Naomi Paulson-Michael, Gillette, WY firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was accepted to attend the Academy of Best Practices, my hope was to learn ways to improve my students’ experiences in my classroom. I have never wanted my students to simply learn more math; I want them to struggle, persevere, and grow. Through this process, I believe, they will more deeply interact with mathematical concepts. I came to the academy with an idea of what should be done in my classroom to better foster the collaborative community I aim to create. However, I did not realize that one of the biggest difficulties I faced in creating this learning environment lived in my own level of confidence. Before heading to Seattle, I believed I knew what should be happening in an effective math classroom. Still, I struggled with truly believing that I could actually make it happen. The Academy of Best Practices helped me build self-confidence to achieve my goal.
The most powerful aspect of the week for me was the student-centered experience. We were given the opportunity to experience best practices through the student perspective. As we moved through daily themes of productive struggle, professionalism, equity, technology, and feedback, I became more aware of how the positive and encouraging classroom environment helps to build student confidence. The leadership team demonstrated immense support as we faced the struggles of learning. This helped me relate to what my students feel every day and, more importantly, gain a better understanding of how to deal with my own doubts and uncertainty as the teacher. Given my limited teaching experience, I have been reluctant to admit what I did not know and what I felt unprepared to teach.
The community of learners with whom I was blessed to spend the week was also instrumental in my personal growth. Every member of our cohort was encouraging and provided a unique point-of-view in working through challenges. Not only did we have the opportunity to grow together during our week in Seattle, but we have created a nationwide support system that each of us can turn to for ideas and encouragement.
I had originally hoped to attend the Academy of Best Practices to learn how I can better help my students. What I know now is that I needed to build my own self-confidence in order to improve experiences for my students. Education, with its ever-evolving nature, is not a profession that allows us to maintain a static comfort level. However, we cannot permit any doubt or uncertainty to discourage us from trying to improve the classroom experience for our students. Attending the Academy of Best Practices was extraordinary and helped build my self-confidence. Now I know I can foster an effective, collaborative, and positive classroom environment for my students.