A Teaching Candidate Reflects on Her Learning

My route to the Upper Valley Educators Institute has been facilitated by the circumstances around a global pandemic. Remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic rekindled a long-time desire to become an educator. Navigating remote learning, while stressful, created thought-provoking opportunities and experiences as an ad hoc teacher for my children. 

While the logistics of class meeting times, technical difficulties, and the need to act as a service provider created its own set of challenges, I was excited to help guide my children through this process. As we moved through the school year, I realized that there were experiential aspects of classroom learning that did not carry over to remote learning. These challenges revealed the significance of relationships. The relationships between teachers, students, families, and the community are more critical than ever in shaping successful students and schools. At UVEI, I have been able to build connections with other teacher candidates in a small seminar setting and foster relationships in the learn-by-doing model in my placement at Sunapee Central Elementary School. 

Relationships connect me to community

Relationships have drawn me to different roles in my community. Before the pandemic, I became an Educational Surrogate Parent, as part of the Educational Surrogate Parent Program in New Hampshire, which supports educationally disabled students within the foster care system by connecting them with an educational advocate. Now as a teacher intern, I continue to see the importance of relationships with my students in my classroom. The learn-by-doing model at UVEI has created substantial opportunities for me to foster connections with students and staff at Sunapee Central. Being able to build relationships with students daily has allowed me to understand their abilities and to know them as learners. I have also been inspired, personally and professionally, by the connections that I have made with my colleagues at UVEI. The supportive and professional environment at the weekly seminar encourages candidates to be vested not only in their own success but the successes of the fellow teacher interns.

I have also been inspired, personally and professionally, by the connections that I have made with my colleagues at UVEI.

Relationships strengthen commitment 

Relationships also play a critical role in building a community centered on the commitment to students. A commitment to the education of students within the community is essential in preserving the vitality of local towns. As a graduate of Lebanon High School, parent to elementary age children, the Newport School Board chair, and now a UVEI teaching intern, I have gained insight into the challenges of New Hampshire public schools. The contrasts in New Hampshire schools are stark.  Annually, the inequities in state funding result in conflict over school budgets, causing community friction that ultimately hurts the students and teachers. While the inequities in New Hampshire schools persist, the needs of the students entering classrooms is growing. As a UVEI teacher intern, I am looking forward to developing a teaching practice that provides an equitable and accessible education for all students. 

Teaching is about developing relationships with students, colleagues, and within the community. The coursework and student teaching that I have completed so far has pushed me to look at entering a classroom more thoughtfully, by understanding students’ backgrounds and abilities, creating appropriate and accessible lessons, and engaging in pedagogical reflection. While coming to UVEI feels akin to rediscovering an old path, my experiences at UVEI have shown me that teaching is not just about communicating a curriculum and evaluating student performance, but rather a practice of meaningful inquiry and reflection.

Jenna Darling is a UVEI elementary teaching candidate and is expected to earn her Elementary Education (K-6) endorsement in 2022.