Dear Resident Class of 2014,
First, welcome to the Chicago Teacher Residency! My name is Savannah Jackson; this past year I have been a resident at National Teachers Academy with 27 of my favorite people: 25 first graders, my mentor and my co-resident. Next school year I will be joining the teachers, students and families at Marquette School of Excellence. Go Mustangs! And this is where it all starts!
I am genuinely thrilled for you to be joining a group of passionate, energetic, relentless Chicago teachers. There are many ways to become a teacher but this program is for those committed to becoming great teachers for the students of Chicago. The residency is here to provide experiences for you to be the best at your profession, making a real impact for students in high poverty schools.
As you take your first steps in the Teacher Residency, here are some words of advice from a few of us who have been through the trenches. I took an informal poll of my resident class, and am sharing with you the common threads.
1. It’s not about you; it’s about the kids. This student-centered message is a cornerstone of the residency experience. This is a phrase you might repeat over in your mind in the moments when it feels as if it’s about you. When you feel as if you are on stage or under a microscope or when everything about a scorecard, or observation, or interview suggests that this residency experience is all about you, it’s not about you. It’s about your students, and not just your students this year but generations of students who will pass through your classroom. You are becoming great for them.
2. Trust the process. Speaking from the opposite end of the Chicago Teacher Residency, you’ll be glad you stuck with it. This is a program that trains great teachers. I’ve met some of them. They’re truly great. So now that you’re here, consider yourself “all in.” A friend of mine recently said, “If you can’t get out of it, get into it.” Naturally, you at times may feel low on enthusiasm, you may be skeptical that this time will be well spent, you will certainly have many other responsibilities weighing on your mind. My advice is to put your game face on and challenge yourself to be a full participant. Be the sort of student you would love for your own students to be. You will not only get more from the experience, but your attitude will impact the people and climate around you. I’ve observed two teachers (both were former residents) who were masters of the game face. They made you believe they were interested in every meeting and presentation, they were ready to learn and to participate, and they might even be enjoying themselves? I want to be that kind of teacher. Be all in.
3. Let them know you care. Students want to learn for teachers who believe in them. Students believe us when our interactions with them say, “I see the greatness inside of you.” Make it clear to students that you are on their team, and students will want to hear what you have to say. Some students’ experiences have taught them that schools and teachers exist to determine winners and losers. Even in first grade, most students believe they have a good idea where they fall. Students who feel like winners continue on that track, applauded by teachers all along the way, and students who feel like losers begin to give up while the adults around them express frustration and disappointment. Let all your students feel like winners. Celebrate what may seem like a small victory to you, but is a significant victory for your scholar. They will know you see each of them as an individual, and they will begin to see themselves among the winners.
Finally, get ready to love this very hard job. Be prepared to be challenged and inspired by your students. While you will have difficult moments throughout the residency, you too will make it to the end. A year from now I hope you will have the realization I did: I have never worked so hard, nor been so happy in my entire life.
Resident Class 2013