My Inspiring Teaching Fellow
I remember last semester when I was told that I would be mentoring a Teaching Fellow in my English class this Spring. It would be my responsibility and privilege to provide a healthy learning environment for not only my English students but also an aspiring educator… I was nervous.
I remember, too, weeks before our Spring semester began, receiving an e-mail from my to-be Teaching Fellow; her name was Megan. She was pumped, passionate, and prepared. (I guess we’re going for alliteration in this… account.) She wanted to know if there was any reading material she could get moving on, and she wanted me to know she was stoked to be coming. I remember sitting on my friend’s floor over our Winter Break reading her letter and feeling compelled to immediately respond – I wanted Megan to know that I would do everything I could to help her get as much out of this experience as she was willing to put in. I hadn’t realized how passionate I would be about that. As we shared later, I may have been a little… overzealous in my response. But, I think that’s okay.
As everybody who is at all familiar with our program knows, our schedule is crazy – trying to introduce someone to classroom systems while helping them understand our chores systems, activity systems, faculty-meeting systems, expedition backpacking and river systems, etc… is just more intense than can be described. Megan, in the midst of all of it, figured out how to integrate her own system into it so she could keep track of everything. She made her own calendar to organize personal-recharge time, Teaching Fellow-duty time, and curriculum-planning time. And, during those planning hours, she was engaged, excited, and eager to know more (alliteration, see?!).
I remember that while in Chile we tried out block scheduling -which was a pretty huge success. Megan helped me come up with a creative way to present a Unit in six days that was normally taught over the course of fourteen. She observed me teaching the curriculum, and then she got to teach it to another class herself. It was awesome to see how she took my approach and morphed it to suit her style all the while fine-tuning what that style would be. She gracefully accepted feedback and immediately attempted to address it. She was growing intentionally and impressively fast.
I remember, too, that when we returned from Chile, it was her turn to teach an entire Unit. She was passionate about Into the Wild in a way that inspired me. It spoke to her interest in Psychology and Gender Studies. She found complicating questions in a text that could have been so simple. She pushed the kids to ask themselves what ‘privilege’ means. How many kids do you know that think about that? She incorporated oral history, magazine articles, scholarly articles, and visual art into her lessons. She helped them practice their metacognitive skills of self-assessment through Harkness discussion, in-class timed writes (with the multiple outcome of preparing them for the AP Language & Composition Exam), and peer reviews. Yet, what makes me the most excited about her development is her ability to manage a classroom dynamic in a way that feels playful, supportive, and educational. The students enjoy her class. They look to her for answers. They respect her questions.
I soooooooooooo (Look at all those ‘o’s!) appreciate contributing to a program that recognizes we all have room to grow. It doesn’t matter if we’re students, faculty, administrative staff, or Teaching Fellows. We came here for an opportunity to improve ourselves while helping others do so; Megan is both the product and the source of this ideology, and I couldn’t be prouder of her.