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 Westley Young, a Grade 3 teacher in Rome, Italy. Westley is our first international teacher on Feature Friday and we were excited to learn from him! Here’s what Westley has for us today.
If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?
“I thought long and hard about this question because I have discovered so many great children’s books every year since I became a teacher, but instead, I chose one which I loved as a child and which my own children are currently enjoying: ‘The Jolly Postman (or Other People’s Letters) by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. My 6-year-old daughter especially loves reading each of the letters/cards delivered to each of the fairy-tale characters.
Also, ‘The Refugee’ by Alan Gratz, which I read with my Grade 5 class a few years ago. It’s incredibly moving and a must-read, too. Sorry, I couldn’t just pick one in the end!”
What is your favorite part of teaching this age group?
“I have taught all elementary grade levels as an art teacher and grades 2-5 as a homeroom teacher. I enjoy all ages and don’t have a preference for any one group.”
Who influenced you most to choose a career in education?
“I have to admit that my passion for teaching only began once I started in the profession. I needed a job when I first moved to Italy and used my art experience to begin working with children at a summer camp. This success led to a role as an art teacher at the same school and it snowballed from there. Since then, through extensive reading, help from colleagues, the sharing of resources and expertise on social media, and of course watching and learning with children, my interest in the way children learn has continually grown.”
What are some educational tactics used in Rome that you feel are especially important to teaching, or the education of your own children?
“I don’t think there are any ‘tactics’ used especially in Rome that are different to others elsewhere, but throughout my own teaching experience and my children’s education, the Reggio Emilia approach, the Montessori method, and the IB PYP have all helped me consider how to respect children’s agency and use the whole community/environment to expose children to new experiences and support their learning. I have definitely picked up some pointers from these programmes when considering how to educate my own children.”
What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year of teaching?
“To go with the kids and not to worry if things didn’t go as planned. When I first began teaching, I needed to know exactly what I’d do throughout the lessons, especially if the activity had finished earlier than planned or hadn’t ‘worked’. It took me a while to realize being in complete control was completely counter-productive to the learning experience that I wanted to offer.
(Oh yeah, I wish someone had told me about Twitter, too!)”
Do you feel like the educational world on Twitter or other social media sites has helped you as a teacher? And how?
“Twitter has been my most helpful tool as a teacher. There are so many inspirational and supportive teachers and parents, who have helped me think deeply about my practice, offer better learning experiences to my students, and find resources and books to help me continue to learn and question what I’m doing, always searching for better.”
Thank you for your insight today Westley!