Check out this interview with Cohort 6 Resident, Deron Washington as he shares his experience in education and the The Educator Academy Residency!
Note: this blog was transcribed from an interview done with Deron on December 8th, 2021
Interviewer: How did you find The Educator Academy? What led you here?
Deron: I’ve been a para here at Belton for two years. And through that experience, I learned that I like to teach and the principal saw that I was doing well and they asked me if I wanted to be a part of the The Educator Academy. And from there, I researched online, looked into all the stuff and I saw that I did want to do this. So then I joined.
Interviewer: There’s a lot of hard aspects of education right now, plus you’re in the Residency which can be a rigorous year. What does work life balance look like for you?
Deron: So with me personally, I utilize my The Educator Academy hour each day for doing a lot of my homework (Note: Residents spend Tuesday – Friday for the entire school day with their Mentor Teacher; out of that time they are allotted one hour to step outside of the classroom and complete their coursework homework and requirements).
I also schedule when I can do homework at home. You have to have a schedule. You have to outline for yourself “I have to get my homework done”, and then prioritize which homework needs to be done first. I usually start with what has the earlier due date, and then I go from there. My mentor and I work together well. If I have a lot going on I can name that for her and she can go and teach the class, and afterwards I can come back and teach. I don’t try to take too much of my work life home.
Interviewer: What area have you seen the most growth within yourself as an educator?
Deron: So my first thing would be my pacing with ho manage the class. Deciding, “now we are moving on”, or we still need to look at this information a little more”. That has gotten a lot better. I usually just want to push, push, push, but that was just the football coach in me coming out. I learned from seminar and my coaches and my mentor that you’ve got to slow down.So after they shared that with me I know, “ okay, I can do that!” So timing and pacing has gotten a lot better.
Another thing has been effective questioning. That has also increased for me. I’m working to not just hand them the answer, but making them think and become independent learners. So rather than just being dependent on me as the teacher (Teacher, give me the answer!). they’re actually thinking through, “what does this look like in the real world and how do I actually answer this question?”
Interviewer: How has your identity impacted you in your teaching profession? How does knowing yourself and who you are impact you and your classroom?
Deron: I feel it’s been an impact for students. I grew up in this area. I grew up in Raymore which is the neighboring city of Belton. I didn’t have a black teacher during my school years at all. There was one black teacher in my high school and I never had her. I think as the BIPOC group grows in this area, they need to see representation of teachers that look like them, and it’s important that they see that at the higher level, in math and highschool and beyond. I think that I brought that here. They can actually have a Black Male teacher and experience that when they maybe haven’t experienced throughout their +10 years of going to school. Hopefully, this is the start of something more. Maybe The Educator Academy will bring more people to this area and kids will see that and themselves reflected in their teachers. Then kids can know it’s okay to become teachers or be smart or intelligent. When they see it, that can help them grow.
Interviewer: What does it looks like on the ground to be with a mentor teacher as and Resident
Deron: So when we started, it was just mainly her teaching and I was just observing all the moves that she did. If the kids are not participating she might walk over by them to use proximity as a tool for management. Now that I’m starting to learn, I usually start the lessons. Then we alternate who teaches at that point. So we go page by page when we plan and name this is what I’m going to own, this is what you’re teaching, and is what we’re going to do. She makes sure that I hit those things that I’m supposed to teach. It’s just fun working with her cause she lets me do my own stuff, so I can learn. If it goes bad, we reflect on it. She lets me try and I mess up. Failure is fine because we learn from failure. It’s not a bad thing if you fail. I’m glad I was partnered with her.
Interviewer: What does it look like to acknowledge the real things that students have going on in their lives and that they bring into class, while also ensuring that you still get to the math?
Deron: Sometimes you just have to have conversations about what’s going on. Last year, with the election, that was a lot of what we had to talk about. You have to talk about what’s happening for students and make space for it. And then you have to know, now it’s time for education and create a space for that. If you create the space for them to share what’s going on for them, they’ll adapt to and show up as they are, and then you can also get into the content. It’s also important that you show the students that you’re human as well. Even though we’re teachers, we’re still human. So opening that space for them helps them see that you’re human and that makes them more open to you and the lesson. They’re more likely to engage in the content or be present when they know that you’re also human.
Interviewer: What is a highlight moment of your teaching experience so far?
Deron: My full day takeover. I had a lesson plan that I made, and I taught the students without help from my mentor. She was just back there taking notes. That was actually my first experience of, “so this is what it’s like to be a teacher”, and that was very rewarding to me. I was able to see that this is something I can do. Now I’m actually more excited to continue to learn and do my two week takeover.
When you are teaching, it’s nice to see that light bulb moment-when they actually understand the material. It’s great to know that you’re a part of them learning and being better leaders for the world. That’s a nice feeling. And I think that’s what brought me here is just seeing that light bulb and just the love for learning and the students.