Katie talks about the value of failing and the students who give her hope.
December 21, 2017
#6DegreesofLVV aims to capture the personal stories of corps members and alumni currently serving in Las Vegas. The person featured in each story connects to the person prior in a number of different ways. Both individually and collectively, these unique stories will show you a new side of Las Vegas education.
One of the biggest moments that shifted my teaching mindset was an interaction that I had with a particular student. I have always believed in restorative justice, meaning that when a student acts out, it is best to treat the student as a whole person and address what might be happening emotionally, physically, or intellectually instead of just punishing them. It requires building strong relationships with students and all stakeholders. One day, this student had her head down in class and I said, “You can pick your head up or go to the nurse.” She said, “No. Just leave me alone.” After a little back and forth, I sat down next to her and said, “I’m not leaving here until you pick up your head and tell me what’s wrong.” I ended up sending her out of the classroom because our interaction escalated (that was the first and last time I kicked a student out of class), and I felt bad because I knew she had her head down for a reason and I was not respecting her feelings. I was trying to force her to engage in a way she was not able to. I was the adult and should have taken better care to not let the situation escalate like it did.
The next day we talked to each other for an hour after school and I apologized for trying to force her to talk about her feelings when she was having a bad day. She told me she had never heard an adult apologize before, and it opened a door for a solid relationship foundation. She wanted to be a social worker and I was excited to be able to talk with her about that and bring her interest into the class.
From that moment on, I realized that my role as an educator was not to be just a math teacher but to be a holistic caregiver for all the students that I have. I didn’t want to just care about their academics, but to care about them as people. While I think I did that before, math still trumped everything and this moment shifted that. I needed my students to feel safe and cared for in order to excel.
Now, I see our teachers, staff, and students working hard towards One Day and it (and my service-dog, Hudson) gets me out of bed every day to be there for all of them. When I was a corps member, I was in Zach Rose-Heim’s cohort and we had to interview students. I had a student that I mentored and I asked her what is one thing people couldn’t take away from her? She said, “hope.” This student had faced particularly difficult challenges that included being in the foster system and terrible abuse. I thought that if she has so much hope, then I will have it too. We still keep in touch and she still gives me hope.
Educational equity for all students, specifically for diverse learners and English language learners is near and dear to my heart. As a diverse learner with a sleep disorder who grew up in a place where my first language was not the language spoken, I was made fun of and sometimes not included in school activities. I struggled in school and failed a lot, and I’m glad for it. The experience I have being an outsider looking in on things has played a huge part in shaping who I am, and I am able to help coach people through moments of failure having so much experience with it myself. I know what it is like to be in math class without fundamentals and being told to try harder when trying harder was not what I needed. The system is so often failing our kids, and it is not their fault.
I ended up on staff at TFA because I have always wanted to be in educational leadership. Right now in my life, all of my experiences have led me here and I can be successful as an MTLD because of it. I’m really good at persevering, and I know the right role will be ready for me when I am ready for it.
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