Teacher Leader Vignette: The Traveling Teacher

Inspired by the book Flip the system: Changing education from the ground up, many of our Mount Holyoke College teacher leader Master’s students created their own teacher leader vignettes. Here is one from an amazing veteran teacher in Boston, MA, written about one of her colleagues. Please welcome guest blogger and educator Leslie LaRocca (@lakogan).

Jaime radiates energy. She enters every room with a bright smile and a palpable enthusiasm for teaching. Jaime has taught high school history in a high-performing public school district in Eastern Massachusetts for the past ten years, a time in which she has seen many significant changes to her responsibilities as a teacher.

Jaime has always wanted to be a teacher. From the time she was young, she used to “play school” with her younger siblings. “I had the chalkboard, the lessons, the reading book, and my siblings would be my students. I would grade papers, and even use carbon paper to make copies, Jaime said. “I always got excited about sharing with my siblings what I knew. I taught my little sister how to sound out the letters and how to read, and I really liked it.” From that moment, Jaime was hooked on teaching.

After finishing her undergraduate work at Vanderbilt, teaching for two years in upstate New York, and earning a Masters in Teaching and Learning from Harvard University, Jaime thought she had her career mapped out. “I was going to teach for ten years and then go into school administration,” she said. “Now it’s been ten years and I feel like I’m still figuring things out. I’m still learning and evolving as a teacher. Teaching is really dynamic, because the kids are different, and they change the experiences for me every year.”

Perhaps the hallmark of Jaime teaching career has been her participation on several teacher travel tours. Jaime and I traveled together as part of a Fulbright-Hayes Group Travel Abroad Seminar to Egypt and Tanzania in the summer of 2010. Additionally, Jaime has traveled to Korea with the Korea Society in 2011 and to Japan for a “peace tour” as part of the Five College Center for East Asian Studies in 2013. “There are so many elements to the travel experience,” Jaime said. “I can provide specific anecdotes for my students and give them real life examples of what I’ve experienced. There’s nothing like saying to students ‘when I was in … I saw …’ and allowing them to visualize what other places are like.”

Jaime noted that one commonality between all three study tours is that “the biggest takeaways have been religion as a cultural understanding of faith and how religions express themselves.” This is very useful for a world history teacher such as herself.

“I use pictures from my travels in the classroom, but more than anything I use anecdotes, and those often frame the activities in my classroom,” Jaime said. “It’s given me confidence talking about religion and faith, something I was uncomfortable talking about before. I can give concrete examples now, and even pull my experiences into current events, challenging students to think about what they hear from the media and popular culture.”

Challenging her students to think critically defines Jaime’s classroom. However, she often feels unable to devote enough time to those skills because of top-down bureaucratic policies.

“Teachers have more on our plates than ever before,” Jaime said. “For me, much of this is regarding supervision and evaluation coming from the state. We don’t have it as bad as a lot of public schools, but it’s still a lot of work. I have to write goals, show evidence of meeting goals, show evidence of meeting standards, and so on. I appreciated the old way of classroom observation, where someone watched my class and evaluated it. I feel the same way about the Common Core and C3 frameworks. Now we’ve added even more standards, and it creates more bureaucracy and oversight on what teachers are doing. I feel pressure to be doing more writing with my students, but the rubric movement, with all of its goals and standards, stifles creativity.”

Even with her natural enthusiasm and energy, Jaime sometimes feels conflicted and overwhelmed by expectations put on her as a teacher.

“Schools are being asked to do too much. Here I am, a history teacher, but I’m monitoring the mental health of my students, and teaching kids the proper language to address our new understandings of gender,” Jaime said. “I need to do response to intervention (RTI), I need to be ELL certified and modify my lessons, and teach kids how to navigate social media. I’m not supposed to stress the kids too much but enough to teach them resiliency, all while giving them As.”

It’s important to note that Jaime works in an affluent school system that is consistently ranked among the best in the state of Massachusetts, and sometimes the United States.

“For teachers,” Jaime said, “there is more and more on the plate, and nothing ever gets taken off. We need to look hard and think: what is the purpose of education in this country? I think the purpose of school is to teach kids to be good communicators. Being a collaborator and a communicator is, regardless of your profession, so important. We need students to articulate ideas verbally and through writing, to be assertive and flexible in their thinking.”

Jaime wishes that she could take more time in her classroom to prepare students for the world they face upon graduation. This means not only focusing on content and global citizenship, but also teaching students how to be problem-solvers. “Problem solving has to be founded in fact, research, and information. That’s where content comes in, along with writing and communication skills,” Jaime said. “How do standards and performance-based assessments fit into that?”

Despite these challenges, unforeseen to Jaime at the start of her career, she still hasn’t lost her passion or enthusiasm for teaching. “What I loved about teaching as a kid I love now,” Jaime concluded. “Getting people excited about the world.”

Related categories:
  • ReneeMoore

    Keep Your Eyes on the Prize!

    It’s a pleasure to have educators like Jaime in our profession. She clearly has the right attitude and the right preparation (good job Holyoke!).  The last part of her story especially appealed to me:

    …prepare students for the world they face upon graduation. This means not only focusing on content and global citizenship, but also teaching students how to be problem-solvers. “Problem solving has to be founded in fact, research, and information. That’s where content comes in, along with writing and communication skills,” Jaime said. “How do standards and performance-based assessments fit into that?”

    She’s asking exactly the right question, in the right order: not trying to fit the learning into mandated assessments. Keeping the priority on real learning that will improve the quality of students’ real lives is our highest calling. 

    Interesting to compare her experience in Mass. with that of our colleague Bill Ferriter in NC, in his most recent blog, Making Room for Uncertainty in the Required Curriculum.

     

  • Stacey Sebesta

    Living the Dream!

    Reading Jamie’s story really reignited a fire in me that I did not even realize had disappeared.  Her story has me excited about going to work and teaching my students. I especially enjoyed learning of how her travels help her teach her students about history. Through her experience of visiting those countries, she was able to truly understand and learn about their culture and religion, thus bringing that knowledge and experience back to her students.

    Sometimes, as teachers, we need to read great stories like Jamie’s so we can shift our focus from standardized testing and all it encompasses, to being excited about engaging our students in learning opportunities.

  • Henry Leason

    Education

    Sharing your travelling experience with other helps them in visualizing that thing themselves. A teacher who has so much travelling experience on hand can help students understand the cultural difference among different people. It also enhances their understanding of others. On http://awriter.org/ website you can learn the importance of understanding culture differences.

  • Jasmine

    Only a few authors know how

    Only a few authors know how to express themselves as well as you tend to do. Thank you for sharing this info. Keep up this kind of writing.

    Jasmine @ theroom

  • AnneJolly

    Getting people excited

    What a great ending statement, Megan – “What I love about teaching as a kid is what I love now – getting people excited about the world.”

    Getting kids excited about their world was certainly my goal as a science teacher. You (through Jaime) are posing the right questions and bringing up the right issues.  I always enjoy reading your posts! 

  • Joseph

    Could we build a standardized

    Could we build a standardized testing system from crowdsourced content and open-source technology? The two goals of this idea – to create data that teachers can use to inform their instruction and that can aid in evaluating teachers and schools – are familiar. But in the idea I describe below, every element of the system remains close to the classroom, with ongoing community input, and allows for improvement and correction, all at a relatively low cost, mostly paid locally.

    Regards,

    Joseph Online Therapist               

  • Burgo

    Our education system often

    Our education system often feels like a dearly-loved sweater that has shrunk in the wash. In my daily life as a classroom teacher, so many aspects of the system feel like they don't fit, and are growing increasingly more uncomfortable. Here are the areas that I feel are constricting my daily effort to serve students and elevate authentic learning.

    Burgo online therapist

  • Den Apex

    New vision

    to add some fun I use pictures from my travels in the classroom, but more than anything I use anecdotes, and those often frame the activities in my classroom,” Jaime said. “It’s given me confidence talking about religion and faith, something I was uncomfortable talking about before. I can give concrete examples now, and even pull my experiences into current events, challenging students to think about what they hear from the media and popular culture. Regards D.Apex

  • Jackob

    Thank you for sharing the

    Thank you for sharing the information on this specific topic along with your viewers. I personally, for just one appreciate how much work you went to in putting all this together.

    Jackob @ loombrand

  • Maudy

    Sometimes..

    Yes, sometimes we need teacher even just for traveling.

    Maudy @ jasa seo https://seotunggal.com

  • David Summerbell

    thanks

    I'm excited to discover this site. I want to to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and I have you book marked to see new stuff on your site. David at Emblem Zone

     

  • newtonmoses

    Literature Review Redoing Assistance

    We are happy to hear that Jaime is living her dream of being a teacher. It is such a lovely thing when one's career is built upon something that he/she likes. With teachers like, Jaime, we can be sure of a bright future for our kids. It is now possible to get lterature review writing help by clicking on this link: Literature Review Redoing Service

  • a10

    Great

    I really like the dear information you offer in your articles. a10

  • Shannon

    Thank you for sharing the

    Thank you for sharing the post. I wish every teacher has the passion as Jaime 🙂 And I also hope the salary for teacher will be raised more 😀

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  • Digital Signage Software

    a great job well done

    The fact that you've found novel ways of using pictures in building confidence to be able to talk about religion and faith, something you were uncomfortable talking about before is in itself a virtue that many should be able to emulate.

     

    Media Signage Software

  • RJ Rocker

    Flip the system

    Hi Megan

    Good to know that the book Flip the system: Changing education from the ground up Inspired you to this article.

    I myself read the book last month and It is lovely.

    Thanks for sharing your views on this.

    Regards

    Tauseef Alam Siteground

  • Hezal

    I can correlate Jaime’s story

    Hi Leslie LaRocca,

    Welcome to Teaching Quality!

    I can correlate Jaime's story with me. Since my childhood, I wanted to be a teacher. When I was in my school, I used to ask so many questions from my teachers and wanted to be like them.

    I just see you've written this by inspiring from the book "Flip The System". I myself haven't read the book but try to find it on Amazon.

    Thanks for sharing the story with us.

    Regards

    Hezal MbaFrog

     

  • James

    Really great post !

    Her story has me excited about going to work and teaching my students. I want to to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and I have you book marked to see new stuff on your site. I can give concrete examples now, and even pull my experiences into current events, challenging students to think about what they hear from the media and popular culture. Looking forward to more valuable posts like this one ! 

    regards, 

    James Shareit for pc