California Educator

August/September 2023

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Page 24 of 71

the course to begin with. We can also be transparent and model vulnerability, taking time to share some of our own interests, passions and pursuits. What do you wish someone had told you when you were a new educator? I'm sure I was told this: I wish I truly understood that it's okay to start slowly. Taking the time at the start of the year to build community, establish routines and expectations, and involve students as valuable stakeholders in their experiences saves so much time and headache when things get challenging. Especially as new teachers, we often hold ourselves to unre- alistic expectations of trying to live up to our mentors' image. This profession is a marathon, not a sprint, and every little experience shapes us into the teachers we become. What would you say to fellow educators as they embark on another school year? As a musician, I always feel best about a performance when I've practiced and prepared, and the same goes with starting the school year. The more I have thought out my first few days, weeks and even months, the more confident I feel once things get going. Further, the more prepared I feel, the easier it is to adapt and roll with the unexpected challenges synonymous with the beginning of the year. I recommend being deliberate about the classroom culture you aim to cre- ate. Setting the tone at the beginning of the year helps value what each student brings to the table, as well as gives them a better context for their role in the bigger picture through- out the year. Bridgette Donald-Blue F O U R T H G R A D E T E A C H E R , UTLA writing. I use a series of journal prompts and spend time with the students to get to know them. When students talk about what they like or share their stories you get to know them. What do you wish someone had told you when you were a new educator? I wish someone had told me to be patient with myself. I felt like I had to do everything perfectly. I took very seriously that I was someone's teacher. I thought about all the great and not so great teachers I had, and I wanted to get it right. Be patient and as long as your heart stays pure and you treat the students with respect and love, you will find your way. There is no need to stress trying to be perfect. What is the biggest challenge as an educator, and what is your approach/solution to overcoming it? I think the biggest challenge is class management. As a new teacher, I found it challenging to manage the needs of 30-plus first graders. Then, I got to know my students and families. I listened to and observed the students. I sought information and help from the parents. I invited those par- ents into the classroom and built a partnership. I eventually learned that not every student needed the exact same thing, and I used this knowledge of students to design class activi- ties and lessons. What would you say to fellow educators as they embark on another school year? Welcome to a brand-new year — a chance to make a very positive impact on students. The students are ready to be inspired by you and your teaching. Some students will need you more to be a support and strength in their community because school is their safe space. Some students will be new to the school and need you even more. The students are ready for new school journeys and new school friends and the new year. The students are ready for you. What does it mean to you to be an educator? To be an educator is to be a part of the community, the village that helps a child reach his or her unique potential. Teaching a child how to read or do math or support them in learning to think and solve problems, and igniting their nat- ural gifts to be successful is the joy of being an educator. To be an educator is to have a unique opportunity to be a part of the future. Very few professions can have direct impact on the future, but teachers do. We teach everyone. No matter what you do in life, everyone has been taught, impacted and inspired by a teacher. Advice about making connections with students? The beginning of the year is a time of wonder and new. You get a new class, new parents and a chance to build on your class community. I always spend time observing and talking to my students during lunch or recess. I also have them com- plete a 'getting to know you' worksheet to build community in the classroom. I call each family during the first two weeks of school. I want that first contact to be positive. I also invite parents to connect with me on Class Dojo so I can establish communication. Lastly, I have my students begin journal 23 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3

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