By Cathy Sosnowski
“Not to know is bad. Not to want to know is worse. Not to hope is unthinkable. Not to care is unforgiveable.” Nigerian proverb
Getting my newspaper the other day the air chilled my skin. “Fall,” I thought. My next thought “School.” As we ramp up for whatever this new school year holds, I am equally anxious and excited. Well, not quite equally. I miss the classroom and being with my colleagues and students. We all do. Yet I am more anxious about their safety as well as my own. Until we have a vaccine that is safe and widespread, I know we won’t be really safe. I do know, however, that it will happen in the not too distant future and the pandemic will become a lesson, a footnote, a series of stories of how we lived and endured.
I am equally anxious about how we will address the lack of social justice and systemic racism in our society when we go back. I know we worry about being political and maintaining a Swiss-like neutrality. Yet I am reminded of the Nigerian proverb that graced my blackboard for a decade. We cannot unknow what we have witnessed and not to care negates the very foundation of our work as teachers.
Our cancelled May conference focused on these very issues. Equity and inclusion are vital pillars of our work. Given that, the CTCTE is crafting a series of webinars, book clubs, author talks to support our members and learning.
We are all at different places in this work. Our goal is to provide a variety of on ramps, as my friend Cathy Nicastro calls them, to meet our members where they are and help them forward.
So much of this work has to start with who we are as people first. It is through examining our own lens and identities as white people before we have those conversations with our students that we have the best chance of real change. A recent article in Medium magazine makes the case that racism is not a binary – racist/ not racist – but rather a continuum and accepting that we are on that continuum allows us to focus our energy on moving forward. Whether I want to admit it or not, as a white woman I am stewed in the white privilege of our society. I have not always seen the benefits it has afforded me and worse, I have assumed that all people shared in that benefit. By owning that, I can begin to focus on where that lens clouds my vision, inspect the ways I can change, lean into making my corner of the world more inclusive. In short, I can be what Mellody Hobson describes as color brave in her 2014 Ted talk. This is necessary but challenging work. Drafting this I am struggling to find the words to move you to action, to express the urgency of this need. Instead I’ll share the NCTE Conversation session with Wes Moore, Rhodes scholar and author, where he describes his not so successful early school years and what made the difference. This video has haunted me for much of the summer. While we know we have an impact on our students, I wonder if we know how deeply our students take our words to heart? Or the lifechanging impact our seeing them has?
In the April 2014 issue Educational Leadership printed an infographic on why teachers enter the profession. A resounding 85 percent of teachers come into our profession to make a difference in the lives of students. It is our driving force. This I believe with all my heart. Let this new year and these learning opportunities be a tool to help we reach all of our students.
By Kris Nystrom
I cannot tell if English teachers are more anxious or nervous about going back to school this year. Maybe there just isn’t enough of a difference. Or maybe there are so many unknowns, the feelings amplify one another.
My own anxiety comes from normal pre-school jitters that return the same way my joints ache when it’s about to rain. I set for lofty goals every year, despite a spotty record of success: connect with the kids, enthrall them with relevancy, deploy effective strategies, publish important research, live an antiracist lifestyle. For us school folk who prepare every summer to get it right this year, it is “the charm of the beginning of things” (Lionel Trilling), as Robert Spiegel quotes in his delightful essay. As a perennial recidivist, it makes me anxious.
My nervousness comes from “these unprecedented times” that put us at the mercy, once again, of politicians, school boards, and community loud speakers who know only a little more than Betsy DeVos about public education. We’re taking our chances in America’s second big experiment, opening schools in a pandemic. “Critical infrastructure workers,” without the resources. I am reminded of a parent who said “knock on wood” about how none of our kids participating on a lacrosse team this summer got sick. Going back to school? Knock on wood.
But among the unknowns about the year ahead, much less the week ahead, I do know this: likewise anxious and nervous students will be looking to us for how to act when they return. They will be seeking ways of thinking about themselves and their place in this world, gauging where and how they fit in this institution, in this community, in this class.
They are looking for love. Call it fitting in or blending in; call it feeling valued, accepted, or recognized; call it filling the social and emotional voids they don’t or can’t get outside school—it the end, kids are looking to be seen (or not), to be heard, and for someone to show up for them.
During the shutdown last spring, novelist Okey Ndibe did a videoconference on African literature and Things Fall Apart with one of our classes. A student asked him about an important lesson the book offers, and Mr. Ndibe mentioned ihunanya, or love in Igbo. Ihunanya is one of the universal lessons literature conveys: like Okonkwo, we are all looking for love. That evening I asked my Nigerian friend Cici about the word ihunanya, and she laughed: “We have a hard time being romantic in our expressions for love. It means something more like ‘I see you.’”
Ihunanya is unconditional. It is not the love for what one could be, or the love of a “we [heart] our essential workers” lawn sign that sounds a little like “our thoughts and prayers are with you,” but the love that honors being, presence: a voice, a starting point, a journey ahead.
The CT SDE put out guidelines for reopening schools, which include planning the first unit of instruction ahead “[t]o reduce student anxiety and ease them back into learning” (29). And skipping the test (30). It’s good advice. Even better is to find ways to meet kids with ihunanya when they come through our classroom portals, physical or virtual, this year. If we plan on that, we’ve got nothing to worry about. And neither do they.
By Cathy Sosnowski
Starting a yoga practice has been a humbling experience. As a half-marathoner, I thought I was in good shape. I was – for a half marathoner. The endurance, the ability to pace myself knowing when to speed up and when to conserve my energy, I had those down pat after ten years. However, yoga requires more than just endurance. Flexibility, core strength and balance are needed as well. Things I hadn’t developed because I didn’t need them.
I started the yoga class to break up the monotony of distance work. Cross- training in another discipline would also help me tweak what I thought was already a solid practice. The first month was an exercise in humility. While I could get into most poses eventually, it wasn’t graceful, and moving from one pose to the other didn’t flow as much as painfully contort. Imagine the monster walking in Frankenstein. It was something like that. While I had decent core strength, I lacked balance and coordination. Attempting a tree pose would have me careening into the hapless person next to me or the wall. I struggled with getting to the top of my body to coordinate with the bottom of my body. One night about three months in, I realized I had moved from downward dog to a forward bend at the top of the mat not only without falling or slapping my foot down, but without conscious thought. I had enough flexibility to pull my leg up and then down with something approaching grace. Dreaded tree pose became less wobbly. There was a flow as I moved from Warrior 2 to Reverse Warrior and back again. I’d survived the wobble and made it to the flow. The last several weeks as we’ve been required to leap headfirst into distance learning are a lot like that pose…wobble… flow. It’s made us rethink what we thought we had down. It requires a skill set that many of us don’t have or had enough of when we were teaching face to face. Careening into virtual walls is the new norm.
On the other hand, this is a time of reflection and community learning. As we realize what we knew doesn’t fit this new norm, we reach out to others to help us through the webinars and workshops that our teaching communities, publishing houses, and organizations are putting out. A webinar with teachers at international schools in China on what they’ve learned in their 19 weeks of distance learning is that this week will be better than next, that parents will need support as they become teaching assistants, that the online medium amplifies everything. Jessica Lifshitz, grade 5 teacher extraordinaire, had the best insight to center our work. What used to take her two days to do face to face now takes a week which led me to dramatically scale back what my student teachers do as they create their plans. We’ve all learned how much we miss our school families – student and colleague. Administrators are learning, just as we do check ins to help our students deal with this, administrators need to do check ins with us, not for the academics, but for how we are handling this new uncertain world.
We’re learning it’s hard to figure out how to count things and how to translate grading and GPA if we didn’t have established policies to start with. If we haven’t had conversations on mastery and what students should know and be able to do and what really matters and access and equity and social-emotional learning, how do we transition smoothly or at least with a minimum of wobbling? An educator in a webinar for New England administrators this past week raised the best question: what if this change affords us the opportunity to look at grades and GPA, standardized testing, SATs, standards, not as sacred cows, but why we do them and do they do what we need them to? What if this becomes the opportunity to look at those things that have at times the very impediment to progress? As terrifying as this has been, what if it ushers in a new age of teaching?
Until then, my friends, be patient and embrace the wobble. The shake is your muscles getting stronger. We will go back to face to face learning. Yet we will be fundamentally changed by this experience. We will see the places where we fell. And we will realize how we fell less often and maybe, at times, we actually even flowed.
By Aiyah Moustafa
I always knew I wanted to be an English teacher. Throughout my years of schooling, I attended a predominantly Black and Latino district. Despite that fact, all of my English teachers were white, except for one. That odd one out, so to speak, was my senior year AP English teacher. She wasn't Black or Latina but an Arab, like me. Through her, I saw my future self finally actualized. I knew at the time that I would face an uphill battle answering the questions, “Why English?” and “Why a teacher?” and I knew that if she could do it, I could too. That senior year, my love for English multiplied not just because of the content, but because I knew that I would always have a place in the English classroom, even beyond 12th grade.
We know that students need teachers to look up to. We know that students need teachers that look like them. But as our demographics continue to rise across the state and as our teaching methods continue to become more inclusive of our students, we also need to consider how we can support ourselves: the few and far between. The rate of pre-service teacher drop-out is astronomical today. Add that to the limited number of teachers of color beyond year 3, and the chances of finding a teacher of color becomes a tall order. I cannot change the systemic issue that contributes to these statistics, but I know that I can help start a network where we don’t have to feel like the only one.
As a teacher of color, key moments stand out in my memory when I think back on my 5 years of teaching. I've been a part of private schools, Title 1 schools, privilege public schools, and within each of these institutions, my craft has been tested and honed.
As English teachers, our interests, backgrounds, and perspectives vary; and you will see a more immense variation between our challenges, successes, styles, and goals. There is no monolithic worldview or fix-all for any of our struggles but we can begin the conversation by building an empathetic connection within a safe community.
As educators, we know that our words carry a powerful weight. Come to this meeting prepared to personally connect with one another, grow together and empower ourselves. Our focus will be community building, emotional collaboration, and networking. Join us as we create a professional network to support our fellow educators and empower ourselves.
By Kris Nystrom
"To be antiracist is to conquer the assimilationist consciousness and the segregationist consciousness."
"Racial solidarity: openly identifying, supporting, and protecting integrated racial spaces. To be antiracist is to equate and nurture difference among racial groups."
~ Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist
Get a bunch of privileged white folks together talking about antiracist efforts and you’ll inevitably start hearing about things we do to prove our empathy, our consciousness, our enlightenment. We all want to get to the other side of prejudice. We all want to be an ally.
But we can never be woke.
Elijah C. Watson, News and Culture Editor at Okayplayer, has written about the origin of the term woke, which he traces to a 1962 New York Times article “If You’re Woke You Dig It” by William Melvin Kelley. It came into popular use recently through songs by Childish Gambino and, particularly, Erykah Badu’s “Master Teacher.” Keyed on black identity, woke represented a state of awareness encompassing past and present expressions of American racism. Watson suggests woke was killed when it appeared in a 2017 Jeopardy! category “Stay Woke,” which appropriated it as a cultural trend:
"The moment was a sobering representation of the continual mishandling of blackness in America. Our culture is treated as a trend. But for black people stay woke is anything but — it’s a fucking lifestyle for us. Each and every day, having to be aware that because of the color of your skin you could be legally defined as someone’s property; you could be shot and hung for allegedly talking to or whistling at a white woman; you could be arrested and placed in one of the most dangerous jails in the country for a crime you never committed. Woke was simultaneously a cool and militant descriptor for our experience, a word that channeled our reality into something empowering. Now, it’s gone."
Allies who want to step into discomfort and take part in evolving our culture through antiracist work must also step off the notion that this is about us. Instead of using the power that comes with privilege to name what it means to be a teacher of color, we must give up privilege and give over power.
If we’re genuine about our aims for equity and social justice, us privileged white folks need to make space for teachers of color. We need to step aside—we cannot name the identity we want others to assume—and step back—listen, openly and objectively. Our role is not to give or tell, which is magnanimous at best and patronizing or worse. Our role is to understand, stand alongside, and become aware. But not woke.
CTCTE’s efforts to engage antiracist work is risky, but it’s also vital. It’s risky because we are confronting an evil past that is present, both in our communities and in our own, culturally wrought, thought patterns. It’s almost certain we’ll make mistakes. But we’re committed. This cannot be a trend. Most of us are allies; board and membership representation are nowhere near the color of our state. Our aim is to use our resources, including the cultural capital that comes with white privilege, to divest power to teachers of color. The Conversations as Teachers of Color series is a start. Please join us.
Watson, Elijah C. “The Origin of Woke: How Erykah Badu and Georgia Anne Muldrow Sparked the ‘Stay Woke’ Era.” Okayplayer, 27 February 2018, https://www.okayplayer.com/originals/georgia-muldrow-erykah-badu-stay-woke-master-teacher.html.
By Julie Sochaki
As we fully settle into the brand-new school year, I cannot help but think of having a growth mindset and integrating our individual strengths into our practices. While identifying key strengths can help our students build confidence and increase performance in the classroom, I integrate these elements into my own life as well, especially when I hit a roadblock or need some extra inspiration on this teaching journey.
Recently in my class of first-year college students, I invited them to choose one element from Dr. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. Then I asked the learners how they can integrate this element into their lives this week. I ultimately wanted to know how they shifted their thinking in order to succeed. Many students chose “embracing challenges” (growth) instead of “avoiding challenges” (fixed). One student shared that in order for her to embrace challenges she needs to take risks and move outside of her comfort zone. Another student told the story of how he had “failed” at ice skating multiple times, only to make the school ice hockey team a year later. That doesn’t sound like failure to me. Their combined strengths of determination and passion allowed them to continue without giving up. It reminds me of Thomas Edison’s experience when he discovered the light bulb. He said the lightbulb is an invention with 1,000 steps.
Similarly, we as mentors and mentees can embrace a growth mindset and cultivate our individual character strengths. Strengths inventories helped me to identify these empowering characteristics within myself such as creativity, gratitude, perseverance, zest, teamwork, and optimism. Identifying and then leveraging our strengths are essential when making small incremental changes in our practices that lead to larger shifts in our thinking and in our classrooms. Why not embark on a journey for this school year with a fellow traveler? Perhaps you crave support or a good listener, or maybe you would like to share some of your wisdom with another teacher outside of your building.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, more information can be found here. If you decide to apply to be a mentor or mentee click here. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Nicole Martone or Julie Sochacki, mentoring program co-chairs.
By Catherine Sosnowski
“The places in which we are seen and heard are holy places. They remind us of our value as human beings. They give us the strength to go on.”
- Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal
In a few weeks, I’ll celebrate my thirty-eighth anniversary as a teacher. It seems like yesterday. Dressed in a khaki pencil skirt and a lilac top, I felt so professional, armed with the mantra don’t smile before Christmas and 250 pages of suggested activities.
I have such vivid memories of that day. Who knew sweat circles could stretch to your waist? Not smiling lasted 30 minutes into the first class. I couldn’t be someone other than me. It was one of many decisions I made that year – good and bad- that shaped who I became as a teacher. While trying to have seventh graders write a ghazal was not my finest moment, attending the NCTE annual convention that year was. My methods teacher insisted we join NCTE, a place she knew we would find support and a sense of community. She was right. So right. Being a first-year teacher was just hard. Overwhelmed, I worried if what I was doing was really teaching. I learned how hard it can be to ask for direction or advice from colleagues. Who wants to admit they don’t really know what they’re doing? Being that vulnerable was out of the question. Worse still, I felt I was the only one, a lonely imposter.
Attending the NCTE convention that first year reframed that for me. I met teachers from all over the country, all levels of experience who talked about the challenges they faced. They were my challenges too. It wasn’t just my class or my school or my district. I learned in our profession we try and fail and reflect and revise. And we try again. I learned there is no one magic way or answer, but multiple ways. My problems were the same as the teacher from Guam and Kansas. In short, I learned these are English teacher challenges. As I attended different workshops and listened to others, my head filled with ideas and possibilities I’d never considered. I came home with books signed by my favorite author, an armload of handouts from the Idea Exchange, feeling empowered to take on this task. Now that I knew this was hard for everyone, no matter their years of experience, I felt more grounded. One step at a time, I learned. One step at a time. I joined the CT Council of Teachers of English shortly afterward.
What that convention and subsequent CT Council conferences did for me over my career was to provide a place I felt seen and heard, where my experience and ideas had value. I have worked in a district where I was blessed to feel that way. However, I’ve also worked in more where I didn’t. As tired as I may be, as much as I might want to skip a conference, because sometimes it feels like just one straw too many, I know I will leave lighter, engaged, more valued than I was going in. I still have and use strategies from those first conferences. Others have served as a springboard for my own ideas. I came to know teachers from other parts of the state, comparing notes on our experiences and leaving knowing we were not the only ones. It is so easy in our profession when we don’t attend conferences and meet colleagues to assume our class/ school/ district is far behind. I came to use these conferences as an opportunity to calibrate my experience. Sometimes we were on the lower end of the spectrum, but sometimes we weren’t. The support of colleagues who share this work - to engage the disengaged, balance work and home, to agonize over how to manage the sheer volume of grading, mandates, standardized testing – being with people who walk in my shoes is healing itself.
Standing on the threshold of a new year I can feel the nervous excitement as we start new classes. These first weeks are unique in the possibility they hold. We have had the summer to rest, to heal, to reflect, to plan. If last year was difficult, we work to make this year better. If last year was good, we work to repeat it. We hate to leave the freedom of summer, but the challenge of the new year can be a siren song to get it better, righter, stronger. Please know CTCTE is here to support you in those challenges. May this new year bring you joy and blessings.
By Catherine Sosnowski
In the first half marathon I did, I was okay for the first nine miles. Now mind you, I wasn’t setting any speed records. I was walking at a decent clip, but I hadn’t collapsed in a sweaty, whining heap either. I was full of self-congratulations…until I passed mile 9 marker. My body was done. My energy was tapped out. My mind resembled tapioca. D.O.N.E. Done. I thought about all the sneaky, cheaty ways I could shave those last 4.1 miles off. I wanted to. I really did. But my better angel intervened, much to the chagrin of my body, and I continued honorably, if slower, to the finish.
As we round the stretch into the last weeks of school, I think of mile 9. My body is done. My energy is tapped out. My mind resembles a drop of water color paint in water, it fades so fast. D.O.N.E. Except we still have 3 weeks left. It is always a white-knuckle ride to the end of the last day.
The site We Are Teachers shared the following online during Teacher Appreciation Week. “What people don’t understand about teaching is that it sticks with you all the time. There is no getting up from your desk at the end of the day and walking away.
I think about my students as I fall asleep at night and the first thing in the morning. I realize a lot of jobs are 24/7 these days, but there’s a unique emotional labor to teaching that goes unnoticed.”
We even have lingo for this now: compassion fatigue, empathetic fatigue, vicarious trauma. Education has started to consider the impact of trauma on our students, especially their mental health. This is a good thing. Yet, the solution is always teachers will do this work. Sometimes there is training for this – a day, maybe a few- and then teachers add this to a plate that is not full as much as overflowing. Worse, the assumption is made that we are emotionally and mentally healthy enough to take on this difficult, necessary work. This is the emotional labor We Are Teachers referred to. In many ways, teachers are first responders. This is especially true for us as ELA teachers. We often know, through discussions, through student writing, where students are emotionally. I think of John who mailed his suicide letter to me because he knew he could talk with me. (I am grateful the U.S. mail was fast, and John was safe.) Or Jeanette who wrote a poem about her sexual abuse and trying to prevent her father from doing the same to her sister. Or Devin whose father was murdered by a neighbor. I think of the faces of his classmates the next day asking me, “What do we do?” and I remind myself that no matter where we work these things happen everywhere. There is no immunity.. This is the stuff they don’t teach us in teacher school.
In my new status as semi-retired, I’ve been working with a colleague at CCSU on teacher resilience. In the lit review we discovered there is very little research being done in the U.S., but there is a lot of research being done internationally. This is, it seems, not unique to us here, but part and parcel of being a teacher. There’s some comfort in that, I suppose. My wonder is why? We know that 82% of teachers come into the profession to make a difference in the lives of their students. We know 50% of first year teachers will leave by year 5. We know one of the most cited reasons for leaving is lack of support. Unless we have a group of like-minded colleagues, an affinity group, to share our stories and our concerns, the weight of each day is harder and harder until it is unbearable.
A meme making the rounds on self-care sites is “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Such a prefect line to explain what we need to do. If we don’t attend to our health – mental and physical, we cannot attend to the needs of our students. Self-care is not selfish; it is critical to our survival and thrival (I know it’s not a word, but it should be). As we move toward our mile 9 marker, I ask that you take a bit of time – to sit quietly, to turn your face to the sun, and just breathe.
Thank you for your work this year, for making a difference. You are my affinity group, and I look forward to seeing you when we are rested and full of ideas for the new school year. It will be epic! Enjoy your summer!
Side note: To celebrate the end of the school year, join CT CTE at the Florence Griswold Museum on June 20th from 1:00-4:00. See https://www.ctcte.net/upcoming-events.html for more information.
by Dina Secchiaroli
Professional Learning Specialist at Area Cooperative Educational Services
Membership Chair for CTCTE
Have you ever read student writing that looked good but didn’t say much? You know the kind of writing I’m talking about - the grammar is mostly correct, the writing is organized, the evidence is detailed, the voice is inauthentic, and the thinking, regurgitated.
When it comes to writing instruction, too often we spend classroom time focused on how to write rather than on how to think. We have lessons on how to write a thesis or claim, how to incorporate evidence, how to hook your reader, how to use a comma, etc. That’s not to say these aren’t important components to effective writing, but they won’t improve writing if we don’t also provide instructional time for students to figure out what they want to say. What percentage of class time do we allot towards exploratory writing and discussion, where students are writing and speaking to discover and clarify their thinking, both during and after reading? What strategies and protocols do we teach students to have these meaningful conversations? What structures have we created so they can capture the thinking of the class and be able to return to it throughout the year?
One way to explore thinking is through a Discovery Draft where students, in paragraph form, think through their fingers without worrying about structure or correctness. Students reference their reading journals and discussion notes to inform their thinking. Once their discovery draft is written, usually a 20-30 minute endeavor, in pairs or small groups they read aloud their discovery drafts while the group listens for the following:
For all types of writing:
In addition to the above, for argument:
In addition to the above, for analysis:
In addition to the above, for narrative:
When we read student writing that while polished and organized lacks substance, we should consider how many in-class opportunities we provided for students to explore their thinking. Certainly polished and organized writing is important, but so is the quality of the content in the writing. If we say we value student thinking, then our lesson design and time structures need to reflect its importance.
Novice English/language arts teachers have a great deal to learn as they take on new schools, new students and new curriculum. Mentors and cooperating teachers across the state of Connecticut have taught me what it means to best support our newest colleagues. Here are three of the many lessons I’ve learned:
1. Always remember the needs of the novice.
Stop for a moment and recall yourself as a novice teacher. How would you describe your student teaching experience or your first year? What challenges did you face? How did you feel? Remembering our own experiences helps us garner the empathy necessary to be effective support teachers. It also reminds us that although we are now experienced and use structures and strategies to enhance our work, on any given day we may experience some of the same concerns as our novice colleagues. How will I establish a positive classroom environment when I have particularly challenging students? How will I engage all learners? Will I have time to make it to the bathroom today?
As we remember the needs of the novice and ourselves as new teachers, let’s be honest: we have made our fair share of mistakes. In fact, we may have learned more from those mistakes than from our initial successes. Over time, making thoughtful (and sometimes not so thoughtful) choices and reflecting on the impact of those choices has improved our decision making and outcomes for the students in our classrooms. Sharing this truth will help our novice teachers set realistic goals for professional growth and provide assurance that with guided support and reflection, they, too, will build expertise and confidence.
2. Embrace a positive attitude that demonstrates your passion for teaching.
It’s important that we ask ourselves: Do we still embrace a positive attitude for teaching? In what ways do we demonstrate a passion for teaching English/language arts?
Something interesting happens when we strive to be more specific in our reflection here. As we reflect, we might wonder: what does a positive attitude and passion for teaching look like or sound like? How might we see evidence of it in a classroom filled with students or in a hallway between classes? What does it look like in a professional learning community or a data team meeting? How is this evidenced in our interactions with our colleagues? The next time you are in the teacher’s room or a department meeting, pay attention to your own words and actions and those of your colleagues. Where do you see evidence of a positive attitude or a passion for teaching? Perhaps you’ll be surprised by what you discover, and, hopefully, pleasantly so.
As support teachers, the messages that we send about teachers and about our students are heard loud and clear. Our novice colleagues are watching and listening. Let’s continue to demonstrate the positive attitude and passion for English education that we hold so dear and that we hope to engender in those newest to the profession.
3. Believe there’s an opportunity for you to learn as much as your novice teacher.
We know that it takes time, hard work, and continuous reflection to become an effective English/language arts teacher; the same is true of becoming an effective support teacher. While you will find initial successes in this support role, there will likely be challenges, too. You may find yourself working alongside a novice with a different learning style, a novice who lacks a depth of content understanding, or even a novice who feels she doesn’t need the guided support of an experienced teacher. When you face a challenge and feel unsure of how to proceed or are not initially successful, what will your problem-solving strategy be? Will you seek the help of a colleague? If so, how will you collaborate in a way that is respectful to the novice you are supporting? Remaining actively engaged in the process provides an opportunity to develop and apply new learning to ensure that the teacher you’re supporting will be successful. Ultimately, we hope this willingness to learn and improve practice, whether it’s in the classroom or as a support teacher, will continue to inspire our learning partners, too.
Remember the novice. Embrace a positive attitude. Be open to learning. The three ideas shared might seem simple, but it’s something else altogether to put them into practice. In the spirit of on-going learning and continuous improvement, I invite you to watch for evidence of how these three ideas show up in your practice as you support novices and then reflect more deeply on what you notice. What does it make you wonder? What next steps will you take?
Carly Weiland Quiros (email@example.com) serves as the CT-CTE RESC Liaison and is a Professional Learning Specialist at EdAdvance in Litchfield, Connecticut.