“It Takes a Village” to Train a Teacher
Monique Adams is a 2014 graduate of the New Visions-Hunter College Urban Teacher Residency Program, a 14-month teacher preparation program that pairs a clinical residency inside an urban school with graduate coursework at Hunter. Monique was chosen to be the graduate speaker at this year's UTR commencement ceremony, held earlier this month. Below you'll find her remarks to her fellow graduates, in which she discusses the sometimes challenging--but always rewarding--road towards becoming a teacher. (Photo: Monique Adams, right, and her husband, Nate Adams, at the UTR graduation ceremony.)
I am grateful to be standing here before you today. I am thankful to the UTR program for asking me to share my experience.
However, I am grateful because a year ago I could not see this day.
At the start of my UTR journey, I felt as though for the first time in my life I had started something that I was not completely sure I’d be able to finish. My UTR experience pulled me out of every comfort zone I had and it was not until this summer, while teaching a summer bridge program, that I learned a very valuable lesson.
This summer I taught some very bright and amazing students that one way to be successful is to “begin with the end in mind”. To begin with a vision of what the finished product will look like. Think about a puzzle. It’s really difficult to build it, to put it together unless you have a picture of what it’s supposed to look like once it’s finished. I had my students close their eyes and envision what they would look like a year from now, what they would have accomplished, how they would feel inside, what new characteristics they would possess. When I started the program, I struggled with this because my focus was on everything that lay before me instead of the completed puzzle.
I often questioned whether or not I could do this. Many times I sat and cried to my husband feeling overwhelmed by the calling that was placed on me. Doubting that I had what it took to carry out this crucial work that many, who stand outside of this profession, often underestimate. Throughout though there was a network, which I like to think of as a village, around me pushing me forward.
I was placed at one of the best high schools in the Bronx –my first home –Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, under the leadership of Edward Tom, who is a dynamic visionary and missionary. He doesn’t just write the vision he works the vision, too. I had a mentor that knows all about the ‘hard knock’ life of being an educator. He was patient, understanding and tough. When I struggled to see my positives, he would save me from my self by highlighting my strengths. He saw the best in me, even when I couldn’t. He was open to my ideas and willing to let me explore and create. He shared his classroom with me and all of his knowledge; he let me shine and I will be forever grateful to him.
I chose New Visions because I wanted an alternative teacher training experience. One that offered me more support, and one that allowed me to come into the education profession trained by a network of people who were bold, vision driven, and progressive.
All of these things were present but it had not occurred to me how invaluable my cohort’s comradery and solidarity would be to this experience. We were in the trenches together. The program was extremely rigorous, and there were times we felt as though the impossible was being asked of us. We were angry together, shared our fears with each other, and even our tears. I have an enormous amount of respect for each and every one of these truly unique individuals. They are all bright, talented, and highly capable teachers.
Did I mention this program was hard? It was hard ya’ll. I suppose, though, it had to be because teaching is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you can make it in UTR, then you can make it anywhere in the field of education. I believe that! I would also be remiss if I did not mention one other crucial part of this journey which was what actually happened after we were faced with the impossible. We would get angry, or cry, others would grit their teeth and bare it, some would even threaten to quit. Just when things were at their boiling point without fail there would be a professor (Gess Leblanc, Laura Preisser), a program manager (Elizabeth Irwin, Rachelle Verdier), a field supervisor (Cynthia Cooper), a mentor, a colleague , even a student, pushing for us, fighting for us, and suddenly what seemed to be impossible was possible.
Many of you have heard the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to train a teacher and that is the UTR experience.
Monique Adams is an English teacher at Collegiate Institute for Math and Science (CIMS), in the Bronx. She did her residency year at Bronx Center for Science & Mathematics.