“Ms. Byron, thank you fir teching me obout nouns with people, places, and things. You are my favarate person,” accompanied by a drawing of a colorful daisy, was an unexpected note I found on my desk. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have such a strong relationship with the students I work with every day, but this simple, genuine note of encouragement, proves that the student connections are inevitable and real. With this job, the truth is, that fifteen years from now, you will be someone these one day freshmen in college will remember as one of their third grade teachers. A conversation will happen, and your name will come up. That right there is called a lasting impact.
Admittedly, as someone who applied for the ATR program during my second semester of my senior year in college, the time was scarce to truly internalize what I was about to embark on. Simultaneously, I had decided to embark on this journey in which I would be getting a Master’s degree, teaching credential, and full-time teaching experience, all in one year. The thought seemed overwhelmingly impossible, but for some reason, I was determined to set out and do everything in my power to make it happen. It turns out that that reason I was so determined was actually a deep rooted desire and passion to help mold and impact young minds, to use my creativity, and to make wonderful friends with my colleagues and fellow residents.
Given that I am smack in the middle of my residency year, I can openly say that this is one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavors I have ever set out on. I find that going through such an intense program, not only does one learn more about oneself every single day, one also learns how to balance the different important aspects of life that make us who we are. You balance your graduate school assignments, your classroom responsibilities, your home responsibilities, spending time with friends and loved ones, and most importantly, you learn to take care of yourself. I say this not to scare anyone out of this unbelievable opportunity; making the Aspire Teacher Residency year your whole world can definitely take a toll on you emotionally and physically. However, through this experience, you learn how to become a responsible adult, you learn about self-care, and you learn how to care for your classroom of twenty-four students.
The challenges that are posed don’t mildly compare to how rewarding this program is. Each night, when I reflect through my day, I find myself smiling at the student who finally understood how to round two digit numbers, the student who asked with utter excitement if they could sharpen pencils at the end of the day, and the student who comes in every morning asking “How was the rest of your day yesterday, Ms. Byron?”. It is those exact spontaneous interactions with the students that drives my passion and motivation to teach. There is something about the students’ naïve curiosity and bucket of questions that I feel unconditionally connected to, and wanting to fill with more questions and a yearning to explore.
This is not the program for everybody. This program takes focus, dedication, time, and SWEAT, metaphorically and sometimes physically. Being responsible for a classroom full of students is not an easy task. In fact, sometimes it feels like a full-fledged work out, running from one side of the classroom to the other. However, if you know that you have the drive, desire, motivation, and passion to become an extremely effective, fun, engaging, and personable teacher, the marathon is worth it! Having the opportunity to change the lives of students, while they change yours, is the ultimate gold medal.
Today I can openly say that, despite the long hours of work, the nervous waves I get before teaching a difficult lesson, and the amount of preparation required for each day, with every moment that passes by in this program, I become more proud, more excited, and more humbled by this incredible experience. I have the privilege of waking up in the morning and having the awesome feeling that my actions are making a difference in the students’ lives. How many other people can say that about what they do?
This program is so efficient in getting you to where you need to be; the support provided to us as residents are plentiful, directly applicable, and relevant. Starting out on my very first day, I knew that my mentor Rachel Grimes would be an amazing role model. Her positivity, support, and passion for teaching instantly radiated and I KNEW I was going to have an incredible year working by her side. The mentor-resident relationship is the most productive and powerful learning experience I could have asked for. As I continue to grow and create my own effective and engaging teaching style, Rachel’s brilliant classroom management, organization, and preparedness will continue to inspire and motivate me.
This program, in actuality, is very representative of a colorful daisy. As a beginning resident, you are a tiny seed planted in the ground that needs LOTS of nourishment and sunlight to grow. With the support of your wonderful cohort, school site, and mentor teacher, a beautiful light is cast upon you, making you stronger, feeding you knowledge, and providing you with the necessary tools to bloom into a fantastic teacher. With every day that goes by, I physically, emotionally, academically, and professionally feel myself blooming and valuing what I do more and more. I knew the day I found that adorable and touching note on my desk, I was in the right place.
Written By: Lexi Byron
Third Grade Teacher Resident
Aspire Junior Collegiate Academy