Check out this interview with Johnny Gordon, as he shares his experience in the classroom and becoming a teacher through the Kansas City Teacher Residency Program. Johnny shares his experience as a Black male teacher in the classroom, while also completing his Residency. This post was transcribed and edited from an interview we did with Johnny.
Interviewer: So, we will have you start off with telling us who you are and where you teach.
My name is John Gordon. I teach second grade at University Academy and I’m in cohort six.
Interviewer: What does success look like to you when in the classroom or out?
I think I used to think of success not just in terms of just personal life “oh, you’ve made it, you’re there where you want to be.” I used to think you know, when you get there but I’ve come to realize that meaning has evolved to more of seeing success as a process. I think that goes very well for students as well, especially in early Elementary. Seeing success for me is seeing the kids not only, experiencing what they’ve learned to retain that of but experiment with that knowledge as well. I’ve been talking about it in the groups talking about to themselves, trying to remember what the best course of action is, or even talk to me about, you know, there are different ways to get there, especially when it comes to like math and English, just, you know, being able to constantly, see what’s going on and then, you know, reinforce that with your conversations with me or someone else as well.
I believe when it comes to educators and that sort of success area. Like I’ve always had bits where like, even after a lesson, I’m like, okay, all right, what else can I do?
But I think that is the part that keeps us very vigilant. And part of that also keeps us, you know, very active and that’s honestly a good thing but constantly checking to see where you can improve and seeing, you know, what works and what doesn’t work, just so you can, fine tune and Polish it
as well, I think that’s where success lies in your evolution. As an educator.
Interviewer: How has your relationship with your mentor teacher been? What does collaboration look like?
I guess having a mentor has actually been very refreshing, going into KCTR it felt not necessarily unorthodox, but definitely like a new experience for me. I was definitely with a lot of anxiety going forward, cause I didn’t know how it was going to go. But I’m with Dan, it’s been very refreshing and honestly like alleviating.
Interviewer: So glad to hear that your all’s partnership. Can you share, if you have a moment together where like, ah, this has been the highlight thus far, whether it’s a lesson that you worked on together or a really successful day?
I mean, there’s been a few, I would say probably probably our second gateway assignments just with going in and doing the lesson planning aspect of it as well, just, you know, getting feedback from, for him and Genee’ (KCTR Continuum Coach), when she’s saying like what works with this work and seeing how you know, where I do fall, he can help pick up the pieces immediately. So it helps him, you know, just take a breath for a second. Working with that lesson plan in mind, just to be able to make PowerPoints and base it off of things you’ve taught before, see what works and doesn’t work for me and him. I would say also just with the way we do our gradual releases we can be very lax about it, but just seeing as we do get parts where, I feel like I can fit in. I’m happy to go forward with it. It just, honestly, clicks, like, there’s, it’s hard to like talk about chemistry in that way, but it just, it goes off like that.
Interviewer: Are there any practical tips that help maintain that success in your classroom?
I would say a lot of personalization to definitely getting to know how the day is outside of school definitely helps. While we’re essentially kind of like a second home away from home in a way, we try and make sure that, that whole school community kind of intersects so whether it’s just asking some questions, like, would you rather do this or that, or would you rather be this or that, or even just talk about your favorite things? It helps a lot with just, you know, understanding where the mentality is or where the heart is for the child. Especially when it comes to having a certain talks with the kids to where they need a personal time, but we have our own chill out zone for the kids to, if they ever get frustrated, whether it’s from dealing with something at school as if like a student’s bothering them or just like somebody that’s at home and, it’s bothering them as well.
We tend to know, give them like five minutes to breathe rest and whatever. And if we have a chance to definitely talk to them about what’s going on to see the young, get the mind right.for the rest of the day. Yeah. being able to realize how it could affect their performance as well as just how the answer us is honestly paramount in a lot of ways.
Interviewer: If someone, was thinking about becoming a KCTR mentor, what would you say to them?
As the resident, it can be very overwhelming to be in a place like this, especially with just so many schools around and everything is constantly changing.
So it’s good to have someone who’s experienced in there and just, they help you with a holding hand, and just kinda guide you through like all the waves, to get through the day whether it’s just, you know, getting through a lesson or just, you know, helping short through your career.
With that, Dan has been a great Mentor so far. And I’d say we should be more like him for that because I know some people have their fair share of challenges
I’ve definitely been grateful for this opportunity to come here and teach here. I mean, Lifewise, like I was in an area, especially with COVID where teaching almost didn’t feel like a possibility for me. So to get this suddenly out of the blue almost felt too good to be true. Like I really kind of thought it was a catch at first and there was a little apprehensive to the opportunity, but being able to come back to my hometown, from going from Virginia to here and being able to get a chance to not only teach kids, but having resources that teach kids.
It’s been very, very amazing for me. Just having the chance for people that you don’t understand where I come from, except where I come from, especially seeing all other people from different walks of life to no bare out their souls and their passions alongside with me has been an incredible experience going forward.
Like it’s definitely been rough, but I definitely do see, you know, light at the end of the tunnel with it.
Interviewer: What has that experience been like for you being in lower elementary, being a male teacher of color?
It’s been incredible, honestly. I had no idea just how rare and which is, having male teachers were. Like I had an inkling of course. I only had about like one or two growing up, but the immediate reaction I mean, just people say like, dude we need you here.It was like, you were practically a unicorn. And I was like, oh, wow. Okay. Um, I guess that also just goes with my identity as a black man as well.
It’s amazing just to see how, that representation is needed that’s been a major motivation that as well so getting that chance here, especially, um, in the space, because even though I have some other Black teachers around, there’s obviously a need for more. I’ve been able to definitely, um, interact with some are like black male students on a personal level just with their own issues. If they were angry, frustrated and stuff. Just being able to talk about that with that on a personal level and have them come towards me without any hesitancy or any inclusiveness. That’s been a great gift to me to be able to talk about that because I’d be able to relate my experience as a kid too.
Cause I’ve been there, know I’ve been, you know, young, angry, very impressionable, and it’s good to have as much to just come out.