Lead Teach is the time residents find out who they are as teachers.
The gradual release model informs Memphis Teacher Residency’s approach to teacher training. As residents instruct our students in the classroom using this model, aspiring teachers like me also experience this type of gradual release throughout my academic training during the residency year as well.
Most simply explained, the gradual release model transfers content knowledge and skills from expert to learner over a controlled period of time. The process begins with the expert or teacher explaining new information and modeling the steps involved in using that information to solve a new type of problem. After the steps have been clearly defined, the teacher will attempt to solve more problems soliciting the help of the students and then will offer help to students as they solve problems with increasing independence. Once the students have shown a thorough understanding of the content and how to apply it to solve problems, it is time for the student to try to solve problems without assistance from the teacher.
This, in essence, is the residency year. When I arrived in my classroom in August, I began the year by simply observing my mentor, Chandra Perkins. I learned so much from watching her teach content and handle classroom management issues, and from receiving explicit advice on how to effectively teach and manage a classroom. Once I realized all that she had to think about from day to day, I was a little overwhelmed. But, as the year progressed, Ms. Perkins gave me more and more teaching responsibilities— from reviewing homework to introducing new content to teaching an entire class period. With her guidance and support, I gained more and more experience, and I was finally prepared for lead teach.
Lead teach is a three-week period in January when the resident bears the full weight of being a solo classroom teacher—taking attendance, planning lessons, teaching lessons, creating assessments, grading those assessments, making copies, addressing all behavior issues, and handling the myriad other responsibilities that teachers handle in any three weeks. This was my time to try to teach without any assistance from my mentor.
I’m pleased to report that my students learned a lot about function operations and inverses during this time. And perhaps I learned even more! I have improved my teaching by reflecting on my instruction, student achievement, and classroom culture at the end of every day and even between class periods to figure out what went well and why, and what I could do better in the future. In addition, my mentor, the MTR coach who has been supporting me all year long, and other MTR coaches and staff have observed me and offered lots of feedback. In no other teacher prep program do you have seven or eight veteran teachers, who are only there to help you get better, come into your class to observe your teaching. What a gift!
After reflecting on my lead teach experience, my mentor, my coach and I have identified specific strengths and weaknesses in my teaching. Our plan moving forward is to use the rest of the year to strategically work on leveraging my strengths and improving my weaknesses in order to get me fully prepared to have my own classroom next year.
It was a big deal for Ms. Perkins to entrust her students to me for three weeks, but having that opportunity will greatly benefit my teaching career and as a result bless my future students. I’m incredibly grateful for the process!
Nate Kirsch, ’14
Math, Whitehaven High School