Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here.
Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Faige Meller. Faige is an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles, CA. She started teaching preschool in 1977, and Kindergarten in 1991. In 2015, Faige retried and has substitute taught since. Faige is a seasoned teacher and is sharing just a tiny fragment of her knowledge with us today! Here’s what she has to say.
What is your favorite part of teaching kindergarten?
“I really feel this was the place I was meant to be! A grade that lends itself to play, exploration, and wonder. In this, we combined read aloud, math, literacy growth, science, movement, and play! I guess I said play again. Play drove so much of the learning. SEL always a focus. And of course those hugs.”
How do you incorporate the arts into core curriculum?
“Our thematic units readily integrated the arts. We look at STEAM now and that has always been part of our curriculum. The language may have been different, but not the meaning.”
If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?
“So difficult to focus on one book. There are so many beautiful, poignant books out there. Today I’d say Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson. This story continues to resonate, especially now! It leads to incredibly rich discussions, conversations, and reflections. “Why did this happen? What can we have done differently? Would you be an Upstander? And many times words and actions have no redos!”
What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year of teaching?
“My first year of teaching was such a blur of worry. I was so worried about making mistakes. I wanted to be the best and make sure the kids, parents, and administrators liked me. I wish I was told to relax, enjoy the moment, watch, look, listen to the kids. Have fun, kids are resilient and so are you! And don’t volunteer for everything!”
How have you seen education changed in your teaching experience?
“There have been many changes. Some that supported my pedagogy and others that I questioned for this age group. But all changes were done with the thoughtful consideration to do what’s best for our students.”
How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it?
“Student voice was present on a daily basis, from “free choice” morning activities to opportunities for exploration during genius hour time and our Wonder Wall questions.
Kinders felt confident in sharing their wonders, finding ways to discover answers, and knowing their voice was important in our learning.”
How is subbing different from being a teacher?
“As a substitute teacher, I knew I was there to support the teacher’s work with their students. I looked at it as an opportunity to learn alongside the students. The kinders knew me and that was a great inroad to establishing rapport and a relationship with the kinders. And as I subbed in 1st, 2nd, and Toddlers, 3s and 4s my primary goal was to be there for the teachers (my school has a team teaching model) and students. A big difference was the accountability and responsibility basically on the other teacher‘s shoulders. I was basically the helper, to be available for what the lead teacher needed from me.”
How is subbing the same as being a teacher?
“As a substitute teacher I did many read alouds, led Morning Meetings, did math activities, writing, and reading workshop. I followed the lesson plans left by the teacher but could use my discretion and expertise to modify the lessons. I did have autonomy as well. I collaborated with the teachers to create a program that met the student’s needs, that encouraged questioning, wonder, voice, and choice.”
What tips do you have for substitute teachers?
“Smile as you come into the room excited to be there. If you’re a substitute teacher you’re there because you’re valued and have been asked to sub. Hopefully, because you want to be there. Leave the critiques at the door. Go in and enjoy the students your lucky to meet and teach.”
Thank you for sharing with us Faige! There was a lot to learn for her! What was your biggest takeaway?