The Year of Learning to Teach

This year, Sam Houston State University piloted a year-long residency program for their student teachers. Rather than spend a few weeks on their assigned campus, student teachers spend their entire last year in one classroom, working through coaching cycles with their mentor teachers. When I agreed to mentor Christian Soto, I had no idea how much I would also learn in the process.

Simultaneously, I was invited to participate in Conroe ISD’s “Aspire to Lead” year-long professional learning initiative. This experience would have been valuable regardless, but to learn…then share and walk out my learning on a regular basis was priceless, especially the sessions on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and coaching cycles.

In the early days, when Mr. Soto was observing and building relationships with the students, I had to admit to myself that his new presence in my class was a bit of a disruption. To be the person someone else is watching caused me to watch myself in a new way.

Then we pivoted to co-teaching. After reviewing my lesson plan, I would teach the first block (sometimes two), modeling the lesson. A very brief conversation would follow, with me encouraging Mr. Soto to name something specific to focus on. He would then follow through with his practice, and we ended our days with feedback and reflection.

Of course he grew as a teacher. He received feedback openly, and as our mutual trust grew, so did his confidence. His transition to taking over the class was seamless, and I’m immensely proud of the educator he has become.

Perhaps surprisingly was my growth as an educator as well. We are all familiar with the research on the efficacy of reflection. In “The Benefits of Developing a Reflective Routine”, Megan Collins writes for Edutopia that “The autobiographical lens, or self-reflection, requires teachers to stand back from an experience and view it more objectively. This lens allows teachers to become aware of aspects of their pedagogy that are effective or that may need adjustment or strengthening.”

Through this year of continual reflection on my own practice while mentoring Mr. Soto, I have been able to look at my pedagogy and make adjustments based on what I see through his eyes, and what I see by practicing objectivity.

The best educators I’ve known have seen themselves primarily as learners. I hope that is what Mr. Soto remembers from his year here at Mitchell Intermediate. He has become a better teacher, but I have too, as we’ve learned from and with each other.