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 Mary Wade, a kindergarten teacher, AND the previous writer for this blog! She was willing to do this interview with me even amidst the crazy going on with schools shutting down during the global pandemic, not only for her as a teacher, but also as a mom. Here’s what Mary has for us.
What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom?
“This is a definitely unique time for that question! Under normal circumstances, while teaching fifth-grade years ago, I would have said student blogging. I loved seeing their reflections and their confidence grow over time. But now that we’re on full remote teaching and I’m working with kindergarteners, I am loving Youtube. Parents don’t have to subscribe to see the links, our whole grade level is collaborating to contribute wonderful content, and we can organize our videos into playlists so it’s easy for little ones to watch more than one at a time. When I was working with fifth grade, we also enjoyed leveraging Youtube for flipped learning, particularly for math. Students could watch me teach a previously-recorded clip at their own pace, freeing me up for one-on-one instruction throughout the room.”
How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum?
“My current Waldorf-inspired school is all about arts integration! It has been wonderful to have been challenged to do this more this year. For my kindergarteners, I have found that starting the first 15 minutes of our day with an art project has made for a wonderful soft start. Our PLC collaborates to find projects that inspire students to make connections to our curricula.”
If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?
“Just ONE??? Well, you know I’m just going to work around that by sharing my Goodreads list! But truly, recommending a children’s book is something I take seriously, and upon which much depends on the recommendee. I firmly believe in teachers as children’s book connoisseurs so we can be ready to give timely recommendations to our students! For example:”
Do they need to be inspired by the power of one voice? I’d say The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, or For Every One by Jason Reynolds.
Do they need to laugh? Maybe We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins or Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm.
Are they a deep thinker? Perhaps Carl & the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman, Forever or A Day by Sarah Jacoby or The Nest by Kenneth Oppel.
Do they love to explore the natural world? Definitely The Brilliant Deep by Kate Messner or The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.
Is poetry their jam? Probably When’s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano by or I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris.
Are they after a just plain delightful story? Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.
But if you really want just one, a read that’s close to my heart right now is All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon. It makes me feel connected and comforted amid all the “social distancing” right now.
What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it?
“Pacing has always been tricky for me. Planning specific questions beforehand has been key to my improvement.”
What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching?
“Just to brace yourself for the drinking-from-the-fire-hose volume of information you’d be expected to take into consideration at any given point. IEPs, bell schedules, allergies, recess duty, friendships, parent concerns–everything. I wish someone would have given me the tip to start the year with a spreadsheet of all the students where you can jot notes down as they come to help you gradually absorb it all. And don’t worry, eventually, you will, and you’ll get into a good flow. But be patient with yourself in the meantime!”
How have you seen education change in the years you’ve taught?
“I taught both before and after Common Core, and while it’s far from perfect, there’s one powerful shift I’ve observed because of it: more “how do you know what you think you know?” Really helping students to learn to point to evidence to support their thinking, even from a very young age, is a profoundly-needed skill for all 21st-century learners.”
What are the benefits you’ve seen in collaborating with your team of teachers?
“There have been benefits throughout the year in arts integration like I’ve described above. But the benefits are even more tremendous right now as we are pulling together for this school closure. Everyone has different strengths, so as we contribute what we’re good at, it helps us pull this off!”
How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it?
“My favorite way to see student voice with my kindergarteners is in their writing. We have created personal word rings for each of them that we add to throughout the year, and we encourage them to think of their own sentences. Their emerging voices are nothing short of beautiful.”
What has been one of your favorite teaching moments so far?
“This year, some of my favorite moments have been while gardening with my kindergarteners. Before COVID-19 started, we were working on clearing grass from our planter box. Students chose between hoes or rakes and experimented with their different functions as we cleared and tilled. The level of communication, cooperation, and mindfulness made it thoroughly a lovely and engaging time for us all.”
What tips do you have for teachers who take a few years off of teaching and then start again, as you did?
“I would definitely practice interviewing beforehand. I didn’t realize just how rusty I’d gotten, but it had been 9 years since I’d last interviewed for a job! I’d also recommend taking the time to get to know your new grade level team outside of school if possible. Get together for lunch and learn about their “real” lives to build your relationships.”
Mary has so much information for us! Thank you for sharing your insights, and book lists, with us! It was so much fun featuring Mary on the blog today. She dedicated years and years to growing this blog and then trusted it in my hands while she teaches Kindergarten this year, so obviously we needed a Feature Friday for her! Thanks, Mary!