8 As a teacher I wear many hats_ FL USA

As a teacher I wear many hats
Author: Michelle Ragonese. Tampa/ Florida (USA)

As I embark on my fifth year of teaching I am able to take time to reflect on how these past years have helped me grow as an educator. I began teaching when I was just 22 years old. Going into the work force at such a young age can be quite intimidating especially when working with children. However, I always knew this was something I was passionate about and destined to do.

MacFarlane Park IB Elementary School is a magnet school located in Tampa, Florida. A magnet school is a public school with a specialized curriculum. Students and families select to attend our school and are put through a lottery system to get enrolled. The school’s vision is to create an advanced elementary program where students become aware of the shared humanity that binds all people together and develop respect for the variety of cultures and attitudes that adds to the richness of life. As a teacher at MacFarlane Park Elementary School, I prepare students to meet the challenges of world citizenship with confidence, imagination, and integrity. Though the study of global cultures and people, I cultivate in each student the desire to grow in wisdom, to nurture an open and curious mind and to serve others with a generous spirit.

As a teacher I wear many hats. Just to name a few, educator, role model, influencer, in loco parentis, and an overall support system. Students spend the majority of their day with their teacher and classmates so it is important to develop a conducive learning environment where students feel safe and are encouraged to work to their greatest potential.

In order to create this environment I make it a priority in my classroom to build a strong rapport, promote student choice, and arrange the classroom in a way that students feel comfortable and free to navigate as they need. Each morning before instruction begins I hold a “team meeting” where students can share personal experiences, goals they have, something they are looking forward to or just anything they are interested in sharing that day. This builds a community and unites the children to form connections. Daily, I am enforcing a growth mindset in children and teach them to have grit. It is important for students to understand that failure is acceptable as long as you learn and grow from those failures. A time where this stood out to me was when I had twins in my class my first year of teaching. The twins, we will call them Lilly and Angela, were different learners. Angela was naturally smart and content came very easy to her. On the other hand, Lilly struggled and had to put in a lot more effort to be successful.

There were many times when Lilly got discouraged and wanted to give up because she saw her sister and classmates exceling at a quicker pace. I frequently discussed with Lilly that sometimes things do not come as easily to everyone but if she worked hard, it will pay off in the end. We worked together daily to keep her on pace and help her to do her best. The improvement from Lilly was wonderful, and us working together set her on a path of continued success. But as teachers know, not everything will go as planned. Unexpectedly and tragically, the twins lost their mother suddenly, a week before Mother’s Day. Although Angela was always successful, I still worried that such a horrific event would cause a downfall in both of their academic careers. The girls could have easily shut down and given up, however I was not going to let that happen. As a teacher I owed it to them to be a support system and be there at a time when they needed it the most. I’d work through the grieving process with them, and reminded them of the strength and work ethic their mother instilled in them. It was inspiring to me to see such young girls overcome an unimaginable heartbreak and continue to be successful. That’s a beautiful part of teaching, students and teachers can inspire each other. Although that situation might not be as common in the classroom, the lessons it taught me
have stayed with me in every class I’ve taught these past four years. Every day as a teacher you do not know what you will have to deal with, or what will be thrown your way; however you have to be flexible and able to adapt and I believe that that is the key to success for a highly effective educator.

in September 2018