Merriam Webster defines grit as “mental toughness and courage.”
In my experience working with residents, I would argue that residents are living breathing examples of this personality trait. Residents not only juggle graduate level coursework and seminars, they also bring their A game to the classroom on a daily basis. In addition to teaching lessons, this includes the vast amount of work teachers do behind the scenes to get ready for each lesson – analyzing data, writing lesson plans, creating exit tickets, making photocopies, preparing visual aids, reflecting on previously taught lessons, and more! As current residents gear up for their two week takeovers, I’d like to take a moment to say to every resident, past and present: Hats off to you. You have earned my utmost respect for the time, dedication, drive, and passion that you demonstrate on a daily basis for this challenging, but rewarding, profession.
In her research, Angela Lee Duckworth has asked the question, “Who is successful and why?” She has found that grit is one of the best predictors of success. Her research has shown that grit predicts success over and beyond talent. No wonder so many of our residents and resident alumni are such effective classroom teachers and educational leaders.
Ami Hanaoka, Lead Mentor Teacher
Aspire Berkley Maynard Academy
Let me start by saying that this is a very exciting time of year! Since the beginning of the residency, we have heard about the PACT and the oral exams. I would say that these were the two biggest tasks required of our course work with the University of the Pacific. I devoted a lot of time to writing my PACT and studying for the oral exams. I stayed home many weekends to write and study because I wanted to feel prepared and complete my work to the best of my ability. And now I am happy to say that both of these tasks have been completed! In addition, there are only days left to complete our college courses. I am excited to have reached this great milestone in the program.
And now that I have more free time, I have started two dance clubs at my school. Today was our first day of dance classes. I am working with the after school program, and it is so much fun. There is one dance club for grades two/three, and one dance club for grades four/ five. Teaching dance to the after school program enables me to share my passion for dancing and teaching. It also enables me to meet and work with more students at my school. In addition, I am teaching a dance to our kindergarteners. They are going to perform it at their graduation. The song that they are dancing to is Pharrell’s “Happy.” When my mentor, the other kindergarten teacher and I played the song for them, their faces lit up and they began singing. A room full of kindergartners smiling, dancing and singing “Happy” will make anyone’s day bright! I feel so grateful for my experience this year as an Aspire Teacher Resident. I can’t believe that in one year I will have earned my Master’s Degree and preliminary teaching credential. I can’t believe that I have had the opportunity to get so much experience teaching. I am grateful that I had a mentor to guide me, and a director to support me. The learning is not over, it has only just begun. But as my college course work winds down, I just want to dance and celebrate “because I’m happy, happy, happy!”
Aspire Junior Collegiate Academy
I was never one who took the time to reflect on the long journey I have taken and the accomplishments I have made along the way. Anyone who knows me (from my mother to my past teachers) can tell you that I was always the person to be focused on the now—and by now I mean what needed to be done, what I was missing, what I should be doing but didn’t do; all these thoughts were what clouded my head. I was a literal busy bee, a bee who only focused on moving forward and who never rested on the flowers of her successes and took the time to appreciate them. I sadly focused on the wrong—the misdeeds that took place on my life, the rocks and pebbles that caused me to stumble and fall and made me worry; worry about the bad things, the negative aspects of my actions and to ponder only on the worst possible outcomes.
It wasn’t until I passed my master’s orals that I sat, teary-eyed from the nerves of it all and talking on the phone with my mother to share the news, that I realized I have accomplished a lot. After wiping my tears, my mother only replied, “Congratulations—you do realize that you’ll be 23 really soon right? You’re going to be 23 with a master’s. What are we going to do with you?” and chuckled, saying her goodbyes and hanging up the phone. I needed time to just stand there in order for the information to sink in, because it never dawned on me just how much I had accomplished. At that moment, I wanted to turn to my then ten year old self, pat her on the back and say, “You will make your dream come true. You will be the first in your family to go to college,” because in that moment after my phone call, I realized that I did. I realized in the beauty of it all that I had made my dream come true, despite all the pebbles and rocks that stood in my way. I had done it. And if the sheer fact that I passed my orals wasn’t proof enough, as my mother would state, I don’t know what is.
I have learned from this program that I am my own critic, and that yes, this can make me a better teacher but if I dwell too much on what went wrong—I forget to celebrate what went right. I forget that these insecurities are never meant to be held onto so closely and that mistakes and bad days in the classroom may belong to now but at midnight they belong to then. Those satisfying moments where a student smiles because you pushed them past their struggles or they hug you because you are you—that’s what matters. These moments are what tell me I can do it, and having those twenty third graders and awesome mentor cheer me on along the way also helps.
So, as I look back and wait for the results of my first demo lesson and interview, I am not thinking of the worst that could happen. I’m thinking instead and enjoying the fact that that opportunity was given to me. And I will be sure to celebrate every dream I make happen, not just my own dreams but also the dreams of my third graders—because in the end, they are the ones that helped me become the teacher I am today. So thank you Arizona Wildcats, for helping me grow and helping me see all that I’ve done. You are my greatest accomplishment.
Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School