In February KCTR had the privilege of sitting down and interviewing with Tiffanne Mason a member of Cohort 3 and a current teacher at Tolbert Academy on the impact of COVID -19 and why it is so importance of retaining teachers in the classroom.
COVID’s Impact of Schools
COVID-19 has had impacts on every area of life, education included. What started out as an extended spring break in 2020, turned into more than 2 years of fluctuating COVID protocols. Now as schools return to in-person learning, teachers are focusing on providing a highly effective education for students. We met with Tiffanne Mason, a graduate of the Kansas City Teacher Residency and current teacher at Lee A. Tolbert Elementary, to discuss her experiences in the classroom.
When discussing returning to the classroom after virtual learning, Tiffanne Mason said, “ This school year has been the most normal school year we have encountered. So I think just being able to physically see my students, and see the strengths and weaknesses they have, help them face to face has really been effective.”
Creating Safety through Consistency in the Classroom
While school schedules have grown more consistently to be in person, there are still a lot of unknowns that students and their families have faced over the course of the pandemic. Ms. Mason emphasized the importance of structures to create a sense of normalcy for children. “[It’s all about] keeping it consistent about what rules we follow, having routines set up for the restroom, and for what to do when they’re finished working, having routines set up for, at their small groups, but kind of just being aware of everything and just knowing you have to follow those rules and expectations.The consistent consistency in the classroom is very important because they come to school this is a new environment for them, especially coming from a pandemic, you know, like they had their freedom at home to do what they wanted to do”.
Supporting Teachers Sustainability in the Profession
The pandemic has presented challenges for students and teachers alike. While there has been coverage of the impact of student outcomes many educators have had to work twice as hard to keep their students engaged as students return back to in person learning after most have spent a year doing digital learning. Many media outlets have reported that teachers are expressing that they have had to repeat teach information that students should have learned during the previous year. Teachers also have faced stress and intense pressure from COVID related issues. It is hard to know what conditions at which each child has had to learn and with parents still needing to work in order to provide so many in this equation have experienced burnout and the ability to take time to care for oneself. Tiffanne shared how important it is to care for yourself as an educator for the benefit of your students. Prioritizing your own mental health and well-being is key. “I try to [not] talk about work when I go home, because it can get very stressful, so I just had to keep [work at work].”
While self-care is an important part of individual plans for well-being and sustainability in the classroom, there is also a need for more systematic support of teachers. KCTR offers support for our teachers by not only offering coaching but during the Residency year each teacher is working with a mentor teacher. This year our Graduates had the opportunity to participate in a book study around Social Emotional Learning using the book “Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators” by Elena Aguilar. We do believe that it is important to maintain care for your students but also in order to maintain, and not experience burnout, we want our teachers to engage in taking care of themselves as well.
Words of Wisdom for New Teachers
Becoming a teacher can be a scary process. It can be difficult to transition from one career to another. For those who are looking for alternative pathways into education Ms. Mason shared a few pieces of advice. If you are thinking about starting the process to become a teacher she says,“Go ahead and do it. Just make sure you are yourself. Make sure that you’re the role model, because your students are always watching. It’s good to kind of have a younger person looking up to you. So you feel like a mentor at all times.”
It is not just enough to want to be a teacher. One of the things that we hear often from people is that they like a particular subject so they think they can teach it. While that is important, we do want to make sure that the desire, passion, and commitment to being a part of the program and education are strong. Ms. Mason had thoughts around this as well. “I feel like we need teachers, like teachers are so important. And then like, I know teachers, feel like they’re not doing enough, but I feel like we do a lot. It’s just making sure that we continue to just to pick people, want to do this, and you know, don’t pick the people who are just in it for a paycheck because you will be very disappointed.”
While our nation continues to push for higher pay in the classrooms, and a more robust and equitable education we at KCTR will continue to be committed to working towards providing an alternative pathway into education. It is here that we will continue to provide a great service to the Kansas City community and strive for equality in the classroom for both students and teachers alike.
The Importance of Teacher Retention
Teachers make a lasting impact on their students. In fact, teachers have the greatest influence on student outcomes out of any school related factor (RAND Education). Tiffanne shared in her own words the power of teachers. “Teachers are so important. I know teachers [sometimes] feel like they’re not doing enough, but I feel like we do a lot.” Teachers do do a lot, but that sometimes goes unnoticed. In fact, only 36% of teachers in 2019 felt like the U.S. appreciates the work they do.
Next enter 2020. The education system is in a state of crisis with a national teacher shortage and the “Great Resignation” here in the US and around the world happening. In February, CNN reported that teachers that began teaching during the pandemic have struggled with keeping from experiencing burnout within their first few years of their careers. At KCTR, we want to ensure that we not only recruit teachers but also provide support, resources, and community. It is not enough to just provide a program, we want to make meaningful and effective change in the education system for the benefit of teachers and the betterment of kids.
Supporting our teachers is something that we are passionate about and committed to here at KCTR. For us it starts with the structure of our residency model. Our model is designed to provide teacher support through hands-on experience, community support, and preparation and development and equity focused curriculum and instruction. By focusing on cultivating highly effective teachers, we are able to support them in long term success in their role. We also provide financial support to ensure our program is more accessible than traditional teacher programs. We need great teachers and we are here to support highly effective teachers’ longevity in the classroom. If you are interested in applying to become a teacher, or supporting our work, connect with us to learn more!