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Resident Reflections

In this interview, Raven reflects on her residency experience and its influence on her professional practice.
 
What drew you to the Inspired Teaching Residency?
I was at a job researching commercial real estate - and hated it. As I contemplated my next step, I tried to think of when I was at my happiest and recalled my time working at a summer camp. I decided I wanted to get into teaching. While researching different teaching programs I was drawn to the philosophy of Inspired Teaching — specifically the idea of learning through play and exploration.
 
What does it mean to be an Inspired Teacher? What distinguishes Inspired Teachers?
When I think of Inspired Teachers, they are child-centered and children come first. They believe in learning through play and exploration and are innovative in their practice, often making real-world connections. They are culturally aware and responsive, holding high expectations for students. Inspired Teachers are reflective - both about self and their classroom practice - and use that reflection to constantly push them and try new things.
 
What was your favorite thing about completing your residency at Inspired Teaching Demonstration School?
Through my residency placement, I was able to see first-hand that the Inspired Teaching philosophy worked in a real setting. I also appreciated having other teachers, previous fellows, and current fellows close by to support me through the residency year.
 
What have you been up to - professionally - since completing your residency year?
This is my 3rd year teaching prekindergarten at Powell Elementary School in the District of Columbia Public School System. Powell is a dual-language school where students from various language backgrounds learn English and Spanish. This is my first year serving as Grade Level Lead at my school.
 
What, specifically, have you carried with you from ITDS to your current role?
Three things come to mind:
  1. Journaling. I’ve become very self-reflective — always reflecting on my teaching practice trying to improve lessons, follow student interest, and adapt to current situations (specifically, virtual teaching).
  2. Real-world connections. My lessons are rooted in the things around us. Instead of standing in front of the board telling students how to count, we count while we build towers, play in the kitchen, draw pictures, or eat snack. We explore patterns around us in our clothes or in the sounds of the city. We learn empathy as we talk about what's happening in the world.
  3. Creating a strong classroom community and culture. It’s so important to ensure that students feel connected to and part of our classroom. Our classroom alphabet wall and number line are created each year by the students (as opposed to a store-bought one). During each study, the students’ work is displayed across our classroom. Student learning is clear and on display. Student pictures and family pictures are prominent in our classroom. This is OUR classroom and OUR space.
Do you still keep in touch with any of the teachers or students from your year ITDS?
Yes! I love hearing about what is happening in the ITDS community from my colleagues.
 
Anything else you would like to add?
One thing that I have always liked about Inspired Teaching is that we do not shy away from tough conversations. During my residency year we had conversations to acknowledge and understand our privileges and biases. I have seen teachers come into communities and not understand who they are serving. We all know the statistics around the student to prison pipeline; that students of color are more likely to be held back or suspended; and the achievement gap. Right now our world is really divisive and even the idea of Black Lives Matter is controversial, but we are heading into a new presidency that brings hope for a better future. Children have always been a big part of that hope for a better future, and that is only possible with good teachers. Being a part of Inspired Teaching, I know there are good teachers out there who will do the work to make the changes we need to see.
 
As a place that articulates the importance of teaching residents in its mission, Inspired Teaching Demonstration School continues to host and prepare novice teachers, like Raven, for successful careers in classrooms throughout our city, country, and the world.
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