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Reflections: The Teacher Residency Program Helped Fast-Track My Career
Ms. Garcia, 7th Grade ELA & History Teacher at Alpha: Blanca Alvarado School
March 4, 2020
How long have you been a teacher with Alpha?
This is my fourth year on campus. Third year in a teaching capacity. I started in the after school program at Alpha: Blanca Alvarado back in 2016.
What drew you to apply to the Teacher Residency program? What made you want to become a teacher?
Middle school is such a pivotal moment for many of our students. Looking back on my own experience, it was a time that could have been academically successful or gone down a very different path based on the influences around me. Since this is a critical developmental stage for our scholars, I wanted to be the adult at school that they could depend on when things were tough at home or with their friends. I wanted to be the adult I wish I had had when I was their age. That makes it much easier to come to work everyday, even when I’m tired. That’s what brought me to the after school program on campus through Citizen Schools. As part of that program, I was also providing push in support to a full time teacher and was getting to work with a lot of students. This helped develop stronger relationships with the students as well as the full time staff. Ms. Nava, the principal at Alpha: Blanca Alvarado saw that I was building great relationship and encouraged me to apply for the Teacher Residency program. I was really nervous at first. I knew that I loved working with children and I was thinking about the process of becoming a teacher but I didn’t think it would happen so quickly! The residency program was a jump start to the process and fast-tracked my plan.
In terms of the pathway to teaching, how has your experience been?
The residency program definitely created a structured pathway to becoming a teacher. The program laid out each step I needed to take, from knowledge building to getting credentialed. I think it would have been a lengthier process had I pursued teaching on my own. I would have likely applied to graduate school and tried to figure things out from there. I’m happy to have been able to learn on the job and not just from a textbook. So far the experience has been largely positive, thanks to all the support from the professionals around me who have provided real time guidance and mentorship. The only piece about teaching that has been a bit less positive, just because it’s exhausting, is behavior management. Everyone will tell you that its challenging and that you’ll have to be patient, but you really have no idea until you’re in the classroom. After my first full day of teaching I felt like I could have slept for ever! Exams are also tough, but you will always have support through this program, but if you are not accustomed to working with children, I would HIGHLY recommend building some experience in that area first.
Can you talk a little bit about the residency itself? In terms of getting hands-on experience and being prepared to lead a class of your own.
Having a solid lead teacher was a key driver of success in my experience. I had open communication with my lead teacher in terms of what I was ready to take on. Being able to manage a classroom and having a trusting, positive relationship with my class was top of mind for me. It was important for me to feel like a “real” teacher from day one to be able to build those relationships. I didn’t want my students to see my lead teacher as the real teacher and me as an aid. Middle schoolers pick up on power dynamics really fast, and I wanted to ensure I build up an authoritative voice sooner rather than later.
What did you enjoy about being a resident?
I loved being in the room with another adult. It was so nice to have immediate feedback. For example, my lead teacher and I came up with hand signals for talking too fast or not talking loud enough. If I started to ramble, I would see the hand signals go up and know when I needed to make adjustments.
Now that you have your own class, what advice would you give to incoming residents?
My biggest advice is to collaborate with your lead teacher, fellow residents, and other professionals on your campus. Do not think that you have to do any of this on your own. I learned so much from so many people on my team. What keeps me coming back year after year is knowing that I have this amazing staff to support me. Developing those relationships in those first years and talking to everyone about anything and everything, really helped me grow both professionally and personally.
To learn more about our residency program, visit https://www.alphapublicschools.org/residency-at-alder-gse/ and apply today!
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