Early in My Teaching Career: Reflections

Eichler, Amanda

This is not my first year teaching, or my first year at Kent School. I was fortunate enough in the fall of 2017 to student teach at Kent School and then work there in the spring of 2018 as the after care instructor. My first year of teaching at another school was less than amazing, and I knew that the school was not a good fit for me. When Nancy, the Head of Kent School, offered me a job for this academic year, I could not have been more excited. 

The beginning of this year brought many changes. I had to transition from being at another school to a school I was familiar with, but with the added pressure of presenting myself as more than the former student teacher. I am the youngest teacher at the school and I feared being viewed as “the intern”. I was anxious, but my fears were swept away as I was welcomed by the community. 

My students further welcomed me into the Kent School community. My goal for this year was to obviously teach my students, but also showed them that in my classroom they are loved and valued. I wanted to show my kids that they may not be the best writers or love reading, but I accept them for who they are. I feel like I achieved this goal, especially with the feedback I have received during COVID. Academically, my students are stronger; they are brighter, better readers, and stronger writers. Many have more confidence in their abilities and at the very end of the day, that is all that matters to me.

COVID has caused many changes, but also revealed many strengths that would have not been as obvious without this unfortunate situation. This experience has shown me what a great support system that I have, how resilient my students are, and how thankful I am for my classroom. My administration, co-workers, and parents took this bad situation and made the best of it. We have come together and supported one another during this difficult time. Many of my kids have become strong, independent learners and shown themselves that they are capable of achieving greatness. I am so incredibly proud of them. Even though we have made lemonade out of lemons, I cannot wait to return to my physical classroom. I never realized how important a setting can be. 

My second year of teaching is certainly one I will remember. I have goals and ideas for next year, and I am proud of how this year turned out. There is always room for improvement, but it is also important to enjoy the moment. This year may not have been ideal, but I am grateful to have finished this year as a member of the Kent School community. 

A Bigger Toolbox

Screen Shot 2020-05-18 at 11.40.12 AM

COVID-19 is forcing everyone into new habits and new ways of doing business. At Kent School, the pandemic is inspiring us to find new, effective ways to teach children from age three to thirteen. It is not easy, and every professional in our school community believes that there is no substitute for in-person teaching that happens in our classrooms. However, our pivot to Connected Learning, has yielded a few unexpectedly pleasant surprises that will likely remain in place once we resume teaching and learning on our spectacular riverside campus in our spacious classrooms. One thing is certain, all who teach and learn have always appreciated our unparalleled setting, and we cannot wait to return.

Our teachers’ commitment to their students and to professional learning have allowed them to discover more resources and more skills that are helping them lead the way through Connected Learning. Boom Cards is an interactive, self-correcting tool that provides excellent review on material and will be as effective in the classroom as it is during Connected Learning.  In Little School and Lower School, the use of the Seesaw app has been invaluable. While Kent School teachers have been using Seesaw for several years, Connected Learning has deepened their use. Prior to Connected Learning, Seesaw was used as a vehicle for sharing photos and videos of student activities with parents. Now, Seesaw is the platform for sharing instructional lessons, much like Google Classroom is being used in Middle School, Third and Fourth Grades. Kindergarten teacher, Suzie Wright-Taylor ‘84 said, “I will teach students earlier in the school year how to use Seesaw so they learn how to use the app independently – eventually. This would be helpful for snow days or longer periods of remote learning. They will already know how to work the app and be able to complete assignments.”

Another teacher commented on her own growth in the area of technology use. Fourth Grade Teacher, Vivienne Falanga said, “I have really enjoyed my own personal growth during this time. I’ve had to learn how to use Google Classroom, Seesaw, Kahoot, Scholastic, and Epic. I’ve also had to be every child’s technical assistant at some time or another. I’ve troubleshooted the iPads, and their numerous setting requirements, helped to load apps, taught my students how to navigate email and Google platforms, insert documents, videos and pictures, and numerous other on-line tasks. If there is a need for Connected Learning in the future my class and I will have the necessary skills to use again.”

The team at Kent School also agrees that the need to make up lost instructional days due to weather or another unexpected disruption will no longer be necessary. Jenny Cernak, Assistant Head of School for Academics said, “We have all become fluent and resourceful enough to continue our teaching and learning from home, so we’ll be able to ease into that mode if weather forces us to close our campus.”  Middle School Math Teacher, Ellen Mischke, offered that she could even teach children who are home with a mild illness. “As long as they are up to joining the class virtually, I would be happy to have them participate in classes from home.”

From the Administration’s point of view, there have been several discoveries that will keep the school moving forward. Nancy Mugele, Head of Kent School said, “I have created connections with colleagues across the country. Our collaboration in a wider community of independent schools to strategize, plan and execute scenarios for success in the age of COVID-19 and beyond is encouraging and invigorating. The connections made will last a lifetime and will continue to benefit Kent School in new ways not yet known or imagined.”

Assistant Head of School for Advancement, Tricia Cammerzell, added “In some ways we have added a new level of customer service. For example, we have hosted several virtual admissions events and virtual Town Hall sessions for our parents and the broader community. While there is no substitute for person-to-person interactions, our virtual events offer a greater level of convenience for those who want to attend. Participants can simply log in from their workplace or home office, rather than take extended time away from work to attend.” Cammerzell continued, “In fact, we have seen increased attendance in each of the online events we have hosted.”

Given the choice between Connected Learning and in-person learning, Nancy Mugele said, “There is no doubt that I will always choose our unparalleled campus environment for teaching learning. The experience our students get by being with their teachers and classmates on our campus is unmatched. However, I am proud of how we have grown, pivoted and evolved to be more resilient and resourceful educators. Mugele continued, “I am as eager as anyone to return to our campus, but until we can, our school remains open, active and successful.”

Kent School is an independent school serving children from Preschool through Grade eight. Located on the bank of the Chester River in historic Chestertown, Kent School’s mission is to guide students in reaching their full potential for academic, artistic, athletic and moral excellence. For more information visit http://www.kentschool.org