by Jasmine Williams
Jasmine Williams began her teaching career last year at Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School. This 2014 Teach for America corps member is also pursuing her Master’s degree in Educational Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. In this Q and A, she shares her first year experiences.
What was your greatest challenge as a first year teacher?
Navigating the curriculum – I was teaching first grade math and science. As new teacher we received the curriculum a week before school started. I worked hard those first months trying to stay on pace while also addressing the needs of my students. I was able to get support from the more veteran teachers and I would encourage new teachers to reach out when they need help.
What was the first day like in your new school?
Weird – I wasn’t sure what to expect and when I got to class that first day. The students were there with their parents. I was new to the school, new to teaching, and had no idea what the expectations would be.
What was your biggest disappointment the first year?
Handling behavioral problems – There was one student in particular that I wanted to help but I didn’t feel I met his needs. Through collaboration with his family I was able to manage his behavior, but I would have like to see more growth in the student’s behavior. Dealing with challenging behaviors really strengthen my teaching practices and classroom management.
I did use a mobile application called, Class Dojo. This application is a communicating platform that helps improve your classroom management. Class Dojo encourages positive behavior and keeps parents informed about student progress.
Were there any surprises the first year?
Definitely – There were additional responsibilities outside of classroom teaching that were important to the success of the school. Bulletin boards, administrative duties, and a number of meetings – internal to the school and external. When I started I thought I would be mostly responsible for teaching my students.
What areas did you wish you had better preparation?
Content preparation – I wish I had been better prepared in the content areas – science and math. Again, this is another subject where the veteran teachers and my instructors at Johns Hopkins School of Education were very helpful.
What would you do differently?
Culture and Climate – I would devote more time to the culture and climate of the classroom. I want to create an environment where students are excited to learn. I want to create a culture where my student value learning and see themselves in the curriculum. This year, I plan to putt heavy emphasis on community through holding each other accountable for classroom learning. Baltimore has really heighten its awareness to the social injustices that have plagued the city for years. The recent riots and death of Freddie Gray have really pushed me to look at my classroom as an intentional space to prepare my student to be their own advocates and encourage leadership.
What are you most proud of?
Relationships with parents – I quickly learned the importance of keeping parents informed. Parents are vital to the learning process. Their engagement is crucial to the success of their students. I would call parents every week not just for disciplinary issues but for academic successes. I noticed that as my relationship with my students parents grew close, students responded to my management style. I must say, every bit of my success in my first year had much to do with my active parent involvement. I adopted the mindset that, no parent on this earth doesn’t want their child to succeed regardless of their own personal circumstances.
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