is this huge revolution? What’s going to be fair for everyone else?

And so that’s my favorite thing, is to have these really deep conversations and just to sort of hear and see those ‘aha’ moments or those moments that really conflict them and make them go, “Ah” like that’s a really good question and they really want to go grapple with it.

brand new educators

I’m excited to learn it along with the students.

I remember when I ever first started the program, some of the people, some of the best advisors talked about just going full geek or full nerd, so whatever I find really interesting in that curriculum, I’m hoping that my excitement for it will transfer. Hopefully, things that I find fascinating, they’ll find fascinating.

Marley Evans

brand new educators

“I know that I as a 7th grader… it really meant a lot that the teachers knew me and knew my interests.”

Marley: My name is Marley Evans. I am 31 years old (I had to think about that), and I’m from Brookhaven, Mississippi.

I’m going to be teaching seventh and eighth grade ELA and right now, the thing I’m most excited about is just everything we’ve learned this past year. I learned at a conference a couple weeks ago about interactive notebooks. I’m really excited to try that out. I’m excited just to set my own classroom norms based on a lot of like the reading we’ve done this past year and the things we’ve learned in class.

I know that I as a seventh grader and as an eighth grader, it really meant a lot that teachers knew me and knew my interests.

It’s just reminding me now that that is so important. To know my students. Not just what kind of learner they are but also their personal interests and connecting with them in that way.

I remember my seventh grade Science teacher. Like she and I loved the show ER and so we would always talk about that and that’s really silly but I still remember that! Whereas I probably don’t remember a lot of what we learned in Science that year.

But I remember loving that teacher and having that connection with her and always being excited to go to her class.

No one teacher can know all the content they need to know, and there’s a learning curve to understanding pedagogy when it’s so different from many of the experiences educators have had prior to stepping into the classroom.

Let’s meet Nicole McCuin and David Maika, and hear about what led them to become teachers.

Nicole McCuin

brand new educators

“There was a time where I said, ‘I would not teach in a middle school.’ And then I actually had the experience of working with that age. They’re amazing.”

Nicole: It’s Nicole McCuin. I’m 35 and I’m from Highgate, Vermont.

I worked outpatient and in an in-patient residential facility at a psychiatric hospital and I’ve worked as a behavior interventionist.

There was a time where I said, “I would not teach in a middle school.” I had just graduated from high school and I had worked at couple of jobs, substitute teaching. I was in the high school but I was like, “Yeah, there’s no way I’m going…I wouldn’t do that.”

And then I actually had the experience of working with that age. I thought it was amazing. They’re amazing.

I felt like I had a fairly easy time in middle school, but the hiccups I did have — usually there were some things with academics or whatnot  — looking back on it, there were things that could have been easily remedied if someone had said, “Hey, what’s going on with this?”

One of the things, the example, I had was I remember getting really bad grades on my thesis statements but I don’t feel like anyone ever said, “Hey, let’s work on this together.” It was just like, “You’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it wrong.”

David Maika

brand new educators

“I hope that whatever group of students I have, I can impart some of that curiosity, some of that love of learning to them.”

David: My name is David Maika. I am 35 years old and I am from Honolulu, Hawaii.

I think, in hindsight, if my 6th grade self could say anything to me as a teacher it’s, “Don’t believe my stories.” Because it was really in 6th grade where I started to become a problem student, academically. I was always able to complete any work you put in front of me, any test without studying that sort of stuff. I had a really hard time with staying motivated with doing homework, doing projects.

It’s going to sound a little funny but I’m really excited to have my own classroom and have the control of that classroom. I’d been in school for so long and I’ve been in so many classrooms,

I’m really a naturally curious person and while I’m specifically a social studies guy, I love learning about everything. I hope that whatever group of students I have, I can impart some of that curiosity, some of that love of learning to them. Give them a passion to learn about something that they’re interested in.

I’m really excited to implement those things that I’ve been thinking about for so many years.

I’m 35 and I think I knew first that I wanted to be a teacher when I turned 17, when I was a junior in high school.  It’s been 18 years in the making and there had been a lot of twists and turns in my journey so I’m really glad to just get in there and start.

Congratulations to the class of 2017!

And congratulations to all educators — new, current and retiring — on the amazing work you do for students.

It’s hard work. It’s unpredictable and challenging and sometimes heart-breaking. But know this: you absolutely make a difference in the lives of your students every time you walk through the classroom door. So thank you.

We had one last question for Vermont’s newest middle-level educators: when we talk to you this time next year, what’s one thing you hope to have accomplished?

Shelly: A lot of things but probably most is I just want to find ways to engage students across the curriculum, across the NGSS standards. Because right now I find really cool things to do for ecosystem and really cool things to do for potential energy but not as many fun things to do about properties of waves. I’d just like to connect to that more.

Tony: I’m super thankful for this program. I think it’s a wonderful program. I think I’ve learned a ton. I hope that a year from now, I look back and think how I was pretty naïve to think that I had a whole plan set forward that I knew what I was doing because now, I’ve learned so much more, that I have an even bigger tool chest to work with. That’s my goal. My goal is that I continue to learn.

Emily: I want to build relationships with my students so that I can learn as much from them as they are learning from me. I think I want to be able to look back and know that I made a connection with everyone of my students so that they maybe had a part of their day that they have something to look forward to even if the rest of their day wasn’t going well.

Marley: I really hope that a year from now, I’m not just kind of following the teacher who went before me, use curriculum then I’m really making it my own.

Nicole: My big goal from the beginning has been that I just want each student to feel successful in one way or another. I want students to feel comfortable coming into the room, successful and confident. I just want them to feel like it’s a safe space so that’s what I want to get right.

David: Honestly, I really just hope that I’ll have been able to share my love of History, in particular.

The 21st Century Classroom is a production of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, at the University of Vermont. Subscribe to us on iTunes and don’t forget to like us on Facebook.

The following two tabs change content below.
Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by six dogs. Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

Latest posts by Audrey Homan (see all)

What do you think?