Resident Reflection: From Learning how to Teach to Learning how to Lead

It’s May 13, 2018, and I’m walking across a stage, receiving my Bachelor of Science in History Education. I’m thrilled to be finished with college, to have met this massive accomplishment of graduating with a bachelor’s degree. But while the rest of my friends who are also receiving education degrees are on cloud nine to be entering their own classrooms in the fall, I’m preparing myself to enter another mentor teacher’s classroom despite already being licensed to teach.

You might expect me to say next that, “I came to MTR because I wasn’t very well prepared to teach by my undergraduate university…,” but I’m happy to report that there was nothing wrong with my education program. I went to Southern Illinois University, earned one of the best History Education degrees in the country, and felt absolutely prepared to teach my content. I spent the 2017-2018 school year with the most humble, giving, and kind mentor teacher who gave me the chance to grow in my ability to teach students how to think like a historian, and allowed me to build incredible relationships with students. But I wanted to teach in Memphis. And I knew that if I was going to teach in Memphis, I was going to need more than a great bachelor’s degree: I was going to need support.

While SIU prepared me to teach content, I wasn’t prepared to really lead a classroom. I’m pretty soft-spoken, and I still needed to learn how to become a strong leader in my own classroom. Beyond management, student teaching in Illinois had prepared me to teach students according to skills-based standards, but I wasn’t sure how to take Tennessee’s 90+ content standards and create a meaningful year of learning from them. I’d also never had to prepare students for a content-specific end of year exam before, something that Tennessee requires from some history classes. While I didn’t know how to do these things, I was confident that MTR could prepare me to do these things well, so I moved to Memphis.

I’ll spare you the nitty gritty of this year (there’s a lot of it, because getting a master’s and teaching and just living a healthy life simultaneously is no joke), but I can tell you today that, over the past year, I have learned so much more than how to lead a classroom, structure my classroom based on content standards, and prepare students for a high-stakes test without them feeling overwhelmed.

I’ve learned to advocate for myself, to be open and honest about what I need as a young teacher.

I’ve learned to lean on my MTR community, including my classmates, my mentor teacher, and my coach, when things get tough.

I’ve learned that I don’t need to be overwhelmingly nervous when a principal or my MTR coach pops in to observe me because I can now see both parties as support systems.

I’ve learned that, even if exit ticket scores are looking a little rough, my students leaving my classroom feeling loved means that I have succeeded. (I’ve also learned that, on the next school morning, it’s pretty simple to take a second and revisit whatever question they really struggled with on that exit ticket).

I’ve learned that I cannot do it all, but I’ve also learned that I don’t need to do it all because taking care of myself plays a massive role in succeeding as a teacher.

I don’t think that next year will be easy – first year teaching never is. But I know that, when my classmates and I walk across a stage on May 18th to graduate with our Master of Urban Education, I will be even better prepared to lead my own classroom with confidence because of residency year. I’ll be more than equipped to plan and assess and re-teach. Most importantly, I’ll be ready to give both my students and myself grace. So, while I am delighted to finally be within reach of having my own classroom in the fall, I can’t imagine not making the move to teach in Memphis without MTR’s support, and I wouldn’t change this extra year in another teacher preparation program for the world.

-Kaitlin Borrmann, Class of 2019