Sofia is an instructor of a module called “Managing the Learning Environment” at “Teach-Now”, a teacher preparation program. I had been looking forward to taking the module because I wanted to learn how to communicate and motivate students, and how much further I can engage in helping them.
After the first lesson, I remember myself texting family members and my friends how excited I was to start a new module taught by a teacher who is very passionate about her job and unafraid to show how much she cares about her students. Around the time, I was a little burnt out due to a tight schedule and a collision between different values at work. Seeing and listening to her reminded me of what kind of teacher I want to become, and motivated me to keep moving forward. In the following lessons, she demonstrated what she had said in the first lesson by teaching contents effectively, showing how to create a positive classroom environment, and being consistent throughout the lessons.
First, she taught the contents using suitable methods for the module. This module requires students to think about diverse classroom environments. Since every student (teacher) in the cohort has a different standard and cases to share with, she encouraged discussions. She engaged all the students to participate in in-class discussion about the week’s topic and gave numerous examples to enhance their understanding. She would use a tool called Nearpod (one of its functions allows all students to share ideas anonymously) to encourage students to share their thoughts, go through every single answer, and add her thoughts to them. Having exposed to various perspectives was truly helpful in finishing assignments for the module, and this was just one of the many methods that she had used. As a result, my thoughts were organized by the end of the lesson, and I always felt ready to start the week’s assignments right after the lesson ended.
Second, she showed us how to build a positive learning environment inside and outside the classroom instead of only telling us what to do. In lessons, she would nod, and give positive feedbacks (she always looked for strengths in all answers) or suggestions to each answer. When she had to answer students’ questions, she tried her best to share relevant experiences to help them understand; when she was asked some tough questions, she would do the same. In those cases, she first showed that she understands the intension of students asking certain questions, and continued replying with a calm attitude and carefully chosen words. For assignments, she would give adequate amount of work, and offered choices for them to reach their full potential. She did the same outside the classroom. When I had to request for deadline extensions for assignments against my will due to the tight schedule at work, she not only granted them but she also left kind words to my emails to cheer me up. Not just this, when I needed advice for a teacher-parent meeting, she stayed after the lesson to provide me some invaluable advice. When she said she cares about her students, she really meant every word that she said. From the first day of the module, I knew she would be there if I were in difficult situations, but actually experiencing it myself occurred to me that I want my students to feel the same way as I did, and I want to do exactly the same for my students.
Lastly, Sofia was the same Sofia who I met on the first day of the module throughout those 6 weeks. I could always feel her passion in education and how much she cares about her students at her school and at Teach-Now. Her words were consistent with her actions, she continued doing her best to accomplish what were mentioned earlier. She left detailed comments to assignments and suggested ways to improve them, checked in with me to see if my problems (e.g. after I asked clarifying questions about assignments, and after the conversation about the coming teacher-parent meeting) have worked out. In addition, on the last day of the module, she gave students her private email address just in case they may not reach her through her work email address. From the start to the end, she was devoted to help students succeed in this module, and in their own classrooms as well. This consistency is what makes her every word counts, persuades and motivates people who see her.
Becoming a teacher who teaches contents well is not easy as well, but sometimes the bigger challenge lies in becoming a teacher who motivates students. Sofia does not just teach well, but she motivates students, and make them want to keep trying and moving forward to reach their full potential. Sofia pursues her values both inside and outside classrooms - where her kindness and efforts cannot be seen by others. When people work, there are good days and bad days, and they still have to make small to big choices every day. In those bad days, some people might feel the temptation to close their eyes and lean toward slightly easier choices, but not her. At least that is what I felt because she had been the same Sofia throughout those six weeks, and I believe she was the same Sofia before that, and she will be the same Sofia afterwards. Everything that I felt reminds me of a quote Aristotle once said : “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” This is just my guess, but I believe she has been making numerous small and big decisions to put her students first - which is very important to her, and those choices led her to become who she is today.
I am aware that the time I spent in her class hasn’t been long. However, I once again realized the length of time can’t be a barrier in influencing one another. The whole experience brought me back the memories of my school days, I felt like I was in school again. I want my students have the same experience, and I want to become a teacher who can do this. In order to do this, I will continue trying my best in every class, show students how much I care about them, learn better ways to teach them, and be there for them when they need me. It will not be easy to make an impact on every student, but I will continue as long as there is one student who feels the same way as I did. I hope I was the kind of student for Sofia, and I wish her all the best.
Some of her words from emails:
Thanks Rachel for communication. Keep me posted. I believe in you-you can do this.
Does this make sense?
Always here Rachel. And keep me posted on your student.
Deep breaths, you’ll get through this.
Here for you!
Thank you for communication. Continue to reach out and let me know your status. One activity at a time. You will make it.