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From Teacher Resident to Mentor Teacher – Meet Mr. Grewal

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Mr. Grewal and I teach 6th grade at Alpha: Cornerstone Academy. After college I joined AmeriCorps City Year, an education nonprofit dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. Through that experience I realized that I wanted to work in education but didn’t feel ready to have my own classroom yet. The Teacher Residency program was the right program to help me build experience and obtain my teaching credential. I am now in my 4th year of teaching. 

What did you enjoy about the Residency program?

The most crucial way for teachers to become great is through experience. There were things I learned that I couldn’t have read about in textbooks. I was able to observe my mentor teacher and pick up best practices on leading and managing a classroom. Being introduced as the partner teacher on day one helped set the foundation to building trust and relationships with the students. 

There was a clear plan for ramping up responsibilities over time. Initially I was teaching one block; by the end of the school year I was teaching multiple subjects and responsible for developing lesson plans. 

Looking back on your experience, would you have approached the path to teaching differently?

No, I would do the Residency program all over again. The first year of teaching is the most difficult and having the support of my mentor teacher, providing real-time feedback and coaching made a significant impact. 

Even though you were new to teaching, you weren’t new to working with children. How important is it to have experience working with children?

While the Teacher Residency program will definitely help fast-track your career, I do think that prior experience working with children is paramount to your success. Building trust and credibility takes time and that happens when working with children is your passion. When we say the “work” is hard, the students are the work. We have to do right by them and be the right influence in their lives to help them succeed and reach their full potential. Teaching is a service profession and is not something you can back into. The passion and drive need to be there first. 

You are often recognized as one of our most effective teachers, not only able to increase student performance but also have one of the highest culture scores. How would you describe your classroom culture and how do you promote a positive learning environment?

It has always been instilled in me that my time should be maximized with efficiency and purpose, so I make it a priority to communicate the rationale behind everything I do. Students need to see the immediate impact of even the most minute task. If I cannot explain the significance when students ask “why”, then I would not expect my students to spend time on that task. I think my students recognize that I value their time and therefore we have built a strong culture of open communication and being able to think critically. 

What made you want to become a mentor teacher?

This opportunity was presented to me and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it at first. I’m confident in my ability to model great teaching skills but I am working on developing my management and coaching skills. That being said, I am extremely excited for this opportunity. 

During my residency, I was coached by a mentor teacher who had a strong classroom environment in place. It gave me the opportunity to practice my craft in a safe place so that even if an interaction with the class went poorly or a project didn’t go as intended, the students weren’t going to suffer because of the structures and systems that were built. I consider it a privilege to be able to provide a similar space for residents. 

What is your advice to incoming residents?

I really do think if teaching is your passion, then the residency program is the right fit. Unlike student teaching in a more traditional Masters of Education program, you won’t just be learning instructional skills in a vacuum. You’re going to be building relationships with students and getting to know them on a personal level, and putting into practice all the things that you learn into the classroom.

Interested in becoming a Teacher Resident through our partnership with Alder GSE? Apply today! https://www.alphapublicschools.org/residency-at-alder-gse/