Everything is Easier with a Team, Especially Year One of Teaching


     I am a first year teacher at Treadwell Elementary and teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to first and second graders. As an ESL teacher, I provide language support to small groups of multilingual students for one hour each day. A big part of an ESL teacher’s job is negotiating expectations from many perspectives. On top of adhering to district wide and school level expectations, I also must work closely to ensure that my classroom meets the needs of all 9 homeroom teachers who teach my students. Going into my first year of teaching, I was nervous about building relationships with the classroom teachers I support. However, the first grade team at Treadwell immediately made me feel welcome and encouraged. The first grade team at Treadwell is made up of five phenomenal women, four of whom are MTR graduates. On top of their kindness, these ladies also included me in the collaborative work that happens across the grade level.

     The first grade team plans for each subject collaboratively and has a wealth of shared resources. Specifically for ELA, the fact that all classrooms share one lesson plan and use similar materials allows me to align my lessons to what my students have already learned during whole group instruction. The entire grade level is on the same page and moving at the same pace. This allows me to spend my own planning time determining the best approach for all students, rather than talking with individual teachers to determine where they are in the curriculum map. Because I have access to shared materials, I also don’t have to spend time finding a short vowel resource, because someone has already added one of quality to the team drive. This is just one more way that my classroom is aligned with my students’- they are familiar the format of the materials we use.

     I want the transition from mainstream classroom to my ESL class to be as seamless as possible for students. Consistency between classrooms allows me to maximize the limited time I have with my students, while also eliminating any confusion of expectations for behavior and academic performance. My classroom has the same rules, hand signals, and even anchor charts as the first grade classrooms. Because all first grade classrooms have a similar culture and use the same resources to display norms and expectations, I don’t have to worry about adjusting my response to a child based on their homeroom experience; regardless of homeroom, expectations for my students are the same. My students are able to focus more on learning because the norms in my classroom are already familiar to them.

     On top of maintaining consistency between classrooms, the collaboration of the first grade team is most apparent in the attitude they bring to the school culture. Joining this team has given me the opportunity to continue to educate myself on best practices and ask for feedback on my own instructional decisions. The first grade students are loved and shown respect and dignity from their teachers every day. My ESL students are never singled out or made to feel as if they are less capable than their peers of succeeding in the classroom. Because we share a common experience in MTR, I know that the first grade teachers hold the same vision for our shared students, one of living with peace and in dignity as they grow up in Mitchell Heights and live out their lives here in the United States. Working with women who show Christ to my students every day through their patience, kindness, and consistency is the biggest blessing I could ask for, for both myself and my students.

– Johanna Thompson